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Harry Potter and the Half-Crazed Bureaucracy

Trust me here -- there is a government connection. Just stick with me.

As a major fan of J.K. Rowling's Harry Potter, I am very excited about the newest movie, Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire, which opens Friday. Goblet is my favorite book and so I'm very much looking forward to the movie.

Readers of the books -- it doesn't play as much of a role in the movies, at least so far -- is the role of government, which is represented by the Ministry of Magic. The Ministry does not present a very positive face of government -- sneeky, fairly inept, more concerned about image than substance and results.

Benjamin Barton, of the University of Tennessee, Knoxville College of Law, actually has a paper looking at this issue.

This Essay examines what the Harry Potter series (and particularly the most recent book, The Half-Blood Prince) tells us about government and bureaucracy. There are two short answers. The first is that Rowling presents a government (The Ministry of Magic) that is 100% bureaucracy. There is no discernable executive or legislative branch, and no elections. There is a modified judicial function, but it appears to be completely dominated by the bureaucracy, and certainly does not serve as an independent check on governmental excess.

Second, government is controlled by and for the benefit of the self-interested bureaucrat. The most cold-blooded public choice theorist could not present a bleaker portrait of a government captured by special interests and motivated solely by a desire to increase bureaucratic power and influence. Consider this partial list of government activities: a) torturing children for lying; b) utilizing a prison designed and staffed specifically to suck all life and hope out of the inmates; c) placing citizens in that prison without a hearing; d) allows the death penalty without a trial; e) allowing the powerful, rich or famous to control policy and practice; f) selective prosecution (the powerful go unpunished and the unpopular face trumped-up charges); g) conducting criminal trials without independent defense counsel; h) using truth serum to force confessions; i) maintaining constant surveillance over all citizens; j) allowing no elections whatsoever and no democratic lawmaking process; k) controlling the press.


I'll read it tonight... and I'm looking forward to it!

And a special thanks to Good Morning Silicon Valley for the link.

Posted by Christopher Dorobek on Nov 16, 2005 at 12:15 PM


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