[Photo of Lawrence W. Reed]

Lawrence W. Reed

President Emeritus

After serving as President for the Center’s first two decades, Lawrence W. (Larry) Reed, became president emeritus of the Mackinac Center for Public Policy, a Midland-based research and educational institute on September 1, 2008. The Center's mission is to equip Michigan citizens and other decision-makers to better evaluate Michigan public policy options and to do so from a "free market" perspective.

On September 1, 2008, Reed assumed the presidency of the Foundation for Economic Education, headquartered in Irvington, New York. In this article, FEE: A Lighthouse for Freedom, FEE's history and importance were highlighted by Reed.

Reed holds a B.A. degree in Economics from Grove City College (1975) and an M.A. degree in History from Slippery Rock State University (1978), both in Pennsylvania. He taught economics at Midland's Northwood University from 1977 to 1984 and chaired the Department of Economics from 1982 to 1984. He designed the university's unique dual major in Economics and Business Management and founded its annual, highly-acclaimed "Freedom Seminar." In 1982, he was a major party candidate in the general election for the U. S. House of Representatives from Michigan's 4th district. He moved to Boise, Idaho in 1984 to direct a policy institute there before moving back to Michigan to head up the Mackinac Center in December 1987.

Under his leadership, the Mackinac Center for Public Policy has emerged as the largest and one of the most effective and prolific of over 40 state-based "free market" think tanks in America. He served a term as president and 15 years as a member of the board of directors of the State Policy Network, a national organization whose membership consists of those state-based groups.

In 1994, Reed was invited to give the Commencement address to the graduating class of the Colleges of Education, Health, and Human Services and Extended Learning at Central Michigan University (CMU) before an audience of 6,000. CMU conferred upon him the honorary degree of Doctor of Public Administration. In 1998, Grove City College (his undergraduate alma mater) bestowed upon him its "Distinguished Alumni Award." In 2008, he delivered a Commencement address to an audience of 3,500 at Northwood University and received a second honorary doctorate, Doctor of Laws.

In the past twenty years, he has authored over 1,000 newspaper columns and articles, 200 radio commentaries, dozens of articles in magazines and journals in the U. S. and abroad, as well as five books. His articles have appeared in The Wall Street Journal, Christian Science Monitor, USA Today, Baltimore Sun, Detroit News and Detroit Free Press, among many others. Reed's most recent book is Striking the Root: Essays on Liberty. Since 1978, he has delivered more than 1,000 speeches in 40 states and 15 foreign countries, including one at Peoples University in Beijing, China.

Reed's interests in political and economic affairs have taken him as a freelance journalist to 69 countries on six continents since 1985, including five visits to Russia, five to China, four to Nicaragua, three to Poland, five to Kenya, and others to such places as Cambodia, East Germany, Mozambique, Haiti, Japan, Bolivia, Brazil, Ecuador, Honduras, Greece, Italy, Australia, Slovenia, Croatia, Peru, Chile, Argentina, Singapore, Israel, Egypt, Malaysia, Vietnam, Iceland and New Zealand.

From firsthand experience, he has reported on hyperinflation in South America, voodoo in Haiti, black markets behind the Iron Curtain, reforms and repression in China and Cambodia, the recent stunning developments in Eastern Europe, and civil war inside Nicaragua and Mozambique. Among many foreign adventures, Reed visited the ravaged nation of Cambodia in 1989 with his late friend, Academy Award winner Dr. Haing S. Ngor; recorded an authentic native voodoo ceremony in a remote region of Haiti in 1987; traveled with the Polish anti-communist underground for which he was arrested and detained by border police in 1986; interviewed presidents and cabinet officials in half a dozen nations; spent time with the contra rebels during the Nicaraguan civil war; and lived for two weeks with the rebels of Mozambique at their bush headquarters in 1991, at the height of that country's devastating civil war.

Reed was elected in 1994 to the Board of Trustees of the Foundation for Economic Education (FEE) in Irvington, New York -- one of the oldest and most respected economics institutes in America and publisher of the journal, The Freeman, for which he writes a column entitled "Ideas and Consequences." In 1998, he was elected chairman of FEE's board of Trustees and reelected chairman in 1999 and 2000.

In 1993, he was appointed by Governor Engler to the Headlee Amendment Blue Ribbon Commission. In 1994, he was named to a task force of the Secchia Commission on Total Quality Government, which was charged by Governor Engler with the mission of streamlining Michigan state government.

In December 2007, he was named Visiting Senior Fellow with the Heritage Foundation in Washington, D.C.

His spare-time interests include reading, travel, flyfishing, hiking, skydiving, and animals of just about any kind.

Reflections at Year-End From The Mackinac Center for Public Policy Staff

The holiday season and the end of a year is a time of reflection and introspection. In that regard, I recently asked the Mackinac Center staff three questions:
Which freedoms mean the most to you and why?

What fruits of freedom do you treasure the most and why?

What is it about the work we do at the Mackinac Center that gets you excited, motivated, and passionate?

The answers reveal much about the things our staff members hold dear, especially our institutional commitment to freedom, without which it would not be possible to freely celebrate the holidays as we do in America. I have assembled the answers below. For brevity’s sake, I have added very little narrative and in any event, the comments speak well for themselves.
Visit our "Current Comment" feature again on December 30-January 2 when we post the responses of our staff to the question, "What are your hopes for 2003?"

----Lawrence W. Reed … more

A Green Light for Choice

The Forgotten Robber Barons

To Plunkitt, taking from some and giving to others was a key ingredient in the recipe for reelection. He saw nothing wrong with it, morally or otherwise. Using the political machine to bestow benefits and buy votes came quite naturally to him. … more

John Engler’s Impact on State Government

The Message of the Nonvoter

An Inspiration for All Time

The great day finally came on July 26, 1833, when Britain became the world’s first major power to unshackle an entire race within its jurisdiction. … more

Banning the Straight-Party Vote Option

Surely, the right to vote is precious enough to be worth the effort of a thoughtful casting of votes, issue by issue, candidate by candidate. … more

The November 2002 State Ballot Proposals

Straightening Out Straight-Party Voting

The True Meaning of Patriotism

Politics and the Race for Michigan Governor

Has the race to serve as Michigan’s next governor raised any new policy proposals or solutions, or just shown more of the same? … more

If Marx Had Been Groucho

Karl and Groucho: two men named Marx. Both brought tears to the eyes of millions but for very, very different reasons … more

Charity and the Presidency

The president can do our nation a world of good if he understands the indispensable role of voluntary charity in a civil society, and then communicates the vitality of that message in both word and deed. … more

Digging the Big Ditch

A book review of "How Wall Street Created a Nation: J.P. Morgan, Teddy Roosevelt, and the Panama Canal." … more

Berlin, August 1961: An Anniversary We Should Never Forget

August marks the anniversary of the building of the Berlin Wall that for 28 years thereafter, divided the city of Berlin and closed off the only remaining escape hatch for people in the communist East who wanted freedom in the West. … more

Cigarette Taxes Are Hazardous To Our Health

Politicians who say they’re helping our health by taxing cigarettes so heavily are not counting all the costs of their effort with as much care as they count their tax revenue. … more

Would Privatization Cure the Ills of Blue Cross Blue Shield?

Should Blue Cross Blue Shield of Michigan be privatized, and what would be the effects if it were? … more

Jefferson's Words Best Choice for July 4

Two hundred and twenty-six years ago this week, the Second Continental Congress meeting in Philadelphia gave birth to the greatest experiment in human freedom the world has yet recorded-the United States of America. … more

Evaluating New Drugs: Remember the Bigger Picture

Critics of high-priced pharmaceutical products are missing the bigger picture: Over the past several decades, better, more expensive drugs are making far more expensive treatments such as surgery no longer necessary, in many cases. Michigan lawmakers should stop being "penny-wise and pound-foolish," explain to their constituents why drug prices seem so high, and allow the health-care market to come up with the best treatments for the lowest prices. … more

The Gold Standard and Unemployment

Wouldn't a gold standard have a deflationary, and thus, pro-unemployment, bias and wouldn't it inhibit the Federal Reserve Board's ability to provide liquidity and credit when needed? … more

It Wasn't Government That Fixed Your Clock

What time is it? Thanks to creative entrepreneurs, no matter where you live, there's been a uniform answer to that question for about a century. … more

"Statesmanship: A Most Worthy Cause"

The best politician knows how to deftly manipulate the levers of power for personal advantage, but the statesman's allegiance is to loftier objectives. … more

Statesmanship: A Most Worthy Cause

What's the difference between a statesman and a politician? … more

Is there a case for election consolidation across the state or should such matters be decided at the local level?

A package of bills making its way through the Legislature would make major improvements in the way in which public schools handle school board and finance elections. … more

Education Reform, School Choice, and Tax Credits

Currency and Exchange Rates

Are flexible exchange rates and floating exchange rates the same thing? … more

Straightening Out Straight-Party Voting

As the Michigan Democratic party works to secure on the ballot a referendum on the Legislature's removal of straight party line voting as an option, is the law as passed true election reform or a GOP power play? … more

Unfair Competition from Prison Labor Requires a Congressional Fix

Federal Prison Industries Inc., a unit of the U.S. Justice Department that uses prison labor to provide goods and services to the federal government, is set to expand its operations into the private marketplace. A bill introduced by U.S. Rep. Peter Hoekstra, R-Mich., would rein in FPI's ambitions and protect jobs in crucial Michigan industries, such as furniture production, from FPI's unfair competition. … more

Two Michigan Towns with the Same Name

All across Michigan are places whose names are rich with interesting but sometimes forgotten history. In the Upper Peninsula, two towns one hundred miles apart were named for the same man: Kipling and Rudyard, after British author Rudyard Kipling. Who he was and how the towns came to honor him is a story worth retelling. … more

Keeping Michigan on Track:

New legislative opportunities will come with the fall elections for the Michigan House, Senate, and governorship. Read the Mackinac Center's policy recommendations for the next Legislature and governor below. … more

Education Reform, School Choice, and Tax Credits

Based on Mackinac Center President Lawrence Reed's April 16, 2002, testimony before the U.S. House of Representatives Education Committee. … more

Prison Monopoly Threatens Michigan Jobs

Federal Prison Industries Inc., a division of the U.S. Department of Justice that employs prisoners as laborers and pays no taxes, unfairly competes with the private sector. … more

Perils and Pitfalls of Privatization

Privatization should be done right or not at all. Author John Stainback has written a new book on how to avoid many of the problems commonly encountered when establishing public-private partnerships. … more

Time to Repeal or Revise Term Limits?

As Michigan voters prepare to go to the polls in 2002, the full impact of term limits will swing into effect. What have been the observable impact on residents and on the efficacy of the Legislature and state policy of the 1992 constitutional amendment? … more

Government and Recessions

What steps should be taken to bring the economy out of recession? … more

Did Anybody Really Know What Time It Was?

The U.S. government didn't set up America's system of standardized time zones-private citizens did. Until 1883, time was purely a local matter. Then railroad officials set up the current system, to "make the trains run on time." Turns out they performed a service for the rest of us as well-but Detroit resisted the change until 1905, and the U.S. government didn't "approve" the system until 1918. … more

Supply and Demand of Labor

What causes shifts in the supply and demand curves for labor? How are equilibrium wage and quantity of labor determined? … more

Government Intervention and "Unrestrained" Competition

Advocates of government intervention in the economy often make their case by attacking "unrestrained" competition. Is competition ever "unrestrained"? What were some of the important restraints on competition that operated in the U.S. economy in the 19th century when, according to some accounts, competition was "unrestrained"? … more

Is the New State Budget a Quick Political Fix?

The state budget: getting us through the tough times, or a quick political fix? … more

A Privatization Revolution-In a Most Unlikely Place

Rwanda, in the heart of Africa, is engaged in the continent's most ambitious privatization campaign. … more

Lighting the Way on the Dark Continent

A candle has been lit in east Africa in the form of the region's first free-market research and educational organization, and the man who lit it is one remarkable 31-year-old Kenyan named James Shikwati. … more

CAFE = Causing Auto Fatalities Everywhere?

The U.S. Senate will devote most of March to debating a $35-billion energy package that supposedly will protect Americans from both greedy sheikhs and global warming. But if enacted as proposed, the measure actually would result in a good deal of American blood needlessly spilled on U.S. highways. … more

Fix Michigan Schools with Proposal A+

Of Meat and Myth

Upton Sinclair's famous 1906 novel The Jungle, which led to new federal regulations on the meatpacking industry, is based upon anti-market fallacies … more

The Importance of Ideas

In shaping public policy-including the larger question of free enterprise or socialism, democracy or dictatorship-ideas are of paramount, decisive importance. … more

Michigan Schools Need to Be Frugal

Over the long term, a healthy, competitive Michigan economy will do more for education and state services than short-term and short-sighted gimmicks like delaying tax cuts. … more

No: Michigan Can't Afford to Postpone Reducing Taxes, Attracting Growth

Should the state delay already-enacted income and business tax cuts? No, Michigan can't afford to postpone reducing taxes and attracting growth. … more

Gladstone, Michigan: A Little Town with a Big Name

The little town of Gladstone, located in Michigan's Upper Peninsula, is named after William Gladstone, one of Britain's greatest statesmen. Over one hundred years after his death, the former prime minister is remembered for his commitment to individual freedom, which continues to provide important lessons for citizens and policy-makers of today. … more

Privatization and Hamtramck

In November 2000, state-appointed Emergency Fincancial Manager Louis Schimmel swept away the government of Hamtramck, Mich., and literally took over the city-lock, stock, and barrel. The result may not be an argument for dictatorship, but it sure speaks volumes about the virtues of things like common sense and privatization. … more

Internet Access and the Role of Government

What role, if any, should government play in increasing residents' access to broadband high-speed Internet service? Is there a supply problem or a demand problem? … more

Socialist Think Tank an Oxymoron

An article in the August 14, 2001, Washington Post announced that a new "socialist think tank," called the "American Socialist Foundation," was being formed in Washington, D.C. "Socialism" and "think tank" are mutually exclusive-even contradictory. Socialism does, however, produce lots of tanks: tanks to suppress people who actually do think. … more

How We'll Know When We've Won

"Are we winning?" That's a query I hear almost every time I speak to an audience about liberty and the battle of ideas. Everyone wants to know if we should be upbeat or distraught about the course of events, as if the verdict should determine whether or not we continue the fight. … more

A Man Who Didn't "Grow" in Office

The small town of Gladstone in Michigan's Upper Peninsula is named for a giant of liberty: William Ewart Gladstone, the 19th-century British prime minister whose uncompromising policies promoted trade and individual freedom. … more

Making the Case for Liberty Stick

Making the case for liberty stick, so that it isn't simply some rhetorical exercise, is a multi-faceted program. It draws from a range of intellectual disciplines-economics, political science, sociology, history, to name a few. It encourages a patient, long-term perspective over the instant gratification of short-term obsessions. … more

How Does the MEAP Measure Up?

How effective are current standardized education tests, principally the Michigan Education Assessment Program (MEAP), in gauging the efficacy of our public education system? And are there currently too many incentives placed on MEAP performance? … more

Remembering a Classic That Demolished a Myth

Forty-three years ago, an article was published that thoroughly demolished one of the most enduring myths of American economic history: so-called predatory price cutting, or the practice of underselling rivals for the purpose of driving them out of business and then raising prices to exploit a market devoid of competition. … more

Fix Michigan Schools with Proposal A+

Large numbers of Michiganians don't want higher taxes. But some of them want more money for education, and most of them support the concepts of fairness, choice, accountability and local control. Our Proposal A+ is a starting point for a discussion that could lead to a clear win for all concerned. … more

Don't Wait Until the War Ends to Roll Back the Federal Establishment

A major reason government almost never retreats to its former size after it engages a common foreign foe is that we don't start downsizing until it's too late. The time to do so is at the onset of the crisis itself, or as soon thereafter as we can get the politicians to muster the courage. … more

Child Labor and the British Industrial Revolution

Of all the interpretations of industrial history, it would be difficult to find one more perverse than that which ascribes the suffering of children to capitalism and its Industrial Revolution. … more

Gas "Gouging" Brouhaha Ignores Lessons of Economics 101

Michigan Attorney General Jennifer Granholm and other politicians are accusing gasoline stations that raised their prices following the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks of "price gouging." But basic economics explains the disastrous effects that result when politicians get involved in deciding how much things "should" cost. … more

There'd Be No Thanksgiving without the Profit Motive

Thanksgiving Day is a particularly appropriate time to reflect on the meaning and value of profit and self-interest, which are in large part responsible for the sumptuous feasts most of us enjoy on this holiday. … more

Of "Gouging" and Gasoline

Acting under the authority of the state consumer protection law, Michigan Attorney General Jennifer Granholm is pursuing gasoline stations that substantially raised their prices at the pump in the wake of the September 11 terrorist attacks. Is she on the right track, and is this a proper function of state government? … more

Who Owes What to Whom?

For a society that has fed, clothed, housed, cared for, informed, entertained, and otherwise enriched more people at higher levels than any in the history of the planet, there sure is a lot of groundless guilt in America. Manifestations of that guilt abound. The example that peeves me the most is the one we often hear from well-meaning philanthropists who adorn their charitable giving with this little chestnut: "I want to give something back." It always sounds like they're apologizing for having been successful. … more

Four Principles and a Challenge

Remarks by Mackinac Center President Lawrence Reed at the Michigan Association of Public School Academies's fourth annual conference, "Education's New Leadership," held in Ypsilanti Nov. 7-8, 2001, as part of a debate with State Superintendent of Public Instruction Tom Watkins. … more

Let the Punishment Fit the Crime: Re-Thinking Mandatory Minimums

State legislators should reform harsh "mandatory minimum" sentencing laws that limit judges' discretionary powers and dramatically lengthen prison sentences for low-level, often first-time drug offenders-while doing almost nothing to punish the "kingpins" the laws were supposed to target. … more

School Funding, Proposal A, and Property Taxes

How much school funding is enough? Has Proposal A been a success or a failure? Are schools justified in seeking new ways to tap into local property taxes? … more

Seven Principles of Sound Public Policy

Tax Cuts: Tonic for an Ailing Economy

Testimony by Mackinac Center for Public Policy President Lawrence W. Reed before two panels of the Michigan Legislature-first the House Commerce Committee and then the Senate Economic Development Committee-on Tuesday, Oct. 23, 2001. … more

"Maximum Wage" Law

Should the government ever impose a "maximum wage," and if so, what should it be? Would a maximum wage law help or hurt the economy? … more

Gold Reserves and the Dollar

What if the all the gold in the U.S. reserves were suddenly dumped onto the market. What would happen to the economy? The price of gold? The strength of the U.S. dollar? … more

"Streamlined Sales Tax" Just Another Government Grab for Cash

The National Governors' Association's "Streamlined Sales Tax Project" is being sold as a way to apply existing sales and use taxes to Internet, catalog, and 1-800 number purchases fairly and uniformly. But the project would not only be unfair to out-of-state vendors, it would also result in higher taxes, threaten consumers' privacy, and even open the door to a national sales tax. … more

Setting an Example for Charitable Giving

"Taxation," said former Chief Justice Oliver Wendell Holmes, "is the price we pay for civilization." But a much better case can be made that taxation is actually the price we pay for the lack of civilization. If people took better care of themselves, their families, and those in need around them, government would shrink and society would be stronger as a result. … more

Tax "Fairness" and the Internet

Is the plan to extend the current sales and use taxes to Internet transactions a new tax or just the collection of an existing tax? Should Michigan be part of an interstate compact to administer the tax? Will it actually hurt existing brick-and-mortar establishments if not imposed? Will it hurt the development of Internet business if the tax is imposed? … more

Politicians and Protectionism

Why do some politicians and interest groups favor protectionist policies while most economists oppose them? … more

Savings Rates and Living Standards

How does a higher savings rate lead to a higher standard of living? … more

Are We Going the Way of Rome?

This transcript of a popular speech delivered by Mackinac Center for Public Policy's President Lawrence Reed more than 100 times in the past 15 years contains a very provocative and timeless message. The ancient Roman civilization decayed largely because Romans sacrificed liberty for the false security of the welfare state. Parallels between ancient Rome and recent American history offer important warnings about our nation's direction. 4 pages. … more

"Comparable Worth" vs. Supply and Demand

What is "comparable worth? What is its purpose, how frequently is it used, and what are some advantages and disadvantages? … more

A Month To Live in Infamy

Germany and the Great Depression

Why did Germany suffer so badly from the Great Depression? … more

Why the Population Bomb Is a Bust

Doomsayers who warn about the dangers of "overpopulation" apparently are unaware of how human fertility rates are declining even as people find more and better ways of using earth's resources efficiently to meet human needs. … more

Running on Empty: The Failure of Ethanol

Will government-imposed ethanol requirements be effective in reducing emissions and conserving energy? … more

Private Property, "Overfishing," and "Market Failure"

What do you say to arguments about overfishing in the Great Lakes and oceans? Isn't this a clear example of what Keynesians might call market failure, with huge, greedy companies "free" to catch all the fish while driving smaller fishermen out of business and depleting our natural resources? … more

Political Labels Are a Poor Substitute for Critical Thinking

When it comes to political matters, Americans are hung up on labels. Everywhere you turn, somebody is calling somebody else some name-short-hand for what the other person's political philosophy is perceived to be. But If we must label people, I suggest we do so in more meaningful ways, with fewer sound bites and single-word monikers. … more

An Open Letter to Statists Everywhere

"Statists" see almost any shortcoming in the marketplace as a reason for government to get bigger but rarely see any shortcoming in government as a reason for it to get smaller. … more

Save Us from People With "Great Ideas"

People who get "great" ideas and immediately think that government should bring them into being demean both their ideas and government. If government is nothing more than a playground for every "great idea," then it ceases to be a protector of us all and becomes a weapon wielded by the politically well-connected at the expense of everyone else. … more

Currency and Inflation

Could governments simply fight inflation by destroying (shredding, burning, melting) their currency? Why don't they? … more

Bond Prices and Interest Rates

How do bonds work? Why do bond prices rise as interest rates fall, and vice versa? … more

Incentives and Disincentives: They Really Do Matter!

"If you encourage something, you get more of it. If you discourage something, you get less of it." Whoever first said that deserves a medal for putting to words one of the most profoundly important elements of human nature. Human beings respond-and often powerfully-to both incentives and disincentives. … more

School Districts: Is Less More?

Does the number of school districts, at over 560, create an obstacle or a tool for the job of putting into place true educational reforms? … more

Central Banks and Interest Rates

What is the significance of interest rates? What happens when the Federal Reserve fiddles with them? Who is affected and how when the rates are raised? … more

A New Direction for Education Reform

The intellectual battle for school choice has been won, but which path should we follow to facilitate greater choice--vouchers or tax credits? … more

Separation of Powers

Has John Engler's tenure in the office of governor altered the balance of power between the legislative and executive branches of government and if so, has that change been good or bad? … more

Government, the Media, and Youth Violence

To what extent can youth violence be attributed to violence in media and is there a role for government to play in minimizing the exposure of youth to violent material? … more

Laissez Faire and Economic Growth

What is "laissez-faire" and why is it considered to be best for economic growth? … more

Environmental Protection and Economic Growth

Can environmental protection be balanced with the need for economic growth? … more