Let’s protect Michigan’s democracy and free markets.
Free markets, which can be thought of as the systems within which entrepreneurs are free to start businesses, have their roots in principles of democracy, or “rule by the people.” If one starts a business, and it flourishes because people are free to buy the business’s products or services, then a form of democratic rule is being exercised. Think of it as voting with one’s dollars. It’s also not hard to see that the constraints within which businesses function (e.g., what constitutes a standard work day, what makes for a fair and living wage etc.) ought to be enacted through democratic means. In other words, the two –free markets and democratic control, or rule – go hand in hand. There cannot be one without the other.
Democracies, however, are fragile things, and ours is being severely threatened. The January 6th insurrection is perhaps the most visceral example of how bad things have become. The ongoing belief that Joe Biden did not legitimately win the US Presidency in 2020 is perhaps worse. According to a poll taken in January, 40% of American citizens believe the election was stolen. Fueled by this belief, movements have been underway that will further erode our democracy and thereby threaten free market entrepreneurialism. These movements aim to restrict voter rights and access. Michigan’s small business leaders ought to be concerned, especially those who understand the vital need for sustainability, or the idea that business ought to do more than “maximize shareholder value”.
Fortunately, Michiganders have a way to hold-back the threats to our democracy. In November, we’ll have the opportunity to vote on Proposal 2, the ballot initiative that will enshrine in our state’s constitution protections against denying voter rights and access. Yet, the passage of Proposal 2 is not a sure thing.
Political advocacy in our system, which is all too often corrupted by dark money NGOs, tends to undermine thoughtful deliberation and an open vetting of the issues. It’s easy to distort reality using images and sound bites. As a result, and without a good understanding of what’s behind a ballot proposal, voters may be inclined to vote against their best interests. This is certainly the case when it comes to Proposal 2.
Opponents of Proposal 2 recently circulated a text message claiming, “Extreme Liberals want to allow Murderers, Rapists, and Incarcerated Felons to vote. They’d rather allow felons to vote than see Trump win another election!” The text message campaign is funded by a political action committee, Protect MI Voter ID. According to a Bridge Michigan article, Protect MI Voter ID is funded by “out of state interests”.
A deeper dive into who these out of state interests might be reveals an organization, Prosperity Alliance, Inc., provides significant funding for Protect MI Voter ID. According to Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington (CREW), Prosperity Alliance, Inc. is not exactly the sort of organization that can be trusted. CREW has filed a complaint with the IRS, because Prosperity Alliance, Inc “likely violated its tax-exempt status by making politics its primary activity and also failed to properly disclose its political spending on its tax forms.” That out of state interests, those that have likely violated IRS laws, are funding political advocacy in Michigan is suspicious enough. The other problem is that Protect MI Voter ID’s claim is technically incorrect: In Michigan, incarcerated individuals are not allowed to vote.
The best antidote to this sort of distortion is the testimonial of a trusted person from within one’s community or circle of friends. Small business leaders, by virtue of the role they play in their communities, are the sorts of trusted individuals to whom many look for sound advice. According to a recent Gallop poll, 68% of Americans indicate they have a “great deal/quite a lot” of confidence in small businesses.
For the small business leader, it may be good to know that Proposal 2 is backed by organizations and individuals that can be trusted. According to its website, the Detroit Regional Chamber of Commerce (DRC) “wholeheartedly supports Proposal 2.” That the DRC, an organization aligned with conservative, free market values, gives such an unabashed endorsement for Proposal 2 speaks volumes. So, too, does the support of well-respected Detroit business leaders.
In a recent Crain’s Detroit Business article, Denis Archer, Jr. draws a connection between the health of our democracy and our economy: “As an employer in Michigan, I feel strongly that the health of our economy depends on the healthiness of our democracy. This basic premise is not in dispute. Where the rule of law, fairness, and predictable stability are the norm, businesses can thrive, economies grow and citizens can prosper.”
Archer’s endorsement of Proposal 2 is cogent and compelling: “Adoption of Proposal 2 will usher in an era of stability and enhance Michigan’s commitment to democracy, voting rights, and economic strength. We can protect our fundamental right to vote and provide for safe, secure and fair elections across Michigan. We can guarantee the ability of every Michigan voter, regardless of what candidate they support, to be heard without intimidation, harassment or interference. We can enhance the fairness and integrity of our elections. We can make voting more convenient and accessible, especially for seniors, rural voters, parents working two jobs and veterans who often have a hard time voting.”
We need Michigan’s small business leaders to speak-out and endorse Proposal 2. Customers, employees and suppliers trust and respect small business leaders; they can be a voice for reason. As respected citizens and members of their communities, small business leaders have an obligation to stand-up against the disinformation that’s being promoted by out of state, dark money NGOs. By taking up this obligation and spreading the word about passing Proposal 2, small business leaders can affect change for the good of all Michiganders.