Addendums: The Accidental Ode to Libertarianism


J.K Rowling is consistently left-wing. This, of course, leaks into her writings, which is, of course, her renowned Harry Potter Series. While I am unlikely to have to explain what the series is about, I, the author, prefer a step-by-step approach to my writing (and I also have a certain quota of words per week otherwise, they’ll break my tibia again). So, the world-famous series follows the journey of one Harry Potter as he finds out he is a wizard, goes to school to become said wizard, almost dies (a lot), suffers copious amounts of child abuse, and people get mad (a lot) when he says the bad guy’s name.

The left-wing views come across as a sort of ode to big government. The everyday heroism of bureaucrats who desperately fight to keep the wizarding world from descending into chaos as apparently everyone there is either a functioning lunatic or purely deranged. It is up to these government employees to ensure this does not happen by enforcing copious amounts of rules, regulations, and laws. Because it is a fictional universe, this is shown to be entirely necessary. Good even.

Inevitably, everyone seems to work for the said government (the Ministry of Magic). You do see some businesses outside of government, but it never focuses on it, with most all intelligent students who graduate from Hogwarts (wizard school) usually ending up working there in one form or the other. It would seem that Sir Roger Scruton’s (RIP) assessment of the series being a vehicle that peddles the ideas of soft-socialism is fundamentally correct. Good comes from the government on high.

Early on in the series, we, probably inadvertently, on the author’s part, get glimpses of this fictional mega-government’s authoritarian potential. In the second book, a character is hauled off to prison, where most people end up dead or insane, on suspicion of a crime. Harry himself nearly faces expulsion in that same book because someone around him did magic in front of non-wizards, a big no-no. No trial. No way to fight the charges. Just punishment.

This authoritarianism is fully uncloaked in the fifth book. To flippantly summarize, the bad guy comes back. The government doesn’t believe/doesn’t want to believe the bad guy is back. Harry, who continues to maintain “bad man back,” is effectively ostracized. The government effectively conducts a takeover of Hogwarts wherein they refuse to teach students defensive/offensive magic for fear that they form an army controlled by the headmaster Albus Dumbledore. The news media lies on the part of the government. Harry then proceeds to form a defense association to learn said defensive/offensive magic (thus making the government’s fears a self-fulfilling prophecy). By the end of the book, everyone figures out that the big baddie is back.

By the seventh and final book, the government has been taken over. Once used to regulate an unruly and powerful wizarding population, the levers of power turn into tools of oppression and discrimination. As one would predict, the good guys win, and everything is brought back to its proper order.

The contradictory messaging is not hard to see. One might ask if the author did not mean to put such messaging or perhaps this interpretation into her books, then why would she not notice this and adjust accordingly? Well, one interpretation of this could be just a general blindspot. Another could be that authoritarianism is simply not a problem (in her mind) when the correct people are in charge. This is to say that the only time an institution can ever be tyrannical or oppressive is when the people in the said institution are bad. It can never be that bad things can be done with good intentions. The levers of power can never be the problem in themselves, only those that wield said power.

However, one interpretation of the books can reasonably lead one to interpret the Harry Potter Series as a subtle ode to limited government. That the levers of power can and inevitably will be used, at times at the citizen's expense. At least that is how I read the books when I was a kid (I was a weird kid).

Another question, however, is whether or not it’s okay to reinterpret an author’s work. Especially when said author is alive and well (at least off Twitter). This author’s opinion is that this piece is not a reinterpretation in the sense that I am not disputing a. The words written and b. The author’s opinion (i.e she does not really mean that). What I am doing (I hope successfully and, more importantly, hilariously) is disputing the conclusion. Or rather the solution to the problem, which, I think, is fundamentally how to keep evil in check?

Rowling’s answer is through lots of careful government oversight and regulation. The government is the big brother in the best sense of the term. And it’s entirely possible, in her universe, that she is correct given that most of the population of her world are one broom ride from the loony bin (especially in her early books). A bit like Lewis Carol’s Alice in Wonderland the world is not based so heavily on logic. There are definite rules that are stated openly in the late books. But going into the series, there is this sense of a wonderful abandonment of the ordinary for the extraordinary. Things don’t make sense oftentimes, so there must be an authority to make them make sense.

My measly interpretation (with the severe handicap of not writing the damn books) is that the best parts of Rowling’s world are outside of the government. The world, as previously stated, is a bit wild and wacky. So too are the people. But they are most often harmless or, at their best, roll with the punches. This is where the world runs best. It is only when the government interferes that things take a darker turn, mostly for the fact that few of the interactions between the characters and the government are positive. A lot of this (besides the dark wizards mind you) are the result of no serious limitation on the government’s power. Anyways, that's just my opinion.



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