Wednesday, September 23, 2009

Thinking the Unthinkable? Absolutely Necessary!

"We must learn to welcome and not fear the voices of dissent. We must dare to think about 'unthinkable things' because when things become unthinkable, thinking stops and action becomes mindless."Senator J. William Fulbright (AK)

Too often when we address issues of the day, we become entrenched and unable to think of solutions outside of what has become the dominant orthodoxy.  When this happens, we stiffle innovation, suffocate flexibility, and undermine creativity.  A people who are more concerned about "getting along" as opposed to getting it right will undoubtedly lapse into lethargy and a slow but sure demise.

Thursday, September 17, 2009

What Happened to Limited Government?


Two hundred twenty-two years ago, the members of the Constitutional Convention signed the federal Constitution and under­took an unparalleled revolution in the forms of government. As the heirs of this grand experi­ment, we too often ignore the work they accom­plished at our peril.

During the past year, our nation has been transfixed by crisis, government and populism: Iraq, Afghanistan, Iran, pirates, banking, mort­gages, economic stimulus, health care, energy, auto companies, tea parties and town halls. The tyranny of the urgent is suffocating the eternal.

Our government rests upon the proposition that a well-informed citizenry and political lead­ers will guard the Constitution.

The rule of law, equality, unalienable rights, the social compact, limited government and revolution are the superstructure on which the Constitution and our country are formed.

The idea of limited government has been all but ignored. As the Declaration of Independence declares, the purpose of government is to secure the unalienable rights of individuals. After all, “it is,” Thomas Jefferson explained, “to secure our just rights that we resort to government at all ...”

Although government is necessary, it is to be strictly limited to its proper constitutional pur­poses.

The alternative — unlimited government— allows the government to control every aspect of our lives. The experiments with unlimited govern­ment ran amok in the 20th century — leading to Nazi Germany’s Holocaust, Mao’s starvations in China, the Soviet Union’s totalitarian liquidations and the Khmer Rouge’s genocide in Cambodia.

America chose a different path. The Constitu­tion constrains the federal government to a few key areas, such as war and foreign affairs, in­terstate and international commerce, patents and copyrights, and money and weights.

Federalism provides that the states are su­preme in their own sphere of influence — which is everything not specifically granted to the federal government. The states are supposed to jealously guard their authority, which helps check the pow­er of the federal government.

Yet, with a few notable exceptions, we barely hear a whisper about limited government and federalism in policy debates. That members of Congress and others are too busy to read the bills upon which they vote is bad enough, but that no one bothers to ask whether the proposals to dra­matically expand the federal government and spend trillions of dollars conforms within our system of limited government is alarming.

Reasonable people may disagree about the application of the first principles to policy issues.

However, to brush off our first principles during these tumultuous times only courts disaster.

Michael Warren is an Oakland County Circuit Court judge, a former member of the State Board of Education and a co-founder of Patriot Week. E-mail:

Patriot Week

Michael Warren and daughter Leah Warren wanted to promote a better understanding and appreciation of America’s history and civics, so this year they started a weeklong focus (Sept. 11 through today) for schools and other public and private institutions on the nation’s first principles, key historical figures, founding docu­ments and symbols. Each celebration is tied into the state’s social studies grade-level content expectations. One school district, several schools, the University of Michigan and Cooley Law School are participating.

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

Hats Off to the Suffragists and Gender Equality

Patriot Week yesterday honored the First Principle of gender equality, suffragists Elizabeth Cady Stanton and Susan B. Anthony, the 1848 Seneca Falls Statement, the 19th Amendment (granting women suffrage), and the Suffragist Flag.

When America declared independence and explained that “all men are created equal,” we left out better half of our people. Not only were women prohibited from voting, they had nearly no legal rights. However, suffragists and women rights’ activists drew upon the principles of equality, unalienable rights, and the Social Compact to point out that unless women were enfranchised and granted equal civil and political rights, that the idea of equality would be mockery.

After decades of struggle, the 19th Amendment was adopted on August 26, 1920. Although the struggle for gender equality has not yet ended, there have been tremendous strides across the economic, political, and cultural arenas.

Unfortunately, the struggle for gender equality has hardly begun in other areas of the world – such as Saudi Arabia and Sudan (where a women was recently imprisoned for wearing pants, and others are lashed for the same offense). Hopefully America’s beacon of light will enlighten the darker realms of the world.

For more on our First Principles and Patriot Week, visit  and

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

Patriot Week Continues - the Social Compact and Washington

Yesterday Patriot Week recognized the invaluable contribution of George Washington in American history. Declared the “greatest man of the age” by his nemesis, King George III, today Washington is mostly honored for his role as military commander of the American forces in the Revolutionary War and for being our first President.

However, he also presided over the Constitutional Convention, which was just as an important to our future. His mere presence gave the Convention much needed legitimacy, and his support of the Convention’s work was critical to its ratification. Washington’s role was vital to establishing a true Social Compact between the people and the government – in which for the first time in history a free people determined the outline of their government and established a written Constitution that would bind the government and the people.

Accordingly, Patriot Week also celebrated the act by which Congress forwarded the Constitution to the states for ratification, as well as the current American flag (which signifies the continuation of the Social Compact.

For more, visit

Sunday, September 13, 2009

Inaugural Patriot Week

This weeks mark the inaugural celebration of Patriot Week.  Anchored by the key dates of September 11 and September 17 (the anniversary of the signing of the Constitution - dubbed Constitution Day), the week celebrates what makes America great.  Each day is dedicated to a founding First Principle (revolution, the rule of law, equality, the social compact, unalienable rights and limited government), certain historical documents embodying those First Principles), founding fathers and other major historical figures that have helped America live up to those First Principles, and certain historical flags that are representative of those principles. 

Over 20 participants, including elementary, middle, and high schools, goverment agencies (the Michigan State Senate, Oakland County Circuit Court, Oakland County Commissioners, Bloomfield Township), colleges and universities (Cooley Law School, Oakland University, the University of Michigan), and others are participating.

To learn more, visit