Wednesday, September 2, 2015

Jim's Top Ten Online Sources for the Informed Citizen

I understand that an uneven enforcement of literacy testing made a powerful tool of discrimination during the Democrat Party's reign of Jim Crow. And, no, I am not necessarily calling for a return to literacy testing as a precondition to the right to vote. I will say, however, that it would be perfectly permissible under the Constitution to impose even handedly and enforce even handedly a system of testing the ability to read, to write, and to understand, as a precondition to being allowed to exercise the elective franchise.

An informed electorate -- composed of individuals whose opinions can sharply and deeply conflict -- is the imagined future that the Framers considered the guard against future usurpations by government.

Much of the blogging I do here depends on my own ability to make the best possible use of online resources. In this post, I wanted to make sure that those of you who find value in what is posted here have the benefit of the same, readily available online resources.

So here, in completely random order, are the top ten online resources to which I have found myself returning again and again, as I think on our Nation's Constitution, our rights as individuals, our government, our governance, and our history:


This archive includes text versions of historical documents from Ancient Greece to Modern America. Read the Notes on the Constitutional Convention, Philadelphia, 1787, or read the transcripts of the Nuremberg Tribunal on German War Crimes. There is so much here, it is the top of my list. One drawback, and it is not much of one: you should know what you are looking for when you come here, have some idea of dates of documents, authors of them, and the like. It just makes location easier.

Avalon describes itself:
“The Avalon Project will mount digital documents relevant to the fields of Law, History, Economics, Politics, Diplomacy and Government. We do not intend to mount only static text but rather to add value to the text by linking to supporting documents expressly referred to in the body of the text.

The Avalon Project will no doubt contain controversial documents. Their inclusion does not indicate endorsement of their contents nor sympathy with the ideology, doctrines, or means employed by their authors. They are included for the sake of completeness and balance and because in many cases they are by our definition a supporting document.”


This site has taken over, but continues, the former, the Library of Congress website. On here you can search the texts, titles, and legislative records of current and recent federal legislation, as well as link to the Federal Register, and many other sources of government information. describes itself this way:
“ is the official website for U.S. federal legislative information. The site provides access to accurate, timely, and complete legislative information for Members of Congress, legislative agencies, and the public. It is presented by the Library of Congress (LOC) using data from the Office of the Clerk of the U.S. House of Representatives, the Office of the Secretary of the Senate, the Government Publishing Office, Congressional Budget Office, and the LOC's Congressional Research Service.”

The Founders’ Constitution

Had we lived in the period leading to the ratification of the US Constitution, many of the source works excerpted at The Founders’ Constitution might well be known to us first hand. If you are thinking about a particular provision of the Constitution, its purpose and scope, The Founders’ Constitution provides background materials that help to illuminate the motivations for the provision and the purpose and scope of it. The site is nicely arranged in sections corresponding, point by point, to the Constitution and the amendments.

The University of Chicago Press describes The Founders’ Constitution this way:
“Hailed as "the Oxford English Dictionary of American constitutional history," the print edition of The Founders' Constitution has proved since its publication in 1986 to be an invaluable aid to all those seeking a deeper understanding of one of our nation's most important legal documents.

In this unique anthology, Philip B. Kurland and Ralph Lerner draw on the writings of a wide array of people engaged in the problem of making popular government safe, steady, and accountable. The documents included range from the early seventeenth century to the 1830s, from the reflections of philosophers to popular pamphlets, from public debates in ratifying conventions to the private correspondence of the leading political actors of the day.

These rich and varied materials are arranged, first, according to broad themes or problems to which the Constitution of 1787 has made a significant and lasting contribution. Then they are arranged by article, section, and clause of the U.S. Constitution, from the Preamble through Article Seven and continuing through the first twelve Amendments.

The Online Library of Liberty

The OLL is an excellent aggregation of writings focused on liberty and the law.

The Liberty Fund describes the Online Library of Law and Liberty thus:
“The Online Library of Law and Liberty’s focus is on the content, status, and development of law in the context of republican and limited government and the ways that liberty and law and law and liberty mutually reinforce the other. This site brings together serious debate, commentary, essays, book reviews, interviews, and educational material in a commitment to the first principles of law in a free society. Law and Liberty considers a range of foundational and contemporary legal issues, legal philosophy, and pedagogy.

The website is provided by Liberty Fund, Inc., a private, educational foundation established to encourage the study of the ideal of a society of free and responsible individuals. The Foundation develops, supervises, and finances its own educational activities, with the goal of fostering discussion and thought on enduring topics pertaining to the creation and maintenance of such a society.”

The Legal Information Institute

More often than not, if I link to a Supreme Court case, or a constitutional provision, the link brings you to the Legal Information Institute. This resource is invaluable.

LII describes itself this way:

We are a not-for-profit group that believes everyone should be able to read and understand the laws that govern them, without cost. We carry out this vision by:

    Publishing law online, for free.
    Creating materials that help people understand law.
    Exploring new technologies that make it easier for people to find the law.

Project Gutenberg

Project Gutenberg has been around on the internet as long as I’ve been prowling the web. Here you will find e-Texts of virtually every description. Shakespeare, before he gets banned. Lewis Carroll, before someone complains of his political incorrectness. So many publications in the public domain, it simply is not possible to identify them all here.

Project Gutenberg says this about itself:

The mission of Project Gutenberg is simple:

    To encourage the creation and distribution of eBooks.

This mission is, as much as possible, to encourage all those who are interested in making eBooks and helping to give them away. In fact, Project Gutenberg approves about 99% of all requests from those who would like to make our eBooks and give them away, within their various local copyright limitations. Project Gutenberg is powered by ideas, ideals, and by idealism. Project Gutenberg is not powered by financial or political power. Therefore Project Gutenberg is powered totally by volunteers.

The Internet Archive

This site caught my attention in the late 1990s or early 2000s when I found a video of racist-eugenecist Margaret Sanger on here. There are so many different collections here, I view this site as an excellent place to discover the meaning of “Kismet.”

From the Archive’s “About” Statement:
The Internet Archive is a 501(c)(3) non-profit that was founded to build an Internet library. Its purposes include offering permanent access for researchers, historians, scholars, people with disabilities, and the general public to historical collections that exist in digital format.

The Heritage Foundation

The Heritage Foundation website is a great starting place for looking into a broad swath of economic, social, international and other policy questions. While on the site, the Daily Signal free subscription brings you a shot in the arm on breaking developments across the spectrum of policy.

The Heritage Foundation describes itself this way:
Founded in 1973, The Heritage Foundation is a research and educational institution—a think tank—whose mission is to formulate and promote conservative public policies based on the principles of free enterprise, limited government, individual freedom, traditional American values, and a strong national defense.

We believe the principles and ideas of the American Founding are worth conserving and renewing. As policy entrepreneurs, we believe the most effective solutions are consistent with those ideas and principles. Our vision is to build an America where freedom, opportunity, prosperity, and civil society flourish.

The Cato Institute


Admittedly, Cato and I part ways on certain issues ... you might call them the social conservative issues ... still, Cato has an excellent array of resources on economic liberty and policy.

The Cato Institute says of itself:
The Cato Institute is a public policy research organization — a think tank – dedicated to the principles of individual liberty, limited government, free markets and peace. Its scholars and analysts conduct independent, nonpartisan research on a wide range of policy issues.

Founded in 1977, Cato owes its name to Cato’s Letters, a series of essays published in 18th- century England that presented a vision of society free from excessive government power. Those essays inspired the architects of the American Revolution. And the simple, timeless principles of that revolution — individual liberty, limited government, and free markets – turn out to be even more powerful in today’s world of global markets and unprecedented access to information than Jefferson or Madison could have imagined. Social and economic freedom is not just the best policy for a free people, it is the indispensable framework for the future.