There are stadiums for professional sports teams all around the country, and it used to be that team owners paid to build them. In the latter half of the 20th century, taxpayers started paying for stadiums. On this week’s Overton Window podcast, we talk with University of Michigan-Flint economics professor and Mackinac Center Board of Scholars member Chris Douglas about how this changed over time, and what to do about it in the future.

President Biden is touring the country to thump his chest about his bills and proposals to spend more. That his focus is on spending tells a bigger story about the standards politicians hold. Politicians want their success to be determined by whether they give the right people money. But no one should want this to be the standard. It’s easy to write checks. It’s harder to have those checks accomplish something.

Michigan lawmakers are considering making it easier for trial attorneys to sue insurance companies and win. Senate Bill 329 (and its copy in the House, House Bill 4681) would create a host of new demands on insurance companies — excluding health insurers — for how they process and pay claims. This bill would provide new targets for trial lawyers, as they’ll have more options to allege an insurer did something wrong. As a result, insurance products, such as life, auto, property, workers’ compensation and liability, will be harder to afford.

“More than half the world's reefs have perished in the past 30 years,” Newsweek announced in an article claiming that ocean warming is driving bleaching events that have devastated reefs around the globe. Bleaching, according to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, occurs when coral tissue expels algae, causing the coral to turn white.

Michigan’s government-mandated minimum wage could soon rise by 30%, from $10.10 per hour to $13.03 per hour, depending on a ruling from the state Supreme Court. Unfortunately, there is no “free lunch” in this world, so the increase in pay for some workers would mean others lose their jobs while consumers pay more in prices.

The COVID-19 pandemic highlighted many of the barriers that make medical care less patient-centered, more expensive, and more difficult to access. Michigan policymakers should learn from this and remove these barriers permanently.

In all states, Republican and Democratic governors responded to the pandemic by waiving barriers that confront both patients and professionals. But that flexibility is long overdue. Policymakers must step back and ensure our health system is ready for the next pandemic.

Many people over the years have turned to Washington Post political columnist George Will for guidance on political debates. They include Mackinac Center Vice President of Communications Jarrett Skorup, who interviews Will for this week’s Overton Window podcast about his half-century career as a columnist and public thinker.

The recent U.S. Supreme Court ruling in Tyler v. Hennepin County was a win for 94-year-old Geraldine Tyler, who moved from a condo to a senior living facility after crime spiked in her neighborhood and lost her condo to government overreach. It could have positive repercussions for Michigan residents.

Michigan Gov. Gretchen Whitmer has hired a first-ever state growth officer and set up a council to recommend policies to reverse Michigan’s population losses. The governor and her new subordinate ought to notice that things have changed. People are moving to different places than they used to before the pandemic, and that ought to guide any official who wishes to grow the state.

Where is Michigan’s air quality emergency?

An unusually dry spring sparked extensive wildfires in and around Michigan last week. A 2,400-acre fire near Grayling forced I-75 to close temporarily, and last week the U.S. Forest Service rated the fire risk in many parts of the state “extreme,” the service’s most severe label. Meanwhile, air quality in some places is “among the worst in the world,” according to

Politicians are elected based on popularity, so shouldn’t all politicians be populists? The label only gets applied to a particular kind of politician, and that kind is not especially popular. A look at populist ideas and strategy highlights why that is, but it also shows why people ought to be more skeptical about populists.

“The climate crisis was always real,” Jeff Goodell exclaimed Thursday in Rolling Stone Magazine. “Now it’s in your lungs.”

As eastern states suffer extended smoke plumes and degraded air quality from wildfires in Ontario and Quebec, wild claims like Goodell’s are filling the air. Every dry season brings headlines warning that extreme wildfires are here to stay.

A new state Senate bill would lock in Michigan’s high energy costs by providing subsidies for utility bills but do nothing to bring down costs for consumers.

Senate Bill 353 of 2023 aims to amend the Michigan Energy Assistance Act, a law that provides financial assistance to Michiganders who have difficulty paying their utility bills. The proposed amendments increase the number of households able to receive funds from the Michigan Energy Assistance Program. They would do this by redefining the term “eligible low-income household” and expanding the time of year funding can be disbursed.

“Let’s keep our foot on the accelerator,” Gov. Whitmer tweeted about her plan to hand out more selective business subsidies during last week’s Mackinac Policy Conference. But the governor is not stepping on the gas; she’s flipping the switch on a Useless Box.

The Michigan Legislature is considering a pair of bills — Senate bills 362 and 363 — aimed at expanding the state’s distributed generation program. Typically, this program focuses on people or businesses who install solar panels on their buildings. If the bills are passed, those enrolled in the program will be paid retail or higher rates for any electricity they produce but do not use.

The standards for getting a federal college loan are low, and too many people have gotten themselves in trouble with their student debt. I spoke with Preston Cooper, senior fellow at the Foundation for Research on Equal Opportunity, about federal loans and college costs for the Overton Window podcast. We also spoke about his plan to change federal loan rules to encourage lower costs and better value in college programs, and to keep people from defaulting on their student loans.

Congress set aside $42 billion for broadband internet in its massive 2021 federal infrastructure bill. States can apply for this funding and re-distribute this money as they decide.

Areas without high-speed internet will get top priority for funding. Internet providers also need to have no data caps, maintain reliable and secure networks, be open to everyone in the service area, and take part in a federal program which gives low-income households grants to pay for broadband.

Legislators are likely to pass a state budget that spends less than Sustainable Michigan Budget limits. Yet they will do so without having to practice much restraint.

According to the state’s forecasters, revenue for the upcoming year is expected to decline slightly from the current fiscal year.

Politicians don’t seem to need evidence of success to declare a program a success. Gov. Whitmer has publicly claimed that two college scholarship programs “are working” and helping create “rewarding paths to those high-wage, high-demand careers.”

The governor cites no data to support that assertion. And there seem to be no data to cite. Like many government programs, Futures for Frontliners and Michigan Reconnect are long on upfront promises but short on both assessment and follow-through.

Traverse City’s public utility is comingling sources of funds while trying to go deeper into debt in an effort to keep its broadband network alive.

The government-owned network was originally projected to cost $4.2 million – the loan for which was supposed to be paid back within a few years by customer billings. After repeated delays, far fewer customers than projected, an expansion of the project and several rounds of new loans, the network’s cost has ballooned to nearly $30 million.

The federal ban on the sale of alcohol and its relegalization just 12 years later was probably the biggest policy ever imposed on the United States and then rapidly reversed. Economic historian Jason Taylor recently marked the 90th anniversary of relegalization with an op-ed in The Wall Street Journal. He joins the Overton Window podcast to discuss the lessons for social change today.

This article is edited and expanded from testimony submitted to the Michigan Legislature.

Some Michigan legislators are looking to pass some of the strictest occupational licensing regulations for hunting and fishing guides in the nation. Senate Bills 103 and 104 mandate that people do the following in order to earn money guiding people to capture game. They must:

The Mackinac Center’s Workers for Opportunity initiative is proud to champion labor reform efforts across the country. Florida is the most recent state to codify our proposed reforms into law. Thanks to legislation signed by Gov. Ron DeSantis on May 9, teachers and other public workers in Florida will now have more control over their hard-earned paychecks.

The American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees is one of the largest public sector unions in the United States. But the union has shed members since it lost a 2018 U.S. Supreme Court case, Janus v. AFSCME, which extended right-to-work to government workers nationwide.

Editor’s note: A condensed version of this op-ed, entitled “A New Deal on Beer,” first appeared in The Wall Street Journal on April 7, 2023.

A little more than ninety years ago—on April 7, 1933—beer became legal to produce, sell, and consume in the United States for the first time since the enactment of Prohibition in January 1920.