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New Year’s Resolutions for Real Reform

(Editor's note: The following commentary is an edited version of the “President’s Message” found in the Winter 2009 issue of Impact.)

Some historical leaders famously wrote resolutions to help them achieve lofty goals. Even if they didn’t keep them perfectly, they probably came closer than if they had set their sights low.

In that spirit, I humbly offer these model resolutions for real reform of our troubled state as we begin 2010.

For government officials — Resolved, to read our constitutions and my oath of office and pursue no action that is not in strict fidelity to those documents; to pursue no policy that benefits my constituents at the expense of anyone else’s; to maintain a voting record that matches my speeches; to acknowledge that government is the means of protecting my constituents’ rights and freedoms and not the means by which some constituents acquire resources from others; to spend public monies and exert government authority with complete transparency, subject to the greatest public scrutiny and highest moral standards.

For candidates for public office — Resolved, to campaign on policy issues and not personalities and platitudes; to prepare, if elected, to resist strong pressures to serve “the system” instead of the people; to never sacrifice lofty principles of my campaign to gain a single vote, dollar or day in office.

For leaders of businesses, religious and other private institutions — Resolved, to remind public officials and candidates that I represent the sector of society that produces the wealth and social capital from which everyone benefits; to expect government to act as an impartial referee and not an active participant in the market; to refuse to seek government protection of my interests at the expense of others; to educate those I lead in sound principles of government.

For citizens — Resolved, to remember Thomas Jefferson’s observation that the price of liberty is eternal vigilance; to withhold support from those who promise people like me special government favors, or something for nothing, or to foist today’s problems on our children and grandchildren; to actively support those who advance sound policies; to educate our children on the proper role of government and the awful consequences of its abuses.

For supporters of liberty and the Mackinac Center — Resolved, to remember that those who have actively fought for freedom and provided for its support have always been few in number; to be quick to tell the Mackinac Center how it can better advance liberty; to receive the Mackinac Center’s grateful thanks; and to remember that even if we friends of limited government are outspent, we are not outgunned. Our principles inspired the revolution that wrested control of a continent from the world’s lone superpower in 1776.

For myself — Resolved, to live by the Golden Rule; to work diligently at the high calling of restoring government to its proper role; to care more about getting the job done than getting the credit; to deploy our supporters’ resources prudently, frugally and precisely where they will have the greatest impact; to make my board and co-workers glad to labor alongside me; to persevere and never give in to discouragement; and to seek God’s strength for these things.

Happy New Year!


Joseph G. Lehman is president of the Mackinac Center for Public Policy, a research and educational institute headquartered in Midland, Michigan. Permission to reprint in whole or in part is hereby granted, provided that the author and the Center are properly cited.