About De Civitate
ROPER: So, now you give the Devil the benefit of law!
MORE: Yes! What would you do? Cut a great road through the law to get after the Devil?
ROPER: Yes, I'd cut down every law in England to do that!
MORE: Oh? And when the last law was down, and the Devil turned 'round on you, where would you hide, Roper, the laws all being flat? This country is planted thick with laws, from coast to coast, Man's laws, not God's! And if you cut them down— and you're just the man to do it—do you really think you could stand upright in the winds that would blow then? Yes, I'd give the Devil benefit of law, for my own safety's sake!
—A Man for All Seasons
The name of this blogletter, De Civitate, means “About Civilization.” I did not realize until too late that St. Augustine had written a book of the same name, better known in English as The City of God, but I am not unhappy to share the title with him.
I write here about a wide range of questions that impact civilization: the political horserace, public morals (or, as this noble project has disparagingly renamed itself, “social justice”), the structure of government, culture, fundamental truths (sometimes labeled “religion” or “metaphysics”), current events, history, and law. Lots of law. Like More in A Man for All Seasons, I strongly believe in the power and responsibility of the rule of law, and I write accordingly.
In other words, De Civitate has too broad a focus to ever go really viral, but too narrow a focus to ever interest my wife.
About James J. Heaney
—Nate Silver’s reaction to James J. Heaney
James J. Heaney is most notable for definitively debunking the bizarrely widespread rumor that it is illegal to marry a virgin in Guam, although he is also that one conservative guy who thinks Net Neutrality is actually a pretty good idea. He has written for Law & Liberty, The American Conservative, Commonweal, Aleteia, Crisis, and The Federalist.
When not posting bizarrely detailed breakdowns of things nobody else cares about here at De Civitate (that last one is 15,000 words about a state constitutional amendment that never stood a whelk’s chance in a supernova), James is usually working on one online hobby or another.
There are many other Jameses Heaney. He is not one of them. This guy, to name one example, ain’t me. Don’t blame him, or any of the other innocent James Heaneys out there.
Note About Old Posts
When I opened this Substack in November 2021, I copied my entire WordPress blog over to Substack as well. It turns out that several of them did not come through with correct formatting. Some are missing pictures; some are an unreadable mess.
I’m still trying to figure out what to do about this, but, for now: if you find a post on this Substack that seems badly formatted, visit JamesJHeaney.com and search for the original post there. That blog should remain online forever.
First and foremost, all De Civ readers can get my newest articles quickly and reliably by subscribing to my Substack’s free list. I mean, that’s the point. This is not news to you. The main reason I switched to Substack was frustration with WordPress, including its mailing list management. Substack does a great job with this, and I can unreservedly recommend a free subscription to you.
Second, everyone can participate in the comments. There’s no paywall on those. Just subscribe so you get the notifications about new posts and jump in. I’m hoping that the fact Substack’s comments work so much better than what we’ve dealt with on the old WordPress blog for the past several years means we’ll actually start to have comments again.
Third, those of you who decide to go the extra mile and become paid subscribers will get exclusive access to two regular features (the only features I’m taking behind a paywall):
Worthy Reads, where I post all the best things I’ve been reading online and offer some commentary about them. This series has been a huge hit among my Facebook friends and has generated tons of discussion… but it’s not the main meat of De Civ, so I feel okay saying it costs money now. Free subscribers get half the entries; paid subscribers get to see them all. (Here are some Worthy Reads posts from before the paywall, as a sample.) Full editions of Worthy Reads will not be published on my WordPress for at least a year (maybe more) after their Substack publication (since publishing them earlier would rather defeat the purpose of the paywall).
Short Reviews, a series of, well, TV/movie/book/video game reviews, which are exclusive to subscribers for at least 3-6 months.
Playing PredictIt , a brand new feature. Last year, I invested $10 in PredictIt’s political betting markets. My modest goal: to turn that $10 into $1000 and buy my next computer with it. (Hey, this blog isn’t buying me any computers!) If you join my Substack paid list, you can follow along with my strategy and political reasoning as I write about my attempts try to climb the ranks! (I’m currently at $9.88, so, uh, there’s a ways to go.)
[NOTE 2022 October 15: Playing PredictIt is suspended indefinitely, since PredictIt seems to be in the process of shutting down. I’ve investigated Kalshi as an alternative, but it hasn’t really caught my fancy. Besides, Playing PredictIt was never a huge hit with the readership.]
Substack told me I really shouldn’t try to sell paid subscriptions to my writing for less than $7/month and $70/year. So my paid subscriptions cost $5/month and $50/year. Sorry, Substack, but thank you for believing in me more than I believe in me!
Substack also strongly encouraged me to have a premium tier and find some cool reward for it. I don’t expect anyone to actually subscribe to it, but I didn’t want to disappoint Substack again, so I’ve created a $150/year tier called “We’re Friends Now.” Anyone who does such a surprising thing gets to be my friend. (And, really, if you think that highly of me, aren’t you already?) I’ll add you on Facebook and you can join the scorching political discussions I get into on the social meda network for old people.
De Civitate is a reader-supported publication. To receive new posts and support my work, consider becoming a free or paid subscriber.