[Paleopsych] Meme 049: Benjamin H. Barton: Harry Potter and the Half-Crazed Bureaucracy
checker at panix.com
Sun Nov 27 17:18:12 UTC 2005
Meme 049: Benjamin H. Barton: Harry Potter and the Half-Crazed Bureaucracy
The article below is absolutely hilarious. It is libertarian and Public
Choice theory applied to Joanne Rowling's Harry Potter novels. What's
amazing is that such an article could appear in the law journal of a
mainstream university, which is far from having anti-statist tendencies.
Time was when both libertarianism and Public Choice theory were shunned,
more in America than in Europe. Indeed, James Buchanan feels that he would
never have won the Nobel Prize had the award been decided by Americans.
Today, both libertarian and Public Choice representatives have a seat at
the table in public policy debates. Even still, articles in the American
Economic Review, the top publication in the field, when fully within the
Public Choice perspective, studiously avoid citing the work of Buchanan,
Tullock, and nearly all members of the Virginia school.
But there's a larger reason for this meme. Eighteen days after 9/11, I
wrote a meme on what I had learned from 9/11. I repeat it after Barton's
article. I have held to it ever since, until now. I Checked my Premise, in
other words, and am not far from sure that freedom is not going to end in
America. I don't think my reasoning in that meme is unsound. Indeed, with
the upcoming "civic" generation, it still might.
What actually happened is that no monolithic explanation for the attacks
on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon has emerged. There never were
an pronounciamentos by those behind the attacks, and none of those
captured have revealed their motives. Of course, Osama stated he was angry
at the United States keeping soldiers on the sacred territory of Saudi
Arabia and at our foreign policy toward Israel, the Palestinians, and the
whole Moslem world.
But we also know that fanatics will find excuses and justifications and
should not be taken at their word. I think envy is the largest factor, as
Moslem terrorists have struck in countries wherever they are. Justifying
these attacks because of the Crusades is just silly.
We also know that most of the 9/11 attackers came from Saudi Arabia, at
the time when the 18-24 year-old male population bulge was at its peak.
When the bulge peaked about 1980 in Iran, the Shah was replaced by
Khomeni. Hormones matter.
We also know that the Islamic fundamentalists do not come from illiterate,
backward rural areas but are overrepresented in engineering and medical
schools. It's a big deal to such a student in the low- to mid-IQ Middle
East, but when they come to the West, they are not exceptional at all.
Their failed expectations fuel envy and foster fanaticism. And whether or
not they stay in Moslem countries, they carry their religion with them to
smooth their movement into a more secular world. They become what I call
"Scruppies," scripture-pounding Yuppies, who believe in the Koran
literally but, as with every literalist, carefully selecting passages that
justify worldly success and money making. It's exactly what the Puritans
did centuries before.
Now mine is just one interpretation, novel perhaps in noting the IQ
factor. What is significant for the survival of freedom is that we all
have been faced with fanaticism that cries out for explanation. Rather
than have one explanation imposed from on high, as in the attack on Pearl
Harbor, we have been astounding open to competing explanations.
Today, of course, the motives behind Japanese attack is wide open for
debate. Invoking evil doesn't wash, not as self-sufficient. The nature of
evil, too, has been open to wide discussion, even before 9/11. See, for
example, the 2000 Summer issue of The Hedgehog Review, entitled "Evil,"
online at, http://www.virginia.edu/iasc/hh/THRtoc2-2.html .
I have argued that universalism vs. pluralism is becoming the *major*
left-right political axis in the 21st century, replacing equality vs.
inequality in the later 20th century and central planning vs. free market
in the earlier 20th century. Libertarians and Public Choice scholars (they
are NOT the same things!) have chipped away at both 20th century left-wing
interpretations, but now they are everywhere, even in the Michigan Law
Review. And biological inegalitarians are getting published in top
Enjoy the article below. You can't help but enjoy it! Its publication, not
by some right-wing think tank but in the Michigan Law Review, signals that
pluralism is winning against universalism (I consider myself very much a
21st century leftist) and that the end of freedom is at least being
Benjamin H. Barton1: Harry Potter and the Half-Crazed Bureaucracy 104
MICH. L. REV. __ (forthcoming May, 2006).
HARRY POTTER AND THE HALF-BLOOD PRINCE. By J.K. Rowling. New York:
Scholastic Press. 2005. Pp. 1, 652. $29.99.
What would you think of a government that engaged in this list of
tyrannical activities: tortured children for lying;2 designed its prison
specifically to suck all life and hope out of the inmates;3 placed
citizens in that prison without a hearing;4 ordered the death penalty
without a trial;5 allowed the powerful, rich or famous to control policy;6
selectively prosecuted crimes (the powerful go unpunished and the
unpopular face trumped-up charges);7 conducted criminal trials without
defense counsel;8 used truth serum to force confessions;9 maintained
constant surveillance over all citizens;10 offered no elections and no
democratic lawmaking process;11 and controlled the press?12
1 Associate Professor of Law, University of Tennessee College of Law. B.A.
1991, Haverford College; J.D. 1996, University of Michigan. The author
gives special thanks to Indya Kincannon, Tom Galligan, Jeff Hirsch,
Jennifer Hendricks, Helen Hershkoff, Jeff Thomas, Andrew Morriss, the
participants at a Harry Potter and the Law presentation at the 2005 Law
and Literature Conference in Gloucester, England, the University of
Tennessee College of Law for generous research support, and the Honorable
Diana Gribbon Motz.
2 First, a word of warning: if you have not read the Harry Potter books
you may want to skip some or all of the footnotes. I will explain critical
plot and character references in the main text, but will treat the
footnotes as a place for legal and textual support, added analysis, and
references for Harry Potter readers.
Ministry employee (and evil bureaucrat extraordinaire) Dolores Umbridge
forces Harry to write "I must not tell lies" over and over again with an
enchanted quill that slices those words into his hand and writes in blood.
The worst part of the punishment is that Harry was actually telling the
truth and was punished for publicly announcing Voldemort's return. Pp.
219, 346; see also J.K. ROWLING, HARRY POTTER AND THE ORDER OF THE PHOENIX
263-68 (2003) [hereinafter THE ORDER OF THE PHOENIX].
3 The wizard prison, Azkaban, is staffed by dementors, magical beings that
suck all hope and life out of the inmates. See, e.g., J.K. ROWLING, HARRY
POTTER AND THE PRISONER OF AZKABAN 97 (1999) [hereinafter THE PRISONER OF
AZKABAN] (describing Azkaban as "the worst place" and stating that "[m]ost
of the prisoners go mad in there").
4 In The Half-Blood Prince the Ministry arrests and holds a minor
character named Stan Shunpike without a trial on "suspicion of Death Eater
activity," although no one seems to think that Shunpike is actually
guilty. Pp. 221, 331, 346-47. The "Death Eaters" are the evil Lord
Voldemort's supporters. Similarly, in The Chamber of Secrets the Minister
of Magic, Cornelius Fudge, sends one of Harry's favorite teachers, Hagrid,
to Azkaban without a hearing or any opportunity to present a defense
because the "Ministry's got to do something" in response to attacks at
Hogwarts. Fudge further defends the action by saying "I'm under a lot of
pressure. Got to be seen doing something." See J.K. ROWLING, HARRY POTTER
AND THE CHAMBER OF SECRETS 261 (1999) [hereinafter THE CHAMBER OF
5 In The Prisoner of Azkaban the dementors have permission from the
Ministry to kill Sirius Black upon capture, and without any further trial,
with the "dementor's kiss." See THE PRISONER OF AZKABAN, supra note __, at
247. Similarly, Barty Crouch was given the dementor's kiss without a trial
in J.K. ROWLING, HARRY POTTER AND THE GOBLET OF FIRE 609-10 (2000)
[hereinafter THE GOBLET OF FIRE].
6 There are innumerable examples of this. Throughout the first five books
Harry's schoolboy enemy Draco Malfoy's Death Eater Dad Lucius Malfoy is
shown to have inordinate governmental access and influence. See, e.g., THE
PRISONER OF AZKABAN, supra note __, at 125, 218 (arranging to have
Hagrid's Hippogriff executed by the Committee for the Disposal of
Dangerous Creatures); THE GOBLET OF FIRE, supra note __, at 91-92
(appearing as the Minister of Magic's honored guest at the Quidditch world
7 The lengthy detention of Stan Shunpike on the mere suspicion of Death
Eater activity is a good example. Pp. 221, 331, 346-47. Harry himself is
another example. In book three the Ministry of Magic pooh-poohs a charge
of the improper underage use of magic, see THE PRISONER OF AZKABAN, supra
note __, at 43-46, and in book five they attempt to prosecute Harry to the
limit of the law (and beyond) for the same charge. See THE ORDER OF THE
PHOENIX, supra note __, at 26-27, 137-51.
8 Harry's trial in book five is an obvious example. See THE ORDER OF THE
PHOENIX, supra note __, at 137-51.
9 See THE ORDER OF THE PHOENIX, supra note __ at 629-31 (Dolores Umbridge
interrogating Harry); THE GOBLET OF FIRE, supra note __, at 593-600
(Dumbledore interrogating Barty Crouch).
10 The Ministry of Magic keeps tabs on all uses of magic in order to
detect any improper or underage uses of magic. P. 368.
11 This requires an inference from the first chapter of The Half-Blood
Prince. See discussion infra Part III.A.
12 In The Order of the Phoenix the wizard newspaper (The Daily Prophet)
regularly disparages Harry and Professor Dumbledore as deranged for
claiming that Voldemort has returned. See THE ORDER OF THE PHOENIX, supra
note __, at 94, 306-8 (stating that the Daily Prophet is discrediting
Dumbledore under pressure from the Ministry of Magic); id. at 73-75 (same
You might assume that the above list is the work of some despotic
central African nation, but it is actually the product of the Ministry of
Magic, the magician's government in J.K. Rowling's Harry Potter series.
When Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince was released this summer I,
along with many others, bought and read it on the day of its release.13 I
was immediately struck by Rowling's unsparingly negative portrait of the
Ministry of Magic and its bureaucrats. I decided to sit down and reread
each of the Harry Potter books with an eye towards discerning what exactly
J.K. Rowling's most recent novel tells us about the nature, societal role,
and legitimacy of government.
13 I did not, however, dress up as a Wizard or go to one of the local
bookstore's midnight Harry Potter parties. Cf. Triumph the Insult Comic,
Triumph Versus Star Wars Geeks,
http://www.milkandcookies.com/links/2536/details/ (Video of Triumph
insulting Star Wars geeks in costumes, including this question: "How do
you explain this [outfit] to your imaginary girlfriend?").
I did this for several reasons. First, with all due respect to Richard
Posner, Cass Sunstein or Peter Schuck,14 no book released in 2005 will
have more influence on what kids and adults around the world think about
government than The Half-Blood Prince. It would be difficult to overstate
the influence and market penetration of The Harry Potter series.15
Somewhere over the last few years the Harry Potter novels passed from a
children's literature sensation to a bona fide international happening.
14 See RICHARD A. POSNER, PREVENTING SURPRISE ATTACKS: INTELLIGENCE
REFORMS IN THE WAKE OF 9/11 (2005); CASS SUNSTEIN, RADICALS IN ROBES: WHY
EXTREME RIGHT-WING COURTS ARE BAD FOR AMERICA (2005); PETER H. SCHUCK,
MEDITATIONS OF A MILITANT MODERATE (2005).
15 Over 10 million copies of The Half Blood Prince were sold
internationally in its first 24 hours of release. See Smothered in HP, THE
ECONOMIST, September 3, 2005, at 75 ("Garagemen in Beirut were selling it;
fisherman on the Greek island of Hydra too."). Over 275 million Harry
Potter novels have been sold worldwide, placing them among the best
selling novels of all time. See Wikipedia, Harry Potter,
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Harry_Potter (last visited September 22,
Second, Rowling's scathing portrait of government is surprisingly
strident and effective. This is partially because her critique works on so
many levels: what the government does (see above), how the government is
structured, and the bureaucrats who run the show. All three elements work
together to depict a Ministry of Magic run by self- interested bureaucrats
bent on increasing and protecting their power, often to the detriment of
the public at large. In other words, Rowling creates a public-interest
scholar's dream (or nightmare) government.
Her critique is also particularly effective because, despite how awful
Rowling's Ministry of Magic looks and acts, it bears such a tremendous
resemblance to current Anglo-American government. Rowling's negative
picture of government is thus both subtle and extraordinarily piercing.
Taken in the context of the Harry Potter novels and the personalities of
the bureaucrats involved, each of the above acts of government misconduct
seem perfectly natural and familiar to the reader. The critique works
because the reader identifies her own government with Rowling's Ministry
Lastly, The Half-Blood Prince is a tremendous work of fiction that
deserves a more careful reading of its themes and plot. It continues a
trend in the Harry Potter novels: over the last six books Rowling's Harry
Potter novels have gotten longer, more complex, and much, much darker. The
first two Harry Potter books tell straightforward stories of good
triumphing over evil (Harry defeating the evil Lord Voldemort) at the
magical Hogwarts School.16 The next four books present a more complex
vision of an entire wizard society, including a wizard government, and an
international struggle against Voldemort and his followers that does not
feature easy answers, instant triumphs, unblemished heroes, or even clear
lines between good and evil.17
16 The first two books, Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone and Harry
Potter and the Chamber of Secrets clock in at a tidy 309 and 341 pages
respectively, and feature quite similar narratives: the evil Lord
Voldemort's attempts to return to power through unlikely pawns (a teacher
in The Sorcerer's Stone and a student in The Chamber of Secrets) are
foiled by Harry and his friends. See J.K. ROWLING, HARRY POTTER AND THE
SORCERER'S STONE (1997) [hereinafter SORCERER'S STONE]; THE CHAMBER OF
SECRETS, supra note __. In moral tone these books are very black and
white, and in subject matter they are basically circumscribed to
happenings at or around Hogwarts.
17 Each of the last four books is longer and more complex than the first
two, and each abandons the "Harry triumphs over Voldemort" structure of
the first two. The bulk of the third book, Harry Potter and the Prisoner
of Azkaban, deals with the allegedly deadly prisoner of Azkaban, Sirius
Black's pursuit of Harry. See THE PRISONER OF AZKABAN, supra note __. It
turns out that Sirius was wrongfully accused and convicted (a running
theme in each of the next three books), and he resumes his role as Harry's
godfather at the end of the book. Book four, Harry Potter and the Goblet
of Fire, tells the story of Voldemort's return to power, and features the
first death in the series (one of Voldemort's Death Eaters murders
Hogwarts student Cedric Diggory). See THE GOBLET OF FIRE, supra note __.
Book Five, Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix, is darker yet. Harry
hits puberty, and is a moody mess throughout the book. For the first time
Harry's impetuousness and desire to confront Voldemort backfires, as
Sirius Black is murdered, and Harry leads his friends into a trap set by
Lord Voldemort. See THE ORDER OF THE PHOENIX, supra note __.
Rowling's decision to eschew the tried and true formula of her first
two books in favor of longer books featuring deaths, imperfect characters
and moral ambiguity is both exceptional and refreshing. She could have
repeated her formula from the first two books to great acclaim. Instead,
she created a much richer world, where the more typical elements of magic
and childhood collide with satire and social commentary in the mold of
Mark Twain or Jonathan Swift.18
18 Some will complain that this is ridiculously high praise, and I do not
use those names lightly. Twain, Swift, and now Rowling, use simple stories
that are aimed at children in form and style, but that run much deeper in
subject matter and social critique.
Given the overwhelming popularity and influence of the Harry Potter
books it is worth examining what Rowling has to say about government and
its role in society. Part I gives a short synopsis of the plot and themes
of The Half-Blood Prince and its predecessors, and describes how the
Half-Blood Prince cements Rowling's negative portrayal of government. Part
II argues that The Half-Blood Prince presents a government that fits
perfectly into the public choice model of self-interested bureaucrats
running roughshod over the broader public interest. Part III asserts that
The Half-Blood Prince's unflattering depiction of government is
particularly damning because it so closely resembles British and American
government, but without many of the features that potentially undermine
the public choice critique. Rowling's vision of government consists almost
solely of bureaucracy, without elections to offer the sheen of democracy,
without a free press or independent judiciary to act as a check on
bureaucratic excess, and few true public servants to counteract craven
bureaucrats. Part IV talks a little bit about how Rowling's personal story
may explain her disdain for government and bureaucracy and Part V
concludes that Rowling may do more for libertarianism than anyone since
John Stuart Mill.19
19 Mill's On Liberty is widely considered the seminal and original work of
libertarian philosophy. See Paul M. Secunda, Lawrence's Quintessential
Millian Moment and Its Impact on the Doctrine of Unconstitutional
Conditions, 50 VILL. L. REV. 117, 118-25 (2005) (describing Lawrence v.
Texas as a libertarian, and essentially "Millian" decision); JOHN STUART
MILL, ON LIBERTY viii (Alburey Castell ed., 1947) (1859) ("No finer book
has been written on the case for man's right to think and act for himself
than Mill's essay.").
I. HARRY POTTER AND THE REPULSIVE MINISTRY OF MAGIC
Rowling's Harry Potter books, up to and including The Half-Blood
Prince, slowly but surely build an impregnable invective against
government, while still telling charming fantasy stories about witches and
wizards at a school for magic.20 Each of the first six Harry Potter books
follows a similar template. They begin with Harry Potter living with his
extremely unlikable "muggle"21 relations. They then proceed over the
course of a school year at the Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry.
Each year presents a new mystery to be resolved or a Lord Voldemort
inspired challenge to overcome, as well as the details of Harry's social
life and school work.22
20 Six books and roughly 3300 pages into the story of Harry Potter the
Michigan Law Review is probably the wrong place for any kind of
comprehensive synopsis. Instead I offer a minimalist version of the back
story and a greater focus on Rowling's representation of government. There
are several excellent options for more thorough synopses. The first three
books have been made into movies, albeit movies that greatly undersell the
source material. See HARRY POTTER AND THE SORCERER'S STONE (Warner Bros.
2001); HARRY POTTER AND THE CHAMBER OF SECRETS (Warner Bros. 2002); HARRY
POTTER AND THE PRISONER OF AZKABAN (Warner Bros. 2004). There are also
some hilarious Harry Potter fan sites that offer synopses, and everything
else Potter related. See, e.g., Mugglenet.com, http://www.mugglenet.com/
(last visited September 16, 2005).
21 Muggle is Rowling's term for the non-magical world and people, i.e. all
(most?) of her readers. Humorously, the Oxford English Dictionary recently
added "muggle" to its word list. See Muggle Goes into Oxford English
Dictionary, CBBC NEWSROUND, March 24, 2003,
uses these muggle interludes to great effect. Some of her most penetrating
social critiques involve how magical folk and Harry view the lives of a
"typical" family in a fictional British suburb, Little Whinging.
22 I am going to skip over this aspect of Rowling's work for brevity's
sake, but The Half-Blood Prince offers a captivating picture of
adolescence and school life, including Harry's first true love, and a
budding romance between his best friends Ron Weasley and Hermione Granger.
The last three books all have the same meta-narrative: Lord Voldemort
has returned from the dead and is seeking to kill Harry and take over the
world.23 Book Four, The Goblet of Fire, ends with Voldemort's return to
full power (and the murder of fellow student Cedric Diggory). In Book
Five, The Order of the Phoenix, Voldemort tries to discover the exact
contents of the prophesy that proclaims that either Harry or Voldemort are
destined to kill the other.24 In the Half-Blood Prince Harry and the
Hogwart's headmaster (and Harry's hero) Professor Dumbledore explore the
history and nature of Voldemort, presumably in preparation for Harry's
final battle against Voldemort in the next, and final, book in the series.
23 Lord Voldemort thus follows in the long tradition of truly evil
villains who aim high: full domination of everyone and everything. Cf. THE
SPONGEBOB SQUAREPANTS MOVIE (Paramount Pictures 2004) (The evil villain
Plankton proclaims: "By tomorrow I will rule the world!" SpongeBob
replies: "Well . . . good luck with that.").
24 "And either must die at the hand of the other for neither can live
while the other survives." See THE ORDER OF THE PHOENIX, supra note __, at
841 (emphasis omitted).
The first five books lay the groundwork for Rowling's depiction of the
Ministry of Magic in The Half-Blood Prince. The first three books take a
relatively light-hearted view of the wizard government. Rowling gives us
goofy and highly-bureaucratic sounding government offices like "The Misuse
of Muggle Artifacts Office"25 or "The Department of Magical
Catastrophes"26 and a portrait of the Minister of Magic, Cornelius Fudge,
as a bumbling, but well-meaning, political hack.27
25 See THE CHAMBER OF SECRETS, supra note __, at 30-31.
26 See THE PRISONER OF AZKABAN, supra note __, at 208.
27 See, e.g., id. at 41-47.
In The Goblet of Fire we have the first real hints of Rowling's darker
vision for the Ministry of Magic. The depiction of how the Ministry
handled Voldemort's first rise to power features over-zealous prosecutions
and the suspension of civil rights.28 Most notably, at the end of the book
the Ministry refuses to believe that Voldemort has returned to power, and
actually works to discredit and repress Harry's story.29
28 See THE GOBLET OF FIRE, supra note __, at 456-61, 508-18.
29 See id. at 610-17. These steps are ostensibly taken to "avoid a panic
that will destabilize everything [the Ministry has] worked for these last
thirteen years." Id. at 613. Dumbledore offers a likelier explanation:
Fudge is "blinded . . . by the love of the office [he holds.]" Id. at 614.
The end of The Goblet of Fire presages the open hostility between the
Ministry of Magic and Harry and Dumbledore in The Order of the Phoenix.
The Ministry attempts to kick Harry out of school, they strip Dumbledore
of his various government positions (including headmaster of Hogwarts),
sick the evil-bureaucrat par excellence Dolores Umbridge on Hogwarts, and
generally bring the full weight of the Ministry's powers to bear upon
Harry and Dumbledore.30
30 See, e.g., THE ORDER OF THE PHOENIX, supra note __, at 26-27, 71-75,
93-95,137-51, 212-14, 239-40, 265-68, 296-98, 306-8, 351-52, 415-16, 551,
567, 610-21, 624, 747.
Nevertheless, The Order of the Phoenix ends on hopeful note: Fudge
finally recognizes that Voldemort has returned to power.31 We are left
with the impression that Fudge will now use the full powers of the
Ministry to battle Voldemort and his followers, the Death Eaters.32 After
all, even the most hardened libertarian generally recognizes that
government is best suited to fight wars against aggressors and pursue
police actions against those who threaten the well-being of others.33
31 See id. at 816-19.
32 See id. at 845-48.
33 See, e.g., Issues and Positions: National Platform of the Libertarian
Party, http://www.lp.org/issues/printer_platform_all.shtml (last visited
September 16, 2005).
The Half-Blood Prince, however, offers no such succor to government.
The Ministry remains remarkably ineffective in its battle against
Voldemort. (pp. 7-18, 648- 49). Cornelius Fudge is replaced as Minister of
Magic by Rufus Scrimgeour, a savvy veteran of the battles against Lord
Voldemort, and yet the tone and actions of the Ministry remains unchanged.
(pp. 7-18). In fact, Scrimgeour's decision to try to calm the public by
detaining individuals who are likely innocent (pp. 221, 331, 346-47), and
his attempts to use Harry as a "mascot" (p. 346) or "poster boy" (p. 650)
for the ministry are arguably worse than Fudge's actions.34
34 Harry himself notes that it is hard to tell whether Fudge or Scrimgeour
is more distasteful: "You never get it right, you people, do you? Either
we've got Fudge, pretending everything's lovely while people get murdered
right under his nose, or we've got you [Scrimgeour], chucking the wrong
people into jail and trying to pretend you've got 'the Chosen One' [Harry]
working for you!" P. 347.
Perhaps The Half-Blood Prince's most devastating criticism of the
Ministry has little to do with Voldemort, however. It is what service in
the Ministry of Magic has done to Percy Weasley. Harry's best friend at
Hogwarts is Ron Weasley, a member of a large and likable magical family
that informally adopts Harry as their own. Percy Weasley is Ron's older
brother, and throughout the first three books he is depicted as a bit of a
rule-loving stuffed shirt, but the portrait is sympathetic and it is clear
that he is still a lovable member of the Weasley family.
In The Goblet of Fire Percy goes to work for the Ministry of Magic in
a junior capacity, and at once finds a home for his love of rules and
talent for minutiae.35 In The Order of the Phoenix, however, Percy takes
the side of the Ministry against Harry and Dumbledore, and ends up
alienating his entire family as a result.36 This offers the first object
lesson in government service: Percy essentially loses his soul and all
that should matter to him by following his blind ambition.
35 See THE GOBLET OF FIRE, supra note __, at 52-53, 57-58.
36 See THE ORDER OF THE PHOENIX, supra note __, at 70-72, 296-99.
The Half-Blood Prince, however, offers Percy a chance at redemption.
Now that the Ministry recognizes that Voldemort has returned and that
Harry is the best chance of defeating him, Percy could admit he was wrong
about Dumbledore and Harry and rejoin the family. Yet, Percy refuses to
bend and remains estranged. (p. 96). Of course that does not free Percy
from the clutches of the government. The first encounter between Harry and
Scrimgeour occurs at the Weasley family Christmas dinner, which Scrimgeour
crashes with Percy as his excuse. (pp. 341-42). The violation of the
Weasley family, and Scrimgeour's callous use of Percy to gain access to
Harry, is hardly lost on the readers. The depths that Scrimgeour and Percy
will plumb to co-opt Harry are more offensive and distasteful than even
the list of government wrong-doing that began this Review because we
experience them directly through the eyes of Harry and the Weasley
37 This is because it is directly experienced by Harry, and the well of
good feelings every reader has for the Weasley family.
This is likewise true when Scrimgeour reiterates his request to Harry
at the Hogwarts funeral that ends the book. (pp. 647-50). We fully
sympathize with Harry's refusal to help the Ministry, how could he do
otherwise? Thus, the replacement of Fudge with Scrimgeour and the
hardening of Harry's negative feelings towards the Ministry finalizes
Rowling's portrait of the Ministry of Magic and its bureaucrats. Before
The Half-Blood Prince it was possible to imagine that the Ministry of
Magic was trying hard, but was misguided or ineffectual. After The
Half-Blood Prince the reader reaches the inexorable conclusion that Harry
(and Rowling for that matter) has little use for government.
II. HARRY POTTER AND THE PUBLIC CHOICE GOVERNMENT
The odd thing about Rowling's Ministry of Magic is how closely it
accords with the public choice critique of government. The central tenet
of public choice theory is that the best way to understand the actions of
governmental actors is to assume they are primarily (or solely) motivated
by self-interest.38 The theory has been applied to the actions and
incentives of virtually every government actor and sector,39 but it seems
to have been most popular as an explanation of bureaucratic behavior. One
of the earliest public choice scholars, William Niskanen, theorized that
self-interested bureaucrats would seek to expand their budgets and
influence at the expense of the public.40 41 This theory has since spawned
a cottage industry of public choice analyses of bureaucracy.
38 See, e.g., Edward L. Rubin, Public Choice, Phenomenology, and the
Meaning of the Modern State, 87 CORNELL L. REV. 309, 310 (2002) ("The
essential and familiar components of [the public choice] model are that
human beings are instrumentally rational and motivated by
self-interest."). Note that not every public choice analysis of government
results in a critique. See David B. Spence & Frank Cross, A Public Choice
Case for the Administrative State, 89 GEO. L.J. 97 (2000) (applying public
choice theory to prove that the administrative state can be defended as a
rational choice of busy voters and legislators).
39 See, e.g., DENNIS C. MUELLER, PUBLIC CHOICE II 43-373 (1989) (applying
public choice scholarship to any and all types of democracy and areas of
government); R. DOUGLAS ARNOLD, CONGRESS AND THE BUREAUCRACY (1979)
(exploring Congress' ability to influence and control bureaucracy);
Benjamin H. Barton, An Institutional Analysis of Lawyer Regulation: Who
Should Control Lawyer Regulation ~V Courts, Legislatures, or the Market?,
37 GA. L. REV. 1167, 1185-1210 (2003) (utilizing tools of economic
analysis and public choice theory to state supreme courts).
40 See WILLIAM A. NISKANEN, BUREAUCRACY AND REPRESENTATIVE GOVERNMENT
(1971). For an update and analysis of Niskanen's ground-breaking work, see
THE BUDGET MAXIMIZING BUREAUCRAT: APPRAISALS AND EVIDENCE (Andre Blais &
Stephanie Dion eds., 1991).
41 See, e.g., ALBERT BRETON & RONALD WINTROBE, THE LOGIC OF BUREAUCRATIC
CONDUCT (1982) (using the tools of economic analysis to explain
bureaucratic conduct); TERRY L. ANDERSON & DONALD R. LEAL, FREE MARKET
ENVIRONMENTALISM 57-58 (2d. ed., 2000) (arguing that public choice theory
explains the failure of many environmental regulations); WILLIAM T.
GORMLEY, JR., TAMING THE BUREAUCRACY (1989) (same for bureaucracy as a
Niskanen's bureaucrats, however, look like rank amateurs next to
Scrimgeour and Fudge, who detain suspects indefinitely so the government
appears to be addressing Voldemort's return, and ask the sixteen year-old
Harry to act as a Ministry mascot to fulfill his "duty to be used by the
Ministry." Pp. 221, 331, 346. Of all the self-interested bureaucrats in
the Ministry of Magic, however, Dolores Umbridge takes the cake. In The
Order of the Phoenix she is sent to Hogwarts as a new professor and the
"High Inquisitor." By the end of the book she has taken over as the
headmaster from Dumbledore, created an "inquisitorial squad" of students
to act as student informants and enforcers, and has generally turned
Hogwarts into a mini-fascist state. We eventually learn that in her thirst
for power she sent dementors to attack Harry and his cousin Dudley in
Little Whinging, attempted to use an "unforgivable curse" on Harry, and
has generally broken any and all laws in an effort to discredit Harry and
gain favor with Fudge. In The Half-Blood Prince Harry is horrified to
learn that she is still a powerful force at the ministry and appalled at
her gall for attending a Hogwarts funeral. Pp. 345, 642.
The greatest strength of the public choice theory is, of course, its
simplicity, and how much it comports with our own experience of
government.42 The word bureaucrat itself has come to have a negative
connotation,43 and many would instinctively agree that bureaucrats look
out for their own interests ahead of the interests of the public.
42 See James Q. Wilson, The Politics of Regulation, in THE POLITICS OF
REGULATION 360 (James Q. Wilson ed., 1980) ("The virtues of the economic
perspective on regulation are clear . . . it offers an elegant and
parsimonious way of explaining a great deal of human behavior.").
43 In researching this Review I came across a fascinating little book that
discusses the long history of administrative arms of governments, and the
relatively shorter history of bureaucracy as a concept. See BUREAUCRACY:
THE CAREER OF A CONCEPT (EUGENE KAMENKA & MARTIN KRYGIER EDS., 1979). It
also covers the popular dislike of bureaucracy. See Martin Krygier, State
and Bureaucracy in Europe: The Growth of a Concept, in supra note __, at 2
(noting that the word bureaucracy has had "a busy career as a weapon of
The power of Rowling's portrait of bureaucratic activity is similarly
its believability. Given the list of Ministry of Magic activities at the
start of this Review this is no mean feat. Rowling makes the Ministry's
actions reasonable with well-drawn characters and difficult situations.
Fudge, the original Minister of Magic, is portrayed as a classic bumbling
politician: not quite up to the job, but generally genial and harmless
(pp. 5-15). Fudge's replacement, Scrimgeour is described as the
battle-hardened leader offering "an immediate impression of toughness and
shrewdness." (p. 16). Dolores Umbridge is the uber-bureaucrat, an unctuous
climber who begins every discussion with a phony "Hem Hem" and ends each
with multiple references to Ministry protocols.44 Percy Weasley is the
classic young striver, willing to adopt any position of the Ministry in
order to get ahead.
44 See, e.g., THE ORDER OF THE PHOENIX, supra note __, at 211.
When you combine these characters, different in every way except for
their overweening self-interest, with the extreme circumstances of the
return of Voldemort, the reader believes that the Ministry is capable of
almost anything. Furthermore, anyone who has lived in post-9/11 England or
America will recognize the themes raised by The Half-Blood Prince:
government by and for public relations effect, the indefinite detention of
suspects for show, obtrusive governmental searches,45 and government
pamphlets offering silly advice of little help.46 Meanwhile, there is
little in the way of actual help.
45 The Half-Blood Prince features several scenes where the students are
searched leaving Hogwarts, creating this response from Ron Weasley: "'What
does it matter if we're smuggling dark stuff OUT?' demanded Ron, eyeing
the long Secrecy Sensor with apprehension. 'Surely you ought to be
checking what we bring back IN?' His cheek earned him a few extra jabs
with the sensor . . . ." P. 243.
46 Consider the Ministry's pamphlet "Protecting Your Home and Family
against Dark Forces." Pp. 42-43, 61-62.
The most powerful aspect of Rowling's portrait of the Ministry of
Magic as a corrupt, self-perpetuating bureaucracy is how natural it all
seems. Rowling creates a government that fits (and actually exceeds) each
of the public choice assumptions about government, and closely resembles
our own government in personnel and activities.
III. HARRY POTTER AND THE BUREAUCRACY THAT ATE GOVERNMENT WHOLE
Despite the intuitive power of public choice theory, defenders of
government and bureaucracy remain unconvinced, and offer a spirited
critique of public choice theory. Interestingly, Rowling foresees many of
these defenses of government and her portrayal of the Ministry of Magic
parries them with ease.
A. The Democratic Defense
The first line of attack against public choice theory is always that
bureaucrats must answer to elected officials, who must in turn answer to
the voters.47 This defense has both descriptive and normative aspects. As
a descriptive/empirical matter, defenders of bureaucracy question whether
bureaucrats really have the ability or capacity to hoodwink elected
executives or legislators who have to answer to their constituents.48 As a
normative matter, defenders of bureaucracy argue that democracy justifies
bureaucracy as a result of deliberation and public buy-in.49
47 See, e.g., Daryl J. Levinson, Empire-Building in Constitutional Law,
118 HARV. L. REV. 915, 933-34 (2005) (noting political oversight as a
check on self-interested bureaucracies).
48 See Spence & Cross, supra note __, at 119 ("[T]he empirical evidence on
independent bureaucracies does not support the claims that independent
bureaucrats advance their own interests at the expense of the
commonwealth; to the contrary, greater independence may better promote the
public interest."); Edward Rubin, The Conceptual Explanation for
Legislative Failure, 30 LAW & SOC. INQUIRY 586-90 (2005).
49 See BRIAN J. COOK, BUREAUCRACY AND SELF-GOVERNMENT 1-28 (1996) (arguing
that bureaucracy both responds to and fosters democratic impulses); LARS
UDEHN, THE LIMITS OF PUBLIC CHOICE: A SOCIOLOGICAL CRITIQUE OF THE
ECONOMIC THEORY OF POLITICS 184-88, 329-61 (1996) (asserting that much of
public choice theory is anti-democratic, and that deliberative democracy
can support a legitimate bureaucratic state).
Rowling strips the Ministry of Magic of even this most basic
justification, as Fudge is replaced by Scrimgeour as the Minister of Magic
with no mention of an election.50 To the contrary, Rowling uses the
passive voice of the verb "to sack" repeatedly to describe Fudge's fate.51
The lack of an election is highlighted by a meeting between the muggle
Prime Minister (presumably Tony Blair) and Fudge (the former Minister of
Magic) and Scrimgeour (the new Minister). (Pp. 1-18). The description of
the muggle Prime Minister features a discussion of elections and political
opponents, two elements of governmental life that are notably absent from
the Ministry of Magic.
50 Prior to The Half-Blood Prince it was an open question whether the
wizarding world had any elections. The fact that the Ministry stripped
Dumbledore of his titles and positions in The Order of the Phoenix made it
seem unlikely, but not impossible, that elections occurred.
51 We first learn the news from Fudge himself: "I was sacked three days
ago!" P. 15. Harry later uses similar verbiage. P. 60. Scrimgeour is
described as "appointed Minister of Magic," again with no description of
who did the "appointment." Pp. 40-41.
One mystery that remains after The Half-Blood Prince is the
legislative or rule- making power of the Ministry of Magic. It is clear
that the Ministry enforces the laws, and there are discussions in the
books about adopting new laws, but there is never any mention of a
legislature or legislative process. The hints that Rowling drops, however,
are not encouraging.52
52 Harry's trial in Book Five suggests that the laws are quite pliable and
possibly subject to change at the Minister of Magic's whim. During the
trial Fudge and Dumbledore argue over a point of law and the following
exchange occurs: "'Laws can be changed,' said Fudge savagely. 'Of Course
they can,' said Dumbledore, inclining his head. 'And you certainly do seem
to be making many changes, Cornelius.'" THE ORDER OF THE PHOENIX, supra
note __, at 149.
These omissions are purposeful authorial decisions by Rowling. A
government that has no elections and no democratic process for lawmaking
obviously lacks the legitimacy of a democratic regime. Nevertheless, the
overall similarity of the Ministry of Magic to our own government in
actions, motivation, and personnel suggests that elections and democratic
lawmaking actually have little, if any, effect on government as
experienced by it subjects.
B. The Structural Defense
Defenders of bureaucracy frequently note that bureaucrats are overseen
by other governmental and non-governmental entities.53 In the American
system, for example, bureaucrats are subject to varying levels of
oversight by the President, Congress, a politically appointed head of the
agency, and a free press to root out any wrong-doing.
53 See JAMES Q. WILSON, BUREAUCRACY: WHAT GOVERNMENT AGENCIES DO AND WHY
THEY DO IT 235- 94 (1989) (describing the roles of congress, the president
and the courts in overseeing bureaucratic activities).
The first thing to note about Rowling's Ministry of Magic is that she
has created a government structure that appears to be 100% bureaucracy.
There is a Minister of Magic, but he is appointed, not elected. It is
unclear who appoints the Minister of Magic, but perhaps the elites. There
are multiple offices and committees below the Minister, but each of these
appear to be classic bureaucracies within bureaucracies, each staffed by a
junior minister with their own area of responsibility.
There is a judicial body, the Wizengamot, which Rowling describes as
the "the Wizard High Court."54 We have good reason to believe it is
substantially controlled by the Minister of Magic, and it certainly does
not seem to be an independent check on Ministry authority.55
54 THE ORDER OF THE PHOENIX, supra note __, at 95.
55 In the Order of the Phoenix Dumbledore is fired as Chief Warlock of the
Wizengamot because of his criticism of Ministry policy. See id. When Harry
later appears before the Wizengamot to answer the trumped up charges of
underage use of magic Fudge appears to be the main officiator and leader.
See id. at 137-51. Although Harry successfully pleads his case before the
Wizengamot the sheer procedural irregularities and Ministry domination of
the proceeding offer little hope of an independent judiciary to stem
There are thus no governmental bodies outside the Ministry of Magic to
act as a check upon government abuses. Again, this suggests that neither
governmental structure nor checks and balances matter much: bureaucracy
will run roughshod regardless.
C. The Free Press
Free speech and freedom of the press are generally taken as
constitutional guarantees in America, and fundamental to a just and
responsive government. In the narrower sense, a free press is considered
another check on bureaucratic or governmental misconduct.56
56 See, e.g., Potter Stewart, "Or of the Press," 26 Hastings L.J. 631, 634
(1975) ("The primary purpose of the constitutional guarantee of a free
press was . . . to create a fourth institution outside the Government as
an additional check on the three official branches.").
Humorously, Rowling even denies the magical world a free press (or
even a functional press).57 Both The Half-Blood Prince and The Order of
the Phoenix are replete with instances of the Ministry leaning on the
press to print what is essentially government propaganda.58 Again, this
strips the government of even the possibility of press oversight, or
realistically public oversight, since wizards (not unlike us poor muggles)
typically rely upon the press for information outside of their daily
57 If you think the depiction of the press as a government puppet is
unflattering, Rowling has actually lightened up since her portrayal of the
evil reporter Rita Skeeter (the reporter equivalent of Dolores Umbridge)
in The Goblet of Fire. Throughout The Goblet of Fire Skeeter followed a
well-known pattern of the press: she built Harry up as a hero at first,
only to tear him down later, with unfair and scurrilous selective
reporting on both ends. See THE GOBLET OF FIRE, supra note __, at 275-76,
380-81, 444-45, 531- 32. Just as I speculate later about why Rowling might
not have much use for government, see discussion infra Part IV, I think
Rowling's depiction of the press is likely a reaction to her own life.
Rowling's abrupt arrival as a magnet for Britain's rough and tumble
tabloids following her success as an author must have been brutal.
58 P. 221 (repeating The Daily Prophet's uncritical reporting on the Stan
Shunpike arrest); id. at 314 (alleging that the Ministry squashed a story
that Scrimgeour is a vampire in the alternative press). See also THE ORDER
OF THE PHOENIX, supra note __, at 94 ("[T]he Ministry is leaning heavily
on the Daily Prophet not to report any of what they're calling
Dumbledore's rumor mongering.").
D. Bureaucrats are People Too
Another line of defense is the public-minded bureaucrat. Some
theorists argue that the public choice critique ignores what government
officials are really like. They are not greedy, self-interested
budget-maximizers. Instead, they are decent and publicly oriented.59
59 See, e.g., ANTHONY DOWNS, INSIDE BUREAUCRACY 50-84 (1989).
Rowling rolls over this possibility in three ways. There are five main
characters that are Ministry employees: Fudge, Scrimgeour, Umbridge, Percy
Weasley, and Arthur Weasley (Ron and Percy's father).60 The first four of
these five characters are basically villains, and are unquestionably
motivated by self-interest and a naked lust for power rather than the
60 You could include Barty Crouch from The Goblet of Fire on this list,
although it would not improve the overall batting average for
public-interested Ministry employees.
The fifth of those characters, Arthur Weasley, is actually the
exception that proves the rule. He is a decent, hard-working bureaucrat
who loves his work at the Ministry. Of course, in Rowling's Ministry no
good deed goes unpunished. Arthur Weasley is described as a relative
failure. At one point in The Order of the Phoenix Harry is taken to his
office, which is in the basement, down several long hallways and is
"slightly smaller than a broom cupboard."61 Lastly, in the Half-Blood
Prince two of the most revered characters, Dumbledore and Harry, clearly
have little use for the Ministry or its bureaucrats.62
61 THE ORDER OF THE PHOENIX, supra note __, at 132-34. Arthur does get a
small promotion (and presumably a better office) in The Half-Blood Prince.
62 In The Half-Blood Prince Dumbledore notes that he has been offered the
job of Minister of Magic, "[b]ut the Ministry never attracted me as a
career." Pp. 442-43. Dumbledore similarly disparages the Ministry's
attempts at public safety through leaflet. Pp. 61-62. Likewise, Harry
declares his loyalty to Dumbledore over the Ministry twice in The
Half-Blood Prince, making clear that Harry pledges his allegiance to those
he respects and trusts instead of feeling any over-riding obligation to
the government. Pp. 343-48, 647-50.
E. Love or Leave It
There is not a strong scholarly tradition of what I am calling the
"love it or leave it" defense, but I think it exists, and has actually
come to the fore in recent years. This defense of government basically
requires citizens to accept the legitimacy of the government and its
actions as a duty of citizenship, and then rebukes any criticisms as
unpatriotic. The interesting thing about this defense is that it
explicitly raises the question of governmental legitimacy: if one assumes
governmental legitimacy, it may be appropriate to ask a citizen to "love
it or leave it." If one leaves open the possibility that governments and
laws may lack legitimacy, it becomes much harder to simply order blind
Rowling makes quick work of this potential defense. In The Half-Blood
Prince Harry makes it clear that he feels no independent duty to be used
by the Ministry for the benefit of the public. Harry's decision should
come as no surprise: throughout the novels Harry seems to pick and choose
certain school rules and even Ministry laws to follow or disregard
depending on the situation and his own sense of morality or duty. Rowling
treats these decisions by Harry as if they are natural and easy, but taken
together with Harry's rejection of the Ministry's overtures in The
Half-Blood Prince Rowling presents a remarkably contingent and situational
approach to both government and law.
In sum, Rowling has created a world where all of our negative
governmental stereotypes have come true. She combines familiar character
types and government structures with a vision of government by the
bureaucrats and for the bureaucrats to create a devastating critique of
IV. J.K. ROWLING AND THE LIBERTARIAN MINDSET
Anyone familiar with Rowling's personal story will know that when she
started the Harry Potter series she spent a period of time unemployed and
on public assistance in Edinborough, divorced with a young child. These
biographic details are frequently juxtaposed with Rowling's current
63 See Jim Auchmutey, Author to Deliver New 'Harry Potter,' Third Child in
2005, ATLANTA J.-CONST., December 22, 2004, at H1; Wikipedia, J.K.
Rowling, http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/J._K._Rowling (last visited
September 16, 2005).
Rowling's personal story provides two insights into her feelings
towards government. First, in both England and the U.S. there is no
quicker route to hating the government than dealing with the various
bureaucracies that handle public assistance. As a general rule you can
predict how user-friendly a bureaucracy will be by determining whether the
served constituency regularly votes and/or gives campaign contributions.64
Obviously those persons unfortunate enough to have to rely upon the
government for assistance are unlikely to have sufficient funds to donate
to political causes. Similarly, poor people are less likely to vote than
other socio-economic groups.65 As such, you can expect that the
bureaucracies set up to deal with the poor will be relatively badly run
and user unfriendly.
64 Consider, for example, the Social Security disability system, which has
been described as "one of the least user-friendly bureaucracies known to
the administrative state." Barbara A. Sheehy, An Analysis of the Honorable
Richard Posner's Social Security Law, 7 CONN. INS. L.J. 103, 104 (2001);
cf. BRUCE ACKERMAN & IAN AYRES, VOTING WITH DOLLARS: A NEW PARADIGM FOR
CAMPAIGN FINANCE 14 (2002) (arguing that a campaign finance reform that
would grant each voter "patriot dollars" to donate to politicians would
"reshape the political marketplace and enable it to become more responsive
to the judgments of equal citizens than to the preferences of unequal
65 Ironically, this may be partially because the least educated citizens
are the least equipped to handle the bureaucratic process of registering
and appearing to vote. See Jonathan Nagler, The Effect of Registration
Laws and Education on U.S. Voter Turnout, 85 AM. POL. SCI. REV. 1393,
If the public assistance bureaucracy does not answer to its customers,
e.g. the poor, than to whom do they respond? The obvious answer is
legislators and members of the executive branch. In times of tight
government funding it seems clear that these parties will exert pressure
on the bureaucracy to grant fewer applications and to root out any fraud
or waste in the system. As a result, the best scenario for poor people may
be a disinterested bureaucracy, since an interested bureaucracy may meet
them with skepticism or outright hostility. Moreover, since each approved
application costs the government money there is pressure to make the
system as unwieldy and complicated as possible to deter applications. The
Social Security Disability system is a typical example.
The application process for disabled individuals (including mentally
disabled individuals) requires pages of paperwork, medical testimony and
records, and months and years of perseverance.66 Thus, I think that
Rowling's experience on public assistance likely soured her on bureaucracy
for a lifetime.
66 See, e.g., CAROLYN A. KUBITSCHEK, SOCIAL SECURITY DISABILITY: LAW &
PROCEDURE IN FEDERAL COURT (1994). In Knoxville, Tennessee, where I live
and teach law, the SSI Disability office recently moved from the Federal
building downtown (where it was a short walk from the various homeless
shelters, and reachable on almost any bus line) to a strip mall in the
distant suburbs where there are not sidewalks and there is infrequent bus
Second, Rowling's story smacks of success through self-reliance and
sheer force of will. The Harry Potter novels likewise show a strong strain
of self-reliance and stubborn independence, and Rowling came upon these
themes the hard way. Anyone who has pulled herself out of poverty as
Rowling has is likely to believe that self-reliance and hard-work are the
keys to success, and to be conversely wary of government intervention.
V. HARRY POTTER AND THE FUTURE LIBERTARIAN MAJORITY
The Libertarian Party claims to be the fastest growing political party in
the United States.67 After reading The Half-Blood Prince I am much more
convinced. The libertarian movement relies upon two interrelated concepts
to recruit: a) "that government is best which governs least;"68 and b)
self-reliance and respect of individual rights should be paramount.69 The
Half-Blood Prince makes both of these points exceptionally well.
67 See Libertarian Party - America's Third Largest Party,
http://www.libertarianparty.net/issues/party.shtml (last visited September
68 HENRY DAVID THOREAU, Civil Disobedience, in COLLECTED ESSAYS AND POEMS
203, 203 (Elizabeth Hall Witherell ed., 2001).
69 See MURRAY N. ROTHBARD, FOR A NEW LIBERTY: THE LIBERTARIAN MANIFESTO
(Hans-Hermann Hoppe ed., 2002) (stating a theory of libertarian political
philosophy); MURRAY N. ROTHBARD, THE ETHICS OF LIBERTY (1982) (same, in a
more academic structure); ROBERT NOZICK, ANARCHY, STATE, AND UTOPIA
183-231 (1974) (offering a libertarian critique of the Rawlsian state).
Rowling taps into the current general distrust of government in the
US70 and the UK71 and creates a Ministry of Magic that simultaneously
echoes and critiques our own governments. On the one hand she creates a
government that is repulsive in its structure, personnel, and actions. On
the other, she crafts this government to appear closely related to our own
government. This juxtaposition creates a powerful and subtle critique of
70 See The Pew Research Center, How Americans View Government:
Deconstructing Distrust, March 10, 1998,
71 Pauline Park, Is Tony Blair Spun Out?, THE GULLY, September 5, 2003,
The truly surprising aspect of the Half-Blood Prince is how
effortlessly Rowling covers the questions of the nature, role and
legitimacy of government in what is ostensibly a work of children's
literature. I must admit that when I sat down to reread the Harry Potter
books in light of The Half-Blood Prince I did not expect to find the
overwhelming skepticism of government that seeps through Rowling's work.
Of course, the ability to entertain first and foremost, while providing
other levels of discourse is the hallmark of great and thoughtful
literature, and The Half-Blood Prince is both.
Meme 016: What I Learned from the WTC Attacks 1.9.29
One of the fellows on one of the lists I subscribed to asked whether
anyone's opinions changed as a result of the attacks on the World Trade
Center. Eighteen days later, I offer these thoughts:
The Empire will continue. There is no hope of reviving the Old Republic.
The Imperialists have won. Darwinists should have known all along that
there is no return to the past, but it took the attacks for this to sink
in. The question remains whether the Empire will operate wisely. I am not
sanguine and offer my predictions.
1. Freedom will end in America, not directly by government but by massive
pressures to conform. That this will happen is entirely consistent with
the Neil Strauss-William Howe theory of cycles of four generations in
American history, propounded by them in _Generations_, _13th Gen_ (called
Generation X by others), _The Fourth Turning_, and _Millennials Rising:
The Next Great Generation_ (called Generation Y by others). Chapter nine
of the last book is entitled "Zero Tolerance (Conduct)." The coming times
will be what they call a "civic" age, characterized, as far as I am
concerned, by bullying. The war will immensely exacerbate these trends.
I predict that employers will ask prospective employees to allow a
background check and most will comply. These checks will include credit
card purchases and Internet activity. It will come to include library
borrowings, toll booth passings, videos captured by surveillance cameras,
return addresses for mail, and myriad other activities that are collected
privately but can be divulged with the prospective employee's permission.
(Just wait till digital eye recognition cameras are in every building and
possibly next to every traffic light.) Knowing what details people will
reveal over the net merely to get a $5 savings coupon, just think what
monitoring they will allow to gain or keep a job. This surveillance in the
emerging "civic" age is worse than signing loyalty oaths during the
Involvement in hate groups, an ever-expanding list kept by
http://www.hatewatch.com and similar groups, will be monitored. These
lists will come to include the Boy Scouts. (Prospective employees at
prestigious firms who have belonged to the homophobic Boy Scouts will not
be granted employment. As time goes on, all but lowly-paid day workers
will fear sending their sons to the Boy Scouts.) Internet service
providers will be pressured to deny service to hate groups. And the
federal government will not allow contracts with firms any of whose
members have been involved in hate groups. This includes most firms.
There will be much talk about how free speech continues in America,
trumpeting in particular that the worst hate sites continue (those that
can find ISPs), except that employers will request that home computers be
monitored for suspicious activity. There does exist anonymizer software,
largely used now so that pornographic sites can be visited, but using
anonymizer sites can be recorded and give rise to great suspicion.
Libertarians will blame the end of freedom solely on the government
contract clause, but the reality is that freedom results from the attitude
of the people. It is the people who affect the activities of the
government; the reverse causality is much weaker.
2. The war cannot be won by either side. The West (Darwinian civilization,
really, but I drop the point) cannot defeat Islam; Islam cannot defeat the
West, even if terrorist acts become routine, esp. if our escalation of the
conflict unites the entire Moslem world against us. When we tire of the
war after the current "civic" generation has passed, just as we got tired
of the Vietnam war, the Arabs may indeed push the Israelis into the sea.
What the Empire should do is promote states based upon ethnicity, for this
has become the primary basis of identity in most of the world, whether we
like it or not. This will involve the Empire imposing a solution on the
Arab-Israeli conflict, and the parties over there should agree to accept
any solution Jimmy Carter (there is no finer man for the job) decides. We
will guarantee the security of the nations there, will pay for any
relocation expenses, and will not tolerate any further territory grabs.
But I doubt that, in the current hysteria, such counsel of moderation will
3. I relish being in what Galbraith called "the vortices of seething
controversy." I fancy that this serves the higher purposes of Checking
Premises, thereby furthering our understanding. I read widely and am
willing to learn from the postmodernist left as well as from the Old
Republican right. I do not read books with the attitude, "GRRR! How can I
refute that?" I have been trying to stir up discussion on such ideas of
mine that Western civilization has been replaced by Darwinian
civilization. I have not garnered the discussion of ideas that I would
like, but there seems to be no room at all during the current hysteria for
any discussion beyond the range of the moment and not even for any real
discussion about the moment.
Like Mr. Mencken during World War I and World War II, I may decide to
disappear for the duration. I will retire, continue to do my own reading
and thinking, and relax with such tomes as _Samuel Johnson: The Major
Works._ I shall signal my withdrawal by republishing Albert Jay Nock's
[I am sending forth these memes, not because I agree wholeheartedly with
all of them, but to impregnate females of both sexes. Ponder them and
More information about the paleopsych