5. Harry Potter and the Half-Crazed Bureaucracy

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Michigan Law Re
view Michigan Law Re
view V
olume 104 Issue 6
y Potter and the Half-Cr azed Bur eaucracy Harr
y Potter and the Half-Cr azed Bur eaucracy Benjamin H. Bar
ton Univ ersity of T ennessee College of Law F
ollow this and additional works at: https:/
/reposit ory.law .umich.edu/mlr P
ar t of the Law and P
olitics Commons , Law and Society Commons , and the Public Law and Legal
y Commons Recommended Citation Recommended Citation
Benjamin H. Bar
Harr y Potter and the Half-Cr azed Bur eaucracy , 104 M ICH
. L. R EV
. 1523 (2006).
vailable at: https:/
/reposit ory.law .umich.edu/mlr/v ol104/iss6/13
This Re
view is br ought to you for fr ee and open access b y the Michigan Law Re view at University of Michigan Law School Scholarship Reposit
ory. It has been accepted for inclusion in Michigan Law Re view by an authoriz ed editor of Univ
ersity of Michigan Law School Scholarship Reposit ory. F or mor e information, please contact mlaw
.reposit ory@umich.edu .

Benjamin H. Barton *
York: Sc�f`Gsu^K Press. 2005. Pp. x, 652. $29.99.
GOVERNMENT WHOLE··························································· 1532
A. The Democratic Defense ................................................. 1532
B. The Structural Defense ............... .................. ... .. .......... .... 1533
C. The Free Press ....... ... .... ....... ........ ............. ........ .... ......... .. 1534
D. Bureaucrats Are People Too ............................................ 1534
E. Love It or Leave It ................... ........................................ 1535
IV. J.K.
ROWLING AND THE LIBERTARIAN MINDSET ...... ..... ........ 1536
W�Gu would you t�^d_ of a government t�Gu engaged in t�^s list of ty­
rannical activities: tortured c�^`LjMd for lying; 1 designed its prison
specifically to suck all life and �fhM out of t�M inmates; 2 placed citizens
in t�Gu prison wit�fzu a �MGj^d[; 3 ordered t�M deat� penalty wit�fzu a
* Associate Professor of Law, University of Tennessee College of Law. B.A. 1991, Haver­
ford; J.D. 1996, University of Michigan. -Ed. The author gives special thanks to lndya Kincannon,
Tom Galligan, Jeff Hirsch, Jennifer Hendricks, Helen Hershkoff, Jeff Tho�Cl 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.
I. 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 avid Harry
Potter readers.
Ministry employee-and evil bureaucrat extraordinaire-Dolores Umbridge forces Harry to
write "/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, 347; see also J.K.
2. 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 POTIER AND THE PRISONER OF AzKA­
BAN 97 (1999) [hereinafter ROWLING, THE PRISONER OF AZKABAN] (describing Azkaban as "the
worst place" and stating that "[m]ost of the prisoners go mad in there").
3. In Ha rry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince [hereinafter The Half-Blood Prince], the
Ministry arrests and holds a minor character named Stan Shunpike without a trial on "suspicion of

Michigan Law Re�;/_ [Vol. 104:1523
trial; 4 allowed t�M powerful, ric� or famous to control policy;5 selec­
tively prosecuted crimes (t�M powerful. go unpunis�ML and t�M unpopular
face trumped-up c�Gj[Mt;6 conducted criminal trials wit�fzu defense
counsel; 7 used trut� serum to force confessions; 8 maintained constant
surveillance over all citizens; 9 offered no elections and no democratic
lawmaking process;10 and controlled t�M press? 11
You mig�u assume t�Gu t�M above list is t�M work of some despotic central
African nation, but it is actually t�M product of t�M Ministry of Magic, t�M ma­
gicians' government in J.K. Rowling's Harry Potter series. W�Md Harry Potter
and the Half-Blood Prince was released t�^t summer, I, along wit�cGd ot�­
ers, boug�u and read it on t�M day of its release. 12 I was immediately struck by
Death Eater activity,e, although no one seems to think that Shunpike is actually guilty. Pp. 221 (em­
phasis deleted), 331, 346--4 7. The "Death Eaters" are the evil Lord Voldemort's supporters.
Similarly, in Ha rry Potter and the Cha mber of Secre ts, 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 someth ing" in response to attacks at Hogwarts.
Fudge further defends the action by saying "I'm under a lot of pressure. Got to be seen to be doing
something." J.K. ROWLING, HARRY POTTER AND THE CHAMBER OF SECRETS 261 (1999) [hereinafter
4. In The Prisoner of AV< aban, the dementors have permission from the Ministry to destroy
Sirius Black upon capture, and without any further trial, with the "dementor's kiss." ROWLING, THE
PRISONER OF AZKABAN, supra note 2, at 247. Similarl y, Barty Crouch was given the dementor's kiss
without a trial in J.K. ROWLING, HARRY POTTER AND THE GOBLET OF FIRE 703 (2000) [hereinafter
5. There are innumerable examples ofthis. Throughout each of the books, Lucius Malfoy­
a Death Eater and the father of Harry's archenemy Draco Malfoy-is shown to have inordinate
governmental access and influence. See, e.g., ROWLING, THE PRISONER OF AzKABAN, supra note 2,
at 125, 218 (arranging to have Hagrid's Hippogriff executed by the Committee for the Disposal of
Dangerous Creatures); ROWLING, THE GOBLET OF FIRE, supra note 4, at 100-01 (appearing as the
Minister of Magic's honored guest at the Quidditch world cup).
6. 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 Minis­
try of Magic pooh-poohs a charge of the improper underage use of magic. See ROWLING, THE
PRISONER OF AZKABAN, supra note 2, 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 ROWLING, THE ORDER OF THE PHOENIX,
supra note 1, at 26-27, 137-51.
7. Harry's trial in book five is an obvious example. See ROWLING, THE ORDER OF THE
PHOENIX, supra note 1, at 137-51.
8. See ROWLING, THE ORDER OF THE PHOENIX, supra note 1, at 629-31 (Dolores
Umbridge interrogating Harry); ROWLING, THE GOBLET OF FIRE, supra note 4, at 683-91 (Dumble­
dore interrogating Barty Crouch).
9. The Ministry of Magic keeps tabs on all uses of magic in order to detect any improper or
underage uses of magic. P. 368.
10. This requires an inference from the first chapter of The Ha lf-Blood Prince. See discus­
sion infra Section ill.A.
11. In The Order of the Phoenix, the wizard newspaper (The Daily Prophet) regularly dispar­
ages Harry and Professor Dumbledore as deranged for claiming that Voldemort has returned. See
ROWLING, THE ORDER OF THE PHOENIX, supra note 1, at 94, 306-08 (stating that the Daily Prophet is
discrediting Dumbledore under pressure from the Ministry of Magic); id. at 73-75 (same for Harry).
12. 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 Dog, Attack of the Nerds (NBC Television
Broadcast May 17, 2002), available at http://www .milkandcookies.com/links/2536/ (video of Tri-

Harry Potter 1525
Rowling's unsparingly negative portrait of t�M Ministry of Magic and its bu­
reaucrats. I decided to sit down and reread eac� of t�M Harry Potter books
wit� an eye toward discerning w�Gv exactly J.K. Rowling's most recent novel
tells us about t�M nature, societal role, and legitimacy of government.
I did t�^r for several reasons. First, wit� all due respect to Ric�GjL Pos­
ner, Cass Sunstein, or Peter Sc�zK_, 13 no book released in 2005 will �G{M
more influence on w�Gv kids and adults around t�M world t�^d_ about gov­
ernment t�Gd The Half -Blood Prince . It would be difficult to overstate t�M
influence and market penetration of t�M Harry Potter series.14 Somew�MjM
over t�M last few years, t�M Harry Potter novels passed from a c�^`LjMdr­
literature sensation to a bona fide international �GhhMd^d[
Second, Rowling's scat�^d[ portrait of government is surprisingly stri­
dent and effective. T�^r is partly because �Mj critique works on so many
levels: t�M functions of government (see above), t�M structure of govern­
ment, and t�M bureaucrats w�f run t�M s�f| All three elements work
toget�Mj to depict a Ministry of Magic run by self-interested bureaucrats
bent on increasing and protecting t�M^j power, often to t�M detriment of t�M
public at large. In ot�Mj words, Rowling creates a public-interest sc�f`Gjr
dream--or nig�ucGjM [f{MoMdu
Her critique is also particularly effective because, despite �f| awful
Rowling's Ministry of Magic looks and acts, it bears suc� a treme ndous re­
semblance to current Anglo-American government. Rowling's negative
picture of government is t�zr bot� subtle and extraordinarily piercing. Taken
in t�M context of t�M Harry Potter novels and t�M personalities of t�M bureau­
crats involved, eac� of t�M above acts of government misconduct seems
perfectly natural and familiar to t�M reader. T�M critique works because t�M
reader identifies �Mj own government wit� Rowling's Ministry of Magic.
Lastly, The Half -Blood Prince is a tremendous work of fiction t�Gu de­
serves a more careful reading of its t�McMr and plot. It continues a trend in
t�M Harry Potter novels: over t�M last six books, Rowling's Harry Potter
novels �G{M gotten longer, more complex, and muc� muc� darker. T�M first
two Harry Potter books tell straig�uYj}GjL stories of good triump�^d[ over
evil-Harry defeating t�M evil Lord Voldemort-at t�M magical Hogwarts
Sc�ff`. 15 T�M next four books present a more complex vision of an entire
umph insulting Star Wars geeks in costumes, including this question: "How do you explain this
[outfit] to your imaginary girlfriend?�":,
ICA (2005).
14. Over ten million copies of The Half Blood Prince were sold internationally in its first
twenty-four hours of release. See Smothered in HP, THE EcoNOMIST, Sept. 3, 2005, at 75 ("Ga­
ragemen in Beirut were selling it; fishermen 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/w iki/Harry_Potter (last visited Sept. 22,
15. The first two books, The So rcerer's Stone 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

Michigan Law Review [Vol.
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. 16
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.17
Given the overwhelming popularity and influence of the Harry Potter
books, it is worth examining what Rowlmg 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� trr model of self-interested bureaucrats running roughshod over
the broader public interest. Part III asserts that The Half-Blood Prince's un­
flattering depiction of government is particularly damning because it so
closely resembles the British and U.S. governments, but without many of
the features that potentially undermine the public-choice critique. Rowling's
vision of government consists almost solely of bureaucracy, without elec­
tions to offer the sheen of democracy, without a free press or independent
judiciary to act as a check on bureaucratic excess, and with 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 bu­
reaucracy. Part V concludes that Rowling may do more for libertarianism
than anyone since John Stuart Mill.18
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
THE CHAMBER OF SECRETS, supra note 3. In moral tone these books are very black and white, and
in subject matter they are basically circumscribed to happenings at or around Hogwarts.
16. 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,
Ha rry Potter and the Prisoner of Azka ban, deals with Sirius Black, the allegedly deadly prisoner of
Azkaban, and his pursuit of Harry. See ROWLING, THE PRISONER OF AzKABAN, supra note 2. 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 ofVoldemort's Death Eaters murders Hogwarts student Cedric Diggory). ROWLING, THE GoBLET
OF FIRE , supra note 4. Book Five, Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix, is darker yet. Harry hits
puberty, and is a moody mess throughout the boo k. For the first time Harry's impetuousness and de­
sire to confront Voldemort backfires, as Sirius Black is murdered, and Harry leads his friends into a
trap set by Lord Voldemort. See ROWLING, THE ORDER OF THE PHOENIX, supra note I.
17. 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.
18. Mill's On Libeny is widely considered the seminal and original work of libertarian phi­
losophy. See JOHN STUART MILL, ON LIBERTY, at viii (Alburey Castell ed., 1947) (1859) ("No finer

Harry Potter 1527
Rowling's Harry Potter books, up to and including The Half-Blood
Prince, slowly but surely build an impregnable invective against govern­
ment, while still telling charming fantasy stories about witches and wizards
at a school for magic. 19 Each of the first six Harry Potter books follows a
similar template. They begin with Harry Potter living with his extremely
unli kable "muggle" 20 relations. They then proceed through 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.21
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. 22 Book four, The Goblet of Fire, ends with Voldemort's return to full
power (and the murder of fellow student Cedric Diggory). 23 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 head­
master-and Harry's hero-Professor Dumbledore explore the history and
book has been written on the case for man's right to think and act for himself than Mill's essay.");
Paul M. Secunda, Lawrence's Quintessential Millian Moment and Its Impact on the Doctrine of
Unconstit utional Conditio ns, 50 VILL. L. REv. 117, 118-25 (2005) (describing Lawrence v. Te xas as
a libertarian, and essentially "Millian" decision).
19. 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 mini­
malist 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 four books have been
made into movies, albeit movies that greatly undersell the source material. See HARRY POTTER AND
(Warner Bros. 2002); HARRY POTTER AND THE PRISONER OF AZKABAN (Warner Bros. 2004); HARRY
POTTER AND THE GoBLET OF FIRE (Warner Bros. 2005). 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/ Oast visited September 16, 2005). For an alternate scholarly take on
Harry Potter's world, consider Aaron Schwabach, Harry Potter and the Unfor givable Curses: Norm­
formation, Inconsisten cy, and the �| of law in the Wizardin g World, 11 ROG ER WILLIAMS U. L.
RE� (forthcoming 2006), available at http://papers.ssrn.com/sol3/papers.cfm?abstract_i d=818185.
20. "Muggle" is Rowling's term for the non-magical world and people, that is, all (most?) of
her readers. Humorously, the Oxford English Dictiona ry recently added "muggle" to its word list.
See Muggle Goes into Oxford English Dictionary, CBB C NEWSROUND, Mar. 24, 2003,
http://news.b bc.co.uk/cbbcnews/hi/uk/newsid_2882 000/2882895.stm. Rowling 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.
21 . 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.
22. Lord Voldemort thus follows in the long tradition of truly evil villains who aim high: full
domination of everyone and everything. See, e.g., THE SPONGEBOB SQUAREPANTS Mov IE (Para­
mount Pictures 2004). In The SpongeBob SquarePants Movie, the evil villain Plankton proclaims:
"By tomorrow, I will rule the world!" Id. SpongeBob replies: "Well, good luck with that!" Id.
23. ROWLING, THE GOBLET OF FIRE, supra note 4, at 643-7 1.
24. See
ROWLING, THE ORDER OF THE PHOENIX, supra note I, at 84 1 ("[A]nd either must
die at the hand of the other for neither can live while the other survives .... ") (emphasis omitted).

Michigan Law Re�;/_ [Vol.
nature of Voldemort, presumably in preparation for Harry's final battle
against Voldemort in the next, and final, book in the series.
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 lighthearted view of the wizard government. Rowling gives us
goofy and highly bureaucratic-sounding government offices like "[t]he Mis­
use 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�ti
$r political hack.27
In The Goblet of Fire, we have the first real hints of Rowling's darker vi­
sion for the Ministry of Magic. The depiction of how the Ministry handles
Voldemort's first rise to power features overzealous prosecutions and the
suspension of civil rights. 28 Most notably, at the end of the book, the Minis­
try refuses to believe that Voldemort has returned to power, and actually
works to discredit and suppress Harry's story.29
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, strips Dumbledore of his
various government positions (including headmaster of Hogwarts), sicks the
evil-bureaucrat par excellence Dolores Umbridge on Hogwarts, and gener­
ally brings the full weight of the Ministry's powers to bear upon Harry and
Dumb ledore . 30
Nevertheless, The Order of the Phoenix ends on hopeful note: Fudge fi­
nally 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
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,
25. See ROWLING, THE CHAMBER OF SECRETS, supra note 3, at 30-31.
26. See ROWLING, THE PRISONER OF AZKABAN, supra note 2, at 208.
27. See, e.g., id. at 41 -47.
28. See
ROWLING, THE GOBLET OF FIRE, supra note 4, at 458-66, 509-19.
29. See
id. at 61 1-17. 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 o� the office" he holds. Id. at 61 4.
30. See, e.g., ROWLING, THE ORDER OF THE PHOENIX, supra note 1, at 26-27, 71-75, 93-95,
137-5 1,21 2- 14, 239-40, 265-68, 296-98, 306-08,351-52, 415- 16, 551, 567,610-2 1,624, 747.
31 . See
id. at 81 6-19.
32. See
id. at 845-48.
33. See, e.g. , National Platform o� the Libertarian Party, http://www.lp.org/issues/
printer_p lat�}zLMuukzu (last visited Sept. 16, 2005).

Harry Potter
and yet the tone and actions of the Ministry remain unchanged (pp. 7-18).
In fact, Scrimgeour decides to try to calm the public by detaining individu­
als 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
also arguably worse than Fudge's actions.34
Perhaps The Half-Blood Prince's most devastating criticism of the Min­
istry 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 Hog­
warts 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� 
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 Pho enix, howev er, 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 ambiti on.
The Half-Blood Prince, however, offers Percy a chance at redemption.
Now that the Ministry recognizes that Voldemort has returned and that
Harry is its 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 Scrim­
geour 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, are hardly lost on the readers. The depths that Scrimgeour and Percy
will plumb to co�r Harry are more offensive and distasteful than even the
list of government wrongdoing that began this Review, because we experi­
ence them directly through the eyes of Harry and the Weasley family.37
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 toward the Ministry finalize Rowling's portrait of the
34. Harry himself notes that it is hard to tell whether Fudge or Scrimgeour is more distaste­
ful: "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.
35. See ROWLING, THE GOBLET OF FIRE, supra note 4, at 55-56, 61-64.
36. See ROWLING, THE ORDER OF THE PHOENIX, supra note 1, at 70- 72, 296-99.
37. This is because it is directly experienced by Harry, and the well of good feelings every
reader has for the Weasley family.

Law Re�</_ [Vol.
Ministry of Magic and its bureaucrats. Before The Half-Bl ood Prince, it was
possible to imagine that the Ministry of Magic was trying hard, but was
misguided or ineffectual. After The Half-Bl ood Prince, the reader reaches
the inexorable conclusion that Harry (and Rowling for that matter) has little
use for government.
The odd thing about Rowling's Ministry of Magic is how closely it ac­
cords with the public-choice critique of government. The central tenet of
public�h oice theory is that the best way to understand the actions of gov­
ernmental actors is to assume they are primarily-or solely-motivated by
self�titi. 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 pub­
lic� trr scholars, William Niskanen, theorized that self-interested
bureaucrats would seek to expand their budgets and influence at the expense
of the public. 40 This theory has since spawned a cottage industry of public­
choice analyses of bureaucracy. 41
38. See, e.g., Edward L. Rubin, Public Choice, Phenomeno logy, 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 .• R. DOUGLAS ARNOLD, CONGRESS AND THE BUREAUCRACY (1979) (exploring
Congress's ability to influence and control bureaucracy); DENNIS C. MUELLER, PuBLIC CHOICE II
43-369 (1989) (applying public-choice scholarship to any and all types of democracy and areas of
government); Benjamin H. Barton, An Institution al Analysis of Lawyer �zlD Who Should
Control Lawyer �zlo n-Couns, Legislatures, or the Market?, 37 GA. L. REv. 1167, 1185- 1210
(2003) (applying tools of economic analysis and public-choice theory to state supreme courts).
For an update and analysis of Niskanen's groundbreaking work, see THE BUDGET-MAXIMIZING
BUREAUCRAT: APPRAISALS AND EVIDENCE (Andre Blais & Stephane Dion eds., 1991).
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-yea r-old Harry to act as a Ministry mascot to fulfill his "duty to be used by the Ministr y.e,
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.e, See ROWLING, THE ORDER OF THE PHOENIX, supra note 1. By the end of
the book she has taken over as the headmaster, created an "inquisitorial squade,of students to act as
student informants and enforcers, and has generally turned Hogwarts into a mini-fascist state. Id. We
eventually learn that in her thirst for power she sent dementors to attack Harry and his cousin Dud­
ley in Little Whinging, attempted to use an "unforgivable cursee,on Harry, and has generally broken
any and all laws in an effort to discredit Harry and gain favor with Fudge. Id. 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 in attending a Hogwarts funeral. Pp. 345, 642.
57-58 (2d. ed. 2001) (arguing that public-choice theory explains the failure of many environmental
(1 982) (using the tools of economic analysis to explain bureaucratic conduct); WILLIAM T. GoRM­
LEY, JR., TAMING THE BUREAUCRACY (1989) (arguing the same for bureaucracy as a whole).

2006] Har
ry Potte r
The greatest strength of the public-choice theory is, of course, its sim­
plicity, 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 inter­
ests ahead of the interests of the public.
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 reason­
able 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 replace­
ment, Scrimgeour, is described as the battle-hardened leader offering "an
immediate impression of shrewdness and toughness" (p. 16). Dolores
Umbridge is the tiber-bureaucrat, an unctuous climber who begins every
discussion with a phony "Hem Hem" and ends each with multiple refer­
ences to Ministry protocols. 44 Percy Weasley is the familiar young striver,
willing to adopt any position of the Ministry in order to get ahead.
Combining 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 any­
thing. Furthermore, anyone who has lived in England or the United States
post-9111 will recognize the themes raised by The Half-Blood Prince: gov­
ernment by and for the public relations effect, the indefinite detention of
suspects for show, obtrusive governmental searches,45 and government pam­
phlets offering silly advice of little help.46 Meanwhile, there is little in the
way of actual help.
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. Rowl­
ing 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.
42. See James Q. Wilson, The Politics of �zl
(James Q. Wilson ed., 1980) ('The virtues of the economic perspective on regulation are clear ....
[I]t offers an elegant and parsimonious way of explaining a great deal of human behavior.�i ,
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 id. at 2 (noting that the word bureaucracy has had "a busy
career as a weapon of popular invective").
44. See, e.g .• ROWLING, THE ORDER OF THE PHOENIX, supra note I, at 211.
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 thin 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.

Michigan Law Review
Despite the intuitive power of public- choice theory, defenders of gov­
ernment and bureaucracy remain unconvinced, and offer a spirited critique
of public-choice theory. Interestingly, Rowling foresees many of these de­
fenses of government, and her portrayal of the Ministry of Magic parries
them with ease.
A. The Democrat ic Defense
The first line of attack against public-choice theory is always that bu­
reaucrats must answer to elected officials, who must in tum answer to the
voters. 47 This defense has both descriptive and normative aspects. As a de­
scriptive/empirical matter, defenders of bureaucracy question whether
bureaucrats really have the ability or capacity to hoodwink elected execu­
tives 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
Rowling strips the Ministry of Magic of even this most basic justifica­
tion, 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 elec­
tion 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.
47. See, e.g., Daryl J. Levinson, Empire-Building Government in Constitutio nal Law, 118
HARV. L. REV. 915, 933-34 (2005) (noting political oversight as a check on self-interested bureauc­
48. See Spence & Cross, supra note 38, at 119 ("[T]he empirical evidence on independent
bureaucracies does not suppon 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 Conce ptual Explanation for Legislative Failure, 30 LAW &
Soc. INQUIRY 586-90 (2005) (book review).
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 Pus­
(1996) (asserting that much of public-choice theory is antidemocratic, and that deliberative democ­
racy can suppon a legitimate bureaucratic state).
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.

2006] Harry
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
These omissions are purposeful, authorial decisions by Rowling. A gov­
ernment 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 ac­
tions, motivation, and personnel suggests that elections and democratic
lawmaking actually have little, if any, effect on government as experienced
by it sub jects.
B. The Structural Defense
Defenders of bureaucracy frequently note that bureaucrats are overseen
by other governmental and nongovernmental entities.53 In the U.S. 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 wrongdoing.
The first thing to note about Rowling's Ministry of Magic is that she has
created a government structure that appears to be one hundred percent bu­
reaucracy. There is a Minister of Magic, but he is appointed, not elected. It
is unclear who appoints the Minister of Magic, but perhaps it is the elites.
There are multiple offices and committees below the Minister, but each of
these appears to be a classic bureaucracy within a bureaucracy, 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 substan­
tially controlled by the Minister of Magic, and it certainly does not seem to
be an independent check on Ministry authority. 55
There are thus no governmental bodies outside the Ministry of Magic to
act as a check upon government abuses. Again, this suggests that neither
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 seem to be making many
changes, Cornelius ... .'" ROWLING, THE ORDER OF THE PHOENIX, supra note I, at 149.
THEY Do IT 235-94 (1989) (describing the roles of Congress, the president, and the courts in over­
seeing bureaucratic activities).
54. ROWLING, THE ORDER OF THE PHOENIX, supra note 1, at 95.
55. In The Orde r of the Phoenix, Dumbledore is fired as Chief Warlock of the Wizengamot
because of his criticism of Ministry policy. 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. 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 government abuses. Id.

Michigan Law Re�;/_ [Vol.
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 constitu­
tional guarantees in the United States, and are perceived to be fundamental
to a just and responsive government. In the narrower sense, a free press is
considered another check on bureaucratic or governmental rnisconduct.56
Humorously, Rowling denies the magical world a free press (or even a
functional press).57 Both The Half-Blood Prince and The Order of the Phoe­
nix are replete with instances of the Ministry leaning on the press to print
what is essentially government propaganda.58 Again, this strips the govern­
ment of even the possibility of press oversight, or realistically public
oversight, because wizards (not unlike we poor muggles) typically rely upon
the press for information outside of their daily experience.
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
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 moti­
vated by self-interest and a naked lust for power rather than the public
interest. The fifth of those characters, Arthur Weasley, is actually the excep-
56. See, e.g., Potter Stewart, "Or of the Press", 26 HASTINGS L.J. 631, 634 (1975) ("The
primary purpose of the constituti onal guarantee of a free press was ... to create a fourth institution
outside the Government as an additional check on the three official branches .").
57. If you think the depict ion 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 equiva­
lent 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 teat him down later,
with unfair and scurrilous selective reporting on both ends. See ROWLING, THE GoBLET OF FIRE,
supra note 4, at 275-76, 380-- 81, 445-46, 531-32. Just as I speculate later about why Rowling
might not have much use for government, see 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); p.
314 (alleging that the Ministry squashed a story that Scrimgeour is a vampire in the alternative
press); see also ROWLING, THE ORDER OF THE PHOENIX, supra note l, at 94 ("[T]he Ministry's
leaning heavily on the Daily Prophet not to report any of what they're calling Dumbledore's rumor­
mongering .... ").
59. See,
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.

2006] Harry
tion that proves the rule. He is a decent, hardworking 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 re­
vered characters, Dumbledore and Harry, clearly have little use for the
Ministry or its bureaucrats. 62
E. Love It or Leave It
There is not a strong scholarly tradition of what I am calling the "love it
or leave it" defense, but it does exist, and has actually come to the fore in
recent years. This defense of government basically requires citizens to ac­
cept 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 govern­
mental 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 simply to order blind allegiance.
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 govern­
mental 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 Anglo-American
61. ROWLING, THE ORDER OF THE PHOENIX, supra note 1, at 132-34. Arthur does get a
small promotion (and presumably a better office) in The Half-Blood Prince. P. 84.
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." P. 443. Dumbledore similarly dispar­
ages 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 overriding obligation to
the government. Pp. 343-48, 647-50.

Michigan Law Re�</_ [Vol.
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 finan­
cial status. 63
Rowling's personal story provides two insights into her feelings toward
government. First, in both England and the United States 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
fr iendly a bureaucracy will be by determin ing whether the served constitu­
ency regularly votes and/or gives campaign contributions. 64 Those persons
unf ortunate enough to have to rely upon the government for assistance obvi­
ously are unlikely to have sufficient funds to donate to political causes.
Similarly, poor people are less likely . to vote than other socioeconomic
groups. 65 As such, you can expect that the bureaucracies set up to deal with
the poor will be relatively badly run and user� Sti
If the public assistance bureaucracy does not answer to its customers;
the poor, for example, then to whom do they respond? The obvious answer
is legislators and members of the executive branch. In times of tight gov­
ernment 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 disinter­
ested bureaucracy, because an interested bureaucracy may meet them with
skepticism or outright hostility. Moreover, because each approved applica­
tion costs the government money, there is pressure to make the system as
unwieldy and complicated as possible to deter applications. The Social Se­
curity 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
63. See Jim Auchmute�"A Author to Deliver New 'Harry Potter,' Thir d Child in 2005, AT­
LANTA J.-CONST ., December 22, 2004, at lH; Wikipedia, J.K. Rowling, http://en.wikipedi a.org/
wik i/J._ K._Rowling (last visited Sept. 16, 2005).
64. Consider, for example, the Social SecuriteA disabiliteA s�5I"Awhich has been described as
"one of the least user-f riendleA bureaucracies known to the administrative state." Barbara A. Sheeh�"A
An Analysis of the Honorable �smx Posner's Social Security Law, 7 CONN. INS. L.J. 103, 104
PAIGN 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 judg ments of equal citizens than to the preferences of unequal prop­
erteA owners ").
65. Ironicall�"Athis maeA be partialleA because the least educated citizens are the least equipped
to handle the bureaucratic process of registering and appearing to vote. See Jonathan Nagler, The
Effe ct of �zg istration Laws and Education on U.S. Voter Turnout, 85 AM. POL. Sc1. REV. 1393,
13 95-1 403 (199 1).

2006] Harry
of perseverance. 66 Thus, I think that Rowling's experience on public assis­
tance likely soured her on bureaucracy for a lifetime.
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.
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) "[t]hat government is best which governs least;"68 and (b) self­
reliance and respect of individual rights should be paramount. 69 The Hal/­
Blood Prince makes both of these points exceptionally well. Rowling taps
into the current general distrust of government in the United States70 and the
United Kingdom 71 and creates a Ministry of Magic that simultaneously ech­
oes 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 gov­
ernment. This juxtaposition creates a powerful and subtle critique of
government. The truly surprising aspect of The Half-B lood Prince is how effortlessly
Rowling covers the questions of the nature, role, and legitimacy of govern­
ment 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
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 sub­
urbs where there are not sidewalks and there is infreq uent bus service.
67. See National Libertarian Party, America's Third Largest Party, http://www.
libertarianpar ty.net/ issues /party.shtml (last visited Sept. 16, 2005 ).
EsSAYS AND POEMS 203, 203 (Elizabeth Hall Witherell ed., 2001).
69. See ROBERT NOZICK, ANARCHY, STATE, AND UTOPIA 183-23 1 (19 74) (offering a liber­
tarian critique of the Rawlsian state); MURRAY N. ROTHBARD, FOR A NEW LIBERTY: THE
LIBERTARIAN MANIFESTO (2d ed. 1978) (stating a theory of libertarian political philosophy);
MURRAY N. ROTHBARD, THE ETHICS OF LIBERTY (1982) (same, in a more academic structure).
STR UCTING DISTRUST (1998), h ttp:/ /people-press. org/reports/ display. php3 ?ReportlD=9 5.
71. Pauline Park, ls Tony Blair Spun Out?, THE GULLY, Sept. 5, 2003, http://www.
thegully. com/essays/britain /030905_blair_spin_kelly. html.

Michigan Law Review [Vol.
and foremost, although providing other levels of discourse, is the hallmark
of great and thoughtful literature, and The Half-Blood Prince is both.