The Accidental Ode to Libertarianism

J.K Rowling can be considered 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, oh and people get mad 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 potentials. 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. Herein, we can catch the authoritarian potential of the State.

This authoritarianism is 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. 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 ordering.

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 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, a more clear-eyed 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).


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