Joseph G. Lehman is president of the Mackinac Center for Public Policy, an independent, nonprofit research and educational institute in Michigan. The Mackinac Center is one of the largest of 65 independent think tanks across the country that focus primarily on state-level policies that affect peoples’ freedom and quality of life.

Lehman first joined the Mackinac Center in 1995. He later became vice president for communications at the Cato Institute in Washington, D.C., before returning to the Mackinac Center as its executive vice president. He became president in 2008.

Lehman’s commentary on public policy has been carried by The Wall Street Journal, The Washington Post, National Public Radio, National Journal, National Review, Investor's Business Daily, Wired magazine and nearly every daily Michigan newspaper.

He has addressed audiences at the National Conference of State Legislatures annual meeting, the Detroit Regional Chamber's annual Mackinac Policy Conference and gatherings of economists and policy experts in Europe, Latin America, Africa and Asia.

He is vice chair of the National Taxpayers Union and a director of the Fairness Center, a nonprofit public-interest law firm.

Lehman is a leader among state-based public policy experts. In 2013 the State Policy Network recognized him with its Roe Award for leadership, innovation and accomplishments in public policy. He has trained more than 600 think tank executives from nearly every state and more than 50 countries in strategic planning, communications and fundraising. Lehman is the leading instructor on the Overton Window theory developed by late Mackinac Center vice president Joseph Overton and has trained people around the world to understand this model of policy change.

Prior to his public policy career, Lehman was an engineer and project manager for nine years at The Dow Chemical Co. He graduated from the University of Illinois College of Engineering and is a registered professional engineer.

Lehman and his wife, Karen, are the founders of Midland County Habitat for Humanity. He twice received the Dow Chemical Vice President's Award for Community Service. He is an ordained deacon in the Orthodox Presbyterian Church.

Civil Society

A Lasting Legacy

Constitutional Convention Won’t Fix Michigan’s Problems (Michigan Capitol Confidential)

Constitutional Convention Won’t Fix Michigan’s Problems

Cash, Corporations, Unions and Free Speech

An Introduction to the Overton Window of Political Possibility

Michigan is blessed with a wealth of the human and natural resources integral to building vibrant commerce and vigorous communities in the 21st century. At the moment, however, counter-productive public policies have made it harder for our industries to compete nationally and internationally and have reduced our state's attractiveness to investors and entrepreneurs.
In addition, Michigan is not immune to the gradual erosion of equity and basic human freedom that accompanies a steady growth in the power and scope of government.
Related to this, our government's ability to properly perform many critical functions, including education, has been jeopardized by policymakers' attempts to do too many things. This lack of focus has even led to confusion among policymakers over whether government exists to serve the people or vice versa.
There's a lot of work to do to reverse this, but there's good news. Once growth- and freedom-friendly policies are in place, recovery is likely to occur much more quickly than most people imagine.
For policymakers and voters serious about restoring freedom and economic vitality in the Great Lakes State, the Mackinac Center presents the following 101 recommendations.
This report is a compendium of work authored by Mackinac Center policy analysts and compiled by Senior Legislative Analyst Jack McHugh.
"101 Recommendations" Facebook Group … more

Cash, Corporations,Unions and Free Speech

School Choice Ahead

An Excerpt from “Indivisible”

Cap Con Daily: Online and On-Message

New Year’s Resolutions for Real Reform (Michigan Capitol Confidential)

The Truth About Sacred Lies

A book review of Paul A. Cleveland's "Unmasking the Sacred Lies." … more

New Year’s Resolutions for Real Reform

Who Wants to Know?

A Christmas Wish List for Michigan Policymakers

Will the Real Reform Please Stand Up?

Glenn Beck Highlights Mackinac Center’s “Overton Window”

Friday on his Fox television show, Glenn Beck described public policy changes along a spectrum from right to left, dubbing the range of current policies “the Overton Window.” He borrowed the term my colleagues and I gave to a theory of change developed by the Mackinac Center’s late vice president, Joseph Overton. … more

ad liberties: Political Anatomy 101

A review and analysis of important state legislative policy issues that do not always receive attention from the general media. Michigan Capitol Confidential will make it easier to keep tabs on your elected representatives in Lansing. … more

Turning Michigan Around

Political Anatomy 101 (Viewpoint)

Political Anatomy 101

Political Anatomy 101

Confidence in government breeds complacency in politics. When people think government is handling things tolerably well, they see no reason to pay much attention to politics. When confidence sinks from low to lower, grass-roots political energy spikes upward. That’s why people are now leaping off the sidelines and into TEA parties and raucous town hall meetings to protest sky-high taxes, exploding deficits and the government’s attempt to take over health care. Smart politicians can seize this opportunity by exercising an oft-neglected part of the political anatomy: the spine. … more

Heat of the Battle

A Legislator’s Model Apology

TEA Party Activists Can Keep Their Momentum

Be Careful What You Ask For

The Government Bubble

Ideas and Political Leadership

Kind Words

“Carry On”

John Riecker, RIP

Indispensable Leadership

How tax credits and vouchers work

Eight Ballot Measures We Would Like to See

Michigan lawmakers are unlikely to pass any of these eight ideas into law any time soon, even though a case can be made that each one would help turn around Michigan’s moribund economy. Sometimes the people have to act when legislators won’t. … more

Eight Ballot Measures We Would Like to See

Mackinac Center Changes

What’s the Purpose of a Tax?

Defending Liberty for Twenty Years

“Who Funds You, Anyway?”

They Can’t Ignore Us

“I Am Going to Arrest You”

A Window Into Lawmakers’ Souls

Happy Anniversary, Free Speech!

Translating Ideas Into Success

Union Members' Attitudes Toward Their Unions' Performance

Zogby International and the Mackinac Center for Public Policy undertook a nationwide survey of union members to determine their views of their unions’ performance. We asked union members about union effectiveness, union responsibilities, union political spending, ways for workers to create a union and how unions should treat workers. … more

Vouchers or Tuition Tax Credits:

Michigan Education Association Sues Mackinac Center for Public Policy for Quoting the Union's President

A set of links related to the Michigan Education Association (MEA) lawsuit against the Mackinac Center for Public Policy for quoting the union's president. … more

Michigan Can’t Afford Tuition Grant Program

Inaugural Presentation of the Overton Award

With Friends Like This, We're Winning

Eulogy by Joseph G. Lehman

Independent Ideas Are Needed to Save Money

From this Week's Michigan Education Digest:

House Committee Approves Living Wage Preemption

Mackinac Center analyst testifies that prohibition of local wage laws is “appropriate” measure … more

MEGA Corporate Tax Loophole Worth $45.5 Million

Gov. Granholm Proposes 14 Expansions of Government, 6 Limitations

Position mischaracterized

Performance Warranties for Roads: An Idea Whose Time Has Come

Warrantied projects require less supervision and testing than standard projects, thereby reducing the state’s costs and giving motorists more value for their gas tax dollars. … more

Historic Supreme Court Voucher Decision Imminent

Support for school choice in Michigan remains strong, with a decided preference for tax credits as the way to achieve it. … more

Institute for Justice/Mackinac Center News Conference on the MEA's Lawsuit Against the Mackinac Center

The Mackinac Center for Public Policy and the Institute for Justice held a joint news conference in Lansing May 21 to explain the union's attempt to intimidate and stifle the Mackinac Center, and why the MEA's lawsuit will fail. … more

Farm Bill Interview on WNEM TV-5

Mackinac Center for Public Policy Executive Vice President Joseph Lehman explains the damaging effects of the $190 billion federal farm bill signed into law May 13, 2002. … more

MEA Forms Group to Attack Mackinac Center Research

The MEA school union spent $200,000 to form a group to attack Mackinac Center research, but it resulted in embarrassing questions and a faulty document. … more

Foundation Awards $480,000 to Mackinac Center

The Herbert H. and Grace A. Dow Foundation of Midland has awarded grants totaling $480,000 to the Mackinac Center for Public Policy to help launch a new public policy initiative and support the Center's general operations. … more

Freedoms Worth Fighting For

Those who seek to achieve political goals through violence always claim noble ends, but such people are merely destroyers. … more

Mackinac Center Launches Unique Legislative Information Web Site

The Mackinac Center for Public Policy today announced that for the first time in history Michigan citizens have free, instantaneous access to accurate plain-language descriptions of how their state legislators voted on all legislative actions. The Internet-based service, , makes it easier for key decision-makers and the public at large to be active and informed in Michigan civic affairs. … more

Mackinac Center

Conserve Gas: Scrap the Ethanol Program

Since the energy crunch of the 1970s, Congress has spent billions of dollars to promote the use of ethanol, a fuel made from corn, as an alternative to gasoline. Almost 30 years later, it is clear that ethanol mandates and subsidies have instead increased the use of gasoline. It's time for legislators to pull the plug on the wasteful and counter-productive ethanol program. … more

Failing drug war requires new strategy

Verdict Still Out on Term Limits

It's too soon to end Michigan's experiment with term limits because they have not been in effect long enough for any potential benefits to be realized. … more

Save a Life, Buy an SUV

Federal government safety data from other studies indicate a lower fatality rate for SUVs than for cars. … more

Mr. Smith Goes to Washington

Introduction of Mackinac Center adjunct scholar and Federal Election Commissioner Bradley Smith at the Nov. 3, 2000 Mackinac Center Scholars Summit. … more

Greasing the Privatization Skids

In 1997, former Detroit mayor and staunch privatization opponent Coleman Young surprised many when he proposed that the city contract out police car oil changes to a private firm to improve quality and save the city nearly $700,000 annually. What have been the results? … more

Does Charity Begin at Home-or with Government?

President Bush's funding for private religious charities initiative could undercut the effectiveness and compassionate missions of those charities. … more

Private Group Offers to Manage Westwood Schools

Westwood Community Schools district is bleeding students. The Mackinac Center has offered to help stanch the flow. … more

Lesson for Michigan: Freedom and Prosperity Go Hand-in-Hand

Business Subsidies: A Ferry Tale from Lansing

Prevailing Wage Law Wastes Taxpayers' Money

Prevailing Wage Law Hurts Workers, Economy, According to New Analysis

New Labor Resource Available for Michigan Workers and Employers

MEGA Program Shifts Jobs to Where They Are Needed Least