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Bridging the Racial Gap

A great Michigan builder benefited from a company that cared more about his skills than his skin color. Fred Pelham's experience illustrates the wisdom of rising above racial discrimination.

A Case Where Local is Better than State

"Friend of the Court" is a county government function involved in administering child support payments. A congressional mandate may require this local government function to be centralized at the state level. Is this good policy?

What is Real Compassion?

Is it a mark of compassion to favor government aid programs for the poor? A look at the effectiveness of these programs and the traditional meaning of compassion help us tell the difference between those who just talk about compassion and those who actually practice it.

Let's Get the Facts Straight on Charter Schools

When charter school legislation was first introduced, critics charged that these relatively independent schools would be elitist, or even racist. Demographic statistics of actual charter school enrollment tell the real story.

Should Good Relations with Employees Be an Unfair Labor Practice?

Employee Involvement programs to improve the workplace are under attack from organized labor. Should it be illegal for workers and their companies to discuss topics of mutual interest?

An Economic Lesson From Michigan's Early History

Michigan's early state-run railroads and canals were such colossal failures that the citizens demanded a constitutional prohibition of state-run firms. This set the stage for Michigan's world-class lumber, carriage, and automobile industries.

High Time to Reverse Low Standards in Higher Education

Blame for the decline in literacy is often hung on K-12 public education. However, the university system that teaches the teachers should be made accountable for its contribution to K-12 educational problems.

New Energy Tax is Bad Economics and Faulty Science

One of President Clinton's first actions was to propose an energy tax. This destructive tax proposal could be resurrected, but it is based on unsound economics and dubious science.

What is Corporate Responsibility?

What does it mean for a firm to be a good corporate citizen? Are generous benefits, family-friendly policies, and earth-friendly practices enough, or are there also responsibilities to customers and shareholders?

Pre-Existing Condition Mandate is Unhealthy Policy

By forcing insurance companies to cover pre-existing conditions, a proposed Michigan law may make health insurance harder to get, not easier.

More Juvenile Justice, Fewer Excuses

Our 97-year-old juvenile justice system sends the message to young criminals that the law has no teeth. Until young people are held responsible for their actions, the rebounding teen population will be accompanied by another surge in violent youth crime.

Union "Salt" Poisons the Well

Some unions "salt" nonunion firms by forcing them to hire union sympathizers or even paid union organizers in an attempt to force them to unionize. This abuse means higher prices for consumers and loss of freedom for nonunion firms and their workers.

Cutting Taxes to Raise Revenue

Are income tax cuts voodoo economics or an economic jump-start? History tells us what Coolidge, Kennedy, and Reagan learned when they slashed income taxes.

Exploring Medicaid Options

Michigan's Medicaid program has ballooned into a $4.5 billion giant. Medical savings accounts are a promising way to treat poor, disabled, and elderly people fairly and relieve Medicaid of the burden of providing long-term care for the middle class.

Let's Get Moving on the Roads

Everyone agrees that Michigan's crumbling roads need to be fixed. The state needs to make road repair a higher priority, continue recent cost-saving and efficiency measures, and adopt other recommendations that apply market forces and sound economics to road funding.

Can Michigan Keep Its Status as a Leader in Education Reform?

In Michigan, the same constitution that reads the "means of education shall forever be encouraged" is also the nation's strictest in forcing parents who choose an alternative to the public school system to pay twice for education. A tuition tax credit plan would provide some relief and address some of the flaws of a voucher system.

Teen Challenge: Kicking Two Bad Habits

Two addictions eating away at American life are drugs and government. A remarkably successful Muskegon organization fights drugs without a dime of taxpayers' money and helps kick both bad habits.

Cherries-More or Less?

Michigan leads the nation in tart cherry production. Some producers are lobbying the government to limit future production. Artificial controls on cherry production will retard development of new cherry markets and products essential to the industry's growth.

Grover Cleveland: Could He Be Elected Today?

Historians usually give high marks to American presidents who expand the frontiers of government. Democratic President Grover Cleveland worked tirelessly to limit government and expand individual liberty in the late 1800s. Could he win election today with that philosophy?

Ford Did Indeed Have a Better Idea

Henry Ford's automobile helped Michigan change the world. Without government assistance or mandates, he doubled workers' wages and reduced their hours. The result was lower cost and better quality for Ford and consumers.

Would You Like to Buy a Lighthouse?

Michigan's lighthouses are sadly deteriorating under government ownership, but the law prohibits their sale to private owners. A policy of selling the lighthouses to those who have an incentive to preserve them could save these fascinating pieces of Michigan history.

Toward a Civil Society

Government consumes 41 percent of personal income-an indication that ours is an increasingly political society. Restoring civil society means seeking more to solve our own problems and looking less to government.

End the War Between the States

States are battling one another with arsenals of corporate welfare that use public money to attract select new factories and businesses. These counterproductive and discriminatory incentive programs should be replaced by more broad-based tax cuts and government reforms.

Wanted: A Line Between Public and Private

Most people think government should do some things, but not every thing. Expanding government programs for things like "job creation" and "economic development" blurs the line between public and private.

The Arts: Too Important to Depend on Politics

Legislation to create tax-levying "cultural districts" would make art more of a political decision and less of a personal one. The arts can and should be supported privately, as increasingly demonstrated by Lansing's WKAR public television and the Detroit Institute of Arts.

Wheeling Electricity in Michigan

A plan to allow electric power competition in Michigan will lower the cost of manufactured goods for businesses. The plan should be extended to all electricity consumers, including residential.

Success Stories from Oakland County

County government innovations in Michigan's second-largest county are saving money and improving public services for more than 1.1 million residents.

Michigan's Privatization Revolution

Almost every duty of local government has now been privatized, somewhere in Michigan. Privatization is emerging as a bipartisan, good-government initiative. Communities can benefit by merely considering the privatization option.

Public Housing Requires Private Management

Management of Detroit public housing is a disaster for residents, neighbors, taxpayers, and city officials. Private management of public housing has improved conditions for residents in other major cities.

Kids Hope Is Changing Young Lives

Kids Hope USA links church volunteers with at-risk public school students. The program is a proven alternative to government programs which offer a distant and artificial substitute for real compassion.

Do Michigan Exporters Really Need State Help?

Export subsidies are an example of corporate welfare that benefits a few at the expense of the many. Well over 99 percent of Michigan exports are made without the help of this special favors program.

Juvenile Justice Requires Juvenile Responsibility

Shocking juvenile violent crime trends will not reverse until local communities are given wider latitude to ensure certainty of punishment and other deterrents to criminal behavior.

Real Reform in Takings Law

Michigan land owners receive no compensation if the government causes partial, but not total, devaluation of their property. Other states have adopted fairer compensation laws that Michigan should consider.

The Electric Car Seduction

Alternative fuel subsidies and mandates distort the market signals that help make new technologies successful in the first place.

An Oasis of Good in a Desert of Despair

Burdensome rules on government grants to a Detroit church divert resources from helping people to satisfying bureaucrats. Government should encourage more private giving, not try to replace it.

Remembering "The Real McCoy"

Michigan black inventor Elijah McCoy's 52 patents helped the trains run efficiently and on time. The market rewarded his brilliant ideas and helped him overcome racial discrimination.

The Quackery of Equality

"Free people are not equal and equal people are not free," is a profound truth that politicians forget when they try to force economic equality through punitive taxes and restrictions. Michigan's former inheritance and intangibles taxes are examples.

The Salvation Army's War on Poverty

The Salvation Army has been waging war on poverty since long before the government declared its own war on poverty thirty years ago. A new city of Detroit ordinance makes it more difficult for the Salvation Army to help hungry and homeless people at its twenty Detroit shelters.

The Morality of Hiring Striker Replacements

Is the hiring of workers to replace striking employees a moral decision, a business concern, or both? A look at the inherent rights of workers and freedom of contract resolves the matter easily.

Michigan Needs Discussion of Right to Work

Some consider freedom of choice a serious threat to organized labor. Michigan law denies many workers the right to choose whether or not to support a labor union. The twenty-one states which guarantee this freedom to choose through right-to-work laws also enjoy greater economic growth, job creation, and real wages.

A Visit to the Capuchin Soup Kitchen

If welfare as a government entitlement ends, private institutions will play a larger role in helping needy people. Detroit's Capuchin Soup Kitchen is an excellent example of meeting needs through private, voluntary cooperation.

Should Bargains Be Illegal?

When a customer is sued by a former supplier because the customer found a better bargain with another company, whose side does the law tend to support? A Michigan firm finds itself in this situation.

The Price We Pay for Government Work

If state employees are underpaid, it is not because they are paid less than private-sector workers. The documented wage and benefit gap between Michigan's private and public sector is significant and growing.

Does the Constitution Still Apply in Kalamazoo?

The Fourth Amendment to the U.S. Constitution protects our homes against unreasonable searches. A Kalamazoo city rental inspection ordinance runs afoul of this provision, and helps create an unusual alliance.

Welfare Pays Better than Work

Some Michigan welfare recipients make the only logical economic choice when they stay on welfare rather than find work that pays even $9 per hour.

Markets Provide Clear Signals for Telecommunications

When firms compete, costs tend to go down and product quality tends to rise. When regulators enter the marketplace, operating under a different set of incentives, price and quality trends tend to work against the consumer.

Teachers as Entrepreneurs in the Classroom

American education is still burdened by the thing that caused the economies of Eastern Europe to disintegrate-central planning that all but obliterates individual initiative and accountability. Private-practice teaching is an innovation that gives teachers more freedom and incentive; provides administrators more flexibility and cost savings; and allows more choice and improved education to students.

Ending the Lawyer Monopoly

A Michigan statute that protects lawyers from competition contributes to sky-high attorney fees that burden the average consumer and prevents many poor people from affording simple legal services.

The Children Are More Important than the System

An initiative to provide Michigan public school students and parents greater choice in school selection would benefit students and schools. Opponents of school choice defend the existing system and status quo, and find themselves opposing freedom instead of helping to make it work.

Competitive Contracting Is the Taxpayer's Best Friend

When government construction projects do not even accept bids from nonunion firms, the taxpayers pay more and nonunion workers are denied employment opportunities.

The Role of Prevention in Health Care Reform

Most Medicare, Medicaid, and other health care reform plans seek to manipulate health care need. Another proposal, medical savings accounts, would encourage injury and illness prevention and would help save Americans $200 billion annually.

A New Approach to Financing Highways

Michigan highway financing goes through "binge" and "bust" cycles that allow roads to deteriorate before new monies are raised. Modern technology may make possible a more equitable and cost-effective "pay-as-you-go" system.

Enviromania in the Textbooks

Environmental problems exist, but some Michigan textbooks make exaggerated claims and teach children that the world is near destruction. Twisting facts is bad enough, but it may be worse to subject our children to unfounded fears and pressure to save the planet.

Lessons from Outrageous Laws

The laws uncovered by the Mackinac Center's Outrageous Law Competition will make you chuckle. Underlying them are two serious lessons which teach us about government's response to crises and the role of special interests.

Lessons from the Mexico Crisis

About 20 percent of Michigan's goods and services are exported to Mexico. That country's recent currency crisis was met with a U.S.-backed bailout. The federal government could do Michigan a favor by getting its own house in order, and not throwing U.S. taxpayers' money at Mexico's failed policies

Farm Subsidies: The Courage to Say No

Farm subsidies drive up food prices for the poor and subsidize many millionaire farmers. The problem seems intractable today, but exactly 100 years ago a Michigan man mustered the integrity and courage to deal with this very issue.

More to Do on Workers' Compensation Reform

Michigan is winning the battle to control its workers' compensation costs. It is time to celebrate that success, and take the next steps for improvement. Progress can still be made in getting the injured back to work and screening out dubious claims.

The EPA's Toll on the Mackinac Bridge

A $50 million unfunded EPA mandate requires that the Mackinac Bridge be repainted inside of a tent. This is a premier example of an unfunded mandate the governor should resist. This piece of research generated enormous statewide attention.

On the Roads Again

Michigan's roads are in poor shape and they need money for repairs. Unfortunately, hundreds of millions of Michigan road dollars are diverted to nonroad uses, and are even used to build roads in other states. Cost-saving measures are recommended, along with a call to give roads higher priority without a net tax increase on Michigan citizens. This contains the key points of the Center's comprehensive transportation study, Fixing the Roads.

Who's at Fault for the High Cost of No Fault?

Michigan's no fault auto insurance is among the most expensive in the country. Allegations of price gouging by insurance companies make headlines while a far more likely culprit is costly state mandates.

Block Grants Are Not the Answer

If you wanted something done in your community, would it ever occur to you to send a check to Washington, D.C., so the federal bureaucracy could take a cut before sending back the rest?

Stadium Subsidies Strike Out

Government subsidies for a new Tiger Stadium amount to corporate welfare. Other big businesses have to raise their own private capital-why not baseball? This article makes the philosophical and economic case for private sports facilities.

Is Your County Losing in Arts Subsidies?

Most Michigan counties are net losers in the grab for public arts dollars. The claim that government spending on art produces a special "multiplier" effect is spurious. The bottom line: Art is too important to be dependent on government.

Private Efforts in the Public Interest

A private nonprofit environmental group knows that the free market is the most effective tool for protecting the environment. This is a wonderful success story of voluntary cooperation instead of government coercion.

The Other Side of Tax Deductions

Ironically, taxpayers' cherished deductions and loopholes stand in the way of meaningful tax reform. There is a fairer system that would still provide adequate government revenue.

A New Day for Michigan Schools

Two new laws take effect in April 1995 that will help Michigan's 1.7 million school children and their parents. Will schools take advantage of the newly created freedoms and opportunities?

The Prison Boom: New Options for Michigan

The prison business is booming in Michigan-fifteen percent of the General Fund. Can taxpayers afford the bills that mount from business as usual? Michigan can save hundreds of millions of dollars by trying what other states are already doing.

Washington Should Learn from Michigan's Budget Cuts

Michigan's turbocharged economy is a result of courageous government streamlining and downsizing. If the federal government is serious about "reinventing," it should follow Michigan's blueprint.

MEGA Problems: A New Industrial Policy Bureaucracy

In a stunning retreat from free-market principles, Governor Engler asks Michigan to join the bandwagon of states in which government picks the industrial winners and losers. The MEGA plan will not work, and may have unintended negative consequences.

Catching Speeders: Cops or Cameras

New technology makes it possible to ticket speeders with cameras, radar, and computers-and no cops. Should it be allowed? There are many pros and cons.

Should You Count on Social Security?

Why do more Americans believe in UFOs than have faith in Social Security? Can the system be rescued? Other nations have saved their systems with free-market reforms.

The Language of Federal Mandates

When government forces others to do its bidding without providing the money to pay for it, it is called a mandate. Politicians and bureaucrats try to wriggle out of the responsibility with carefully crafted code phrases. This glossary of "governmentese" will entertain and enlighten.

Welfare Reform: Have We Gone Far Enough?

Welfare programs are one of the most unpopular of government activities. Though Michigan has made progress over the past four years, the real challenge lies ahead: making assistance to the needy a private initiative instead of a government responsibility.

Alice in Mandate Land

Proposed core curriculum from Lansing is more of the same fuzzy thinking that has produced declining achievement scores and increasing functional illiteracy in the schools.

Making Michigan Safe for Investors

Economic progress means enhancing opportunities, promoting capital formation, insisting on fairness in taxation, and keeping good people who create jobs here in Michigan. The onerous intangibles tax works against all these things and should be abolished.

Should Michigan Become a Right-to-Work State?

Labor reform that brings Michigan law up-to-date is not something to be feared. Giving workers freedom of choice in union membership would be a plus for the Michigan economy.

Michigan Schools: Doing More With Less

What financially hobbles our schools is not a lack of money, but a lack of money management. Contracting with the private sector offers a promising solution.

States to Washington: Cease and Desist!

A burgeoning national movement to assert state sovereignty promises to mushroom into a crisis for the federal government if it refuses to live within its constitutional boundaries. Unfunded mandates are at the core of the controversy surrounding interpretations of the 10th Amendment.

Understanding Charter Schools and the Constitution

Public Act 362 of 1993 authorized charter schools and did not violate the Michigan Constitution. Charter schools are a creative way to make changes within public schools. However, luring private schools into the public domain with tax dollars is a danger.

Ax the Package Tax

Advance disposal fees are taxes imposed on containers at either the distributor or the retail level and are likely to add more burdens than they relieve. Managing the waste stream effectively requires a reliance upon markets, not new taxes that make little economic sense.

A Constitutional Convention Wish List

Our state constitution would be improved if it incorporated provisions to restrict the state's ability to dictate terms of private contracts, protect and enhance educational freedom, and limit regulatory "takings" of private property.

The Headlee Amendment: Alive and Well

Though certain initiatives are needed to clarify the law and ensure enforcement, the 1978 Headlee Amendment to the Michigan Constitution has worked reasonably well in limiting the growth of government.

Does Michigan Need a Constitutional Convention?

Michigan voters decide this year whether they want to call a convention for the purposes of revising the state's constitution. The dangers of a general rewrite of our state's basic governing document exceed any potential benefit.

Comparable Worth or Incomparably Worthless?

A comparable worth scheme imposed on the economy would arbitrarily abolish the role of supply and demand in the labor market. Markets set wages better than any artificial, political contrivance could ever hope to.

Not One Cent for Tributes in Lansing

The Michigan legislature regularly spends taxpayers' money on resolutions of tribute for an array of special interests, individuals and groups.

Public Housing: Subsidies or Vouchers?

The moral, economic, and constitutional case for the federal government's involvement in housing is dubious at best, but the way it conducts its housing business now requires changes.

"Discrimination" at Private Clubs in Michigan

What was conceived as a protection for women in Michigan country clubs has become another entry on a long list of meddlesome and ultimately counterproductive restrictions on personal freedom.

Must Teachers Pay for Union "Image Building"?

An effort by the Michigan Education Association to extract an assessment from its members for a public relations campaign runs afoul of Supreme Court decisions protecting workers' rights.

Medicaid Reform: Giving Michigan's Poor a Chance

Privatizing Medicaid through the use of vouchers would reduce state expenditures, improve service quality, and provide greater access to health care for the needy.

A Moving Experience

State regulations exist that stifle competition, protect inefficiency, and encourage movers to "call the cops" on each other. It's time to open the market up to competition and consumer choice.

Beyond Deinstitutionalization: Mental Health Reform in Michigan

Michigan's mental health reforms are relying on creative ways to place patients in compassionate community settings, and cutting loose local governments and private providers from inefficient state-run programs.

Should the Blues Buy the Accident Fund?

The state of Michigan should privatize its workers compensation insurer, but not by selling it to a quasi-public entity that enjoys many government-granted privileges.

Science vs. the Chlorine Scare

Proposals to ban the chemical chlorine represent environmental extremism. Wild claims unsubstantiated by scientific evidence should not become the foundation of our public policy.

Solving Problems in Unemployment Insurance

Two Central Michigan University professors argue that the unemployment insurance system is costly, bureaucratic, out-of-date, and in trouble. One solution is a privatized system of voluntary, tax-exempt Individual Unemployment Accounts.

Biotechnology: From the Blackboard to the Barnyard

Michigan dairy farmers who put cutting-edge research to work on the farm should beware: some people don't think that cows and science make a good combination. Will the public embrace science and economics or emotion and scare-talk masquerading as "environmentalism"?

The Other Educational Choice

Exempting Michigan's public school teachers from the Public Employment Relations Act would resolve the strike issue, remove barriers union policies have erected, and open the door for the advancement of good teachers.

Protecting the Public from Competition

Michigan's bureaucratic regulation of the intrastate trucking industry is not intended to protect the general public from harm. Rather, it is intended to protect existing truckers from aggressive competition in a free market. The sad case of a Grand Rapids company, Federal Armored, proves it.

Charter Schools in Michigan: Unfinished Business

Michigan's recent charter school legislation, a well-intentioned effort to introduce market forces into public education, suffers from stifling rules and regulations.

Confronting Urban Sprawl: How Cities and Suburbs Can Both Win

Detroit and other urban centers need a strategy that will address the urban sprawl problem and offer economic prosperity and growth opportunities to both cities and suburbs. That strategy must include reducing tax burdens and alleviating costly environmental regulations.