Michigan today is not a struggling state like California or New Jersey or even Wisconsin. It is a basket case, with worse to come if things do not change quickly—especially in the relation of the public to the private sector.
"Many of the protesters seem to think the war is between rich and poor," says Michael LaFaive, director of the Morey Fiscal Policy Initiative at the Michigan-based Mackinac Center. "But the real class war today is between government and the people who pay for it. And the government's been winning."
For every dreary statistic, Michigan has a real advantage: a large freshwater coastline, a farm sector that could be an even larger export industry, a rising health-care industry, energy reserves waiting to be tapped, and affordable communities. The point here is not that if you build it they will come. The point is if you get off their backs, they will come build it themselves.
David Littmann, an economist and colleague of Mr. LaFaive at Mackinac, says he's deeply skeptical of whether Mr. Snyder's reforms go far enough. But about Michigan's potential he has no doubts, if government would only let the market decide.
"If we created a climate where the risks and rewards were attractive to capital, we'd find entrepreneurs from all over the world finding their way to Michigan," he says. "They in turn would be a catalyst for other industries we can't even imagine now—and the kind of Michigan that could be even more dynamic than it was when the auto industry was at its peak."