Harry Potter and the Half-Crazed Bureaucracy
What would you think of a government that engaged in this list of tyrannical activities: tortured children for lying; designed its prison specifically to suck all life and hope out of the inmates; placed citizens in that prison without a hearing; ordered the death penalty without a trial; allowed the powerful, rich, or famous to control policy; selectively prosecuted crimes (the powerful. go unpunished and the unpopular face trumped-up charges); conducted criminal trials without defense counsel; used truth serum to force confessions; maintained constant surveillance over all citizens; offered no elections and no democratic lawmaking process; and controlled the press? 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 magicians’ 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. 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 toward discerning what exactly J.K. Rowling’s most recent novel tells us about the nature, societal role, and legitimacy of government.