Mr. Williams Goes to Washington

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Northwood University’s “Proven” campaign highlights the successful track record of its nearly 50,000 alumni active in markets and industries around the world today. As one experience after another demonstrates, the combined powers of Northwood’s specialty degree programs, experiential learning opportunities, and its unique philosophy—The Northwood Idea—give Northwood graduates the know-how, savvy, and wisdom to succeed in the world today. One such individual demonstrating this on the national stage in America’s capital today is Jonathan Williams, class of ‘05.  

A member of the men’s baseball team, Williams graduated with a triple major in Banking & Finance/Economics/Management and is a recipient of Northwood’s prestigious Ludwig von Mises Award for Economics.  Today, he serves as the Director of the Center for State Fiscal Reform at  the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC) in Washington D.C. Williams works with state legislators across the United States in developing sound fiscal policy—work that includes co-authoring a nationally acclaimed book, Rich States, Poor States, with renowned economists Arthur Laffer and Stephen Moore.

“Our research from Rich States, Poor States gives an overview of just how much public policy matters for economic growth across our 50 states. Policymakers do not create policy in a vacuum. Rich States, Poor States shows how states can become more prosperous through commonsense, free-market policies.”

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Jonathan Williams (R) with William Howell (L), Speaker of the Virginia House of Delegates

Williams has also been a contributing author of Northwood’s In Defense of Capitalism and has also written for The Wall Street Journal, Forbes, Investor’s Business Daily and the Ash Center for Democratic Governance and Innovation at Harvard’s Kennedy School of Government.

According to Williams, his Northwood education, especially The Northwood Idea, continues to play a vital role in shaping the future direction of state economies nationwide.

“I remember taking Philosophy 110 with Professor Glenn Moots, reading Thomas Sowell and Milton Friedman and learning about how free market concepts gave rise to the American Dream,” he stated.

Also, as many NU alumni can attest, it is education and exposure like this often opens the “door of opportunity” prior to graduation. During Williams’ senior year, for example, he was contacted by various organizations in the D.C. area to spend a summer working in public policy. With a deep passion for free market principles and economics, Williams turned down an offer for a full time job in Michigan and jumped at the chance to learn more about how public policy is devised, shaped, and implemented. That early experience turned out to be all the confirmation he needed in terms of deciding his future:  Washington D.C. was where he wanted and needed to be.

Following his summer 2005 experience, Williams launched his full time policy career by working as staff economist at the Tax Foundation before joining forces with ALEC’s Center for State Fiscal Reform in 2007.

“Since Washington, DC is gridlocked, we create state-based policy solutions. What ALEC does is based in the 10th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution; powers not explicitly given to the federal government should be reserved for  the states and the people of the states,” explained Williams. “ALEC exchanges free-market ideas from what Justice Louis Brandeis would call the 50 ‘laboratories of democracy,’” he continued.

The Center for State Fiscal Reform aids state legislators in developing responsible effective budgets.  Working with more than 2,000 state legislative members, ALEC provides nonpartisan research for legislators requesting assistance.  Motivated by localized democracy and bipartisan solutions, Williams works to find what does and doesn’t work for states.  His aim is to develop and implement policies which lead to private sector growth and job creation—which includes drawing on principles like those found in The Northwood Idea.

“My role with the Center for State Fiscal Reform is going out, spreading the word of free markets, individual liberty, and how it affects policy,” he stated.

A proud Northwood alumnus, Williams is an active supporter and participates in a number of events, such as the Annual Freedom Seminar and public forums such as one on tax policy held on the Michigan campus last fall.

“Northwood is a fantastic place for ideas.  It gave me a solid foundation and it keeps me involved,” he noted.

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Jonathan Williams with Governor Herbert, along  with Utah legislators and business leaders.

When asked how the 2012 election’s results affected his work, Williams was quick to point out his work has a long-term focus.

“There are huge opportunities to work on good policies, regardless of party affiliation.  We are more than happy to engage and work with whomever is elected.”

While the 2012 election left Washington D.C. under bipartisan control, the nation’s “fifty laboratories of democracy” shifted with 24 states under Republican control and 13 under Democrat control, thus raising questions about the kind of fiscal policy that will prevail. But according to Williams, this should not be a factor in deciding what works best and cooperating accordingly.  In fact, he says identifying and making rational, well-informed decisions aimed at the greater common good is what matters most.

“There’s this perceived mentality here in D.C. of ‘groupthink inside the beltway,’ and ALEC is well positioned  to bring a new perspective and hopefully real, long-term solutions to the states with which we work,” he pointed out.

When asked about the future Williams was unhesitant.

“I love The Northwood Idea, and wherever I am, I want to be working in the business of ideas, talking about free markets and the principles  that have made this country great.”

- Eric Overton (Class of 2012) and Michael Curry