I started reading the Harry Potter books as a child and grew up with them and read them as they came out. In all that time, I wouldn’t have predicted that it would be used a political tool. And this isn’t a bad thing; it’s fairly amusing. Foreign Policy has run their own, as has ThinkProgress. But, as I read both, I realised that the writers merely espoused their own beliefs. So I thought I’d have a go at it from my own classical liberal perspective.
Private organisations have the power to initiate change when the state fails to. In the books and the films, the state not only fails to address aggression, it becomes a puppet apparatus for the Dark Lord. He controls the ministry.
Stalin Voldemort introduces government sanctioned programmes which include creating databases of half-bloods, putting restrictions of the freedom of speech (including adding a ‘trace’ to anyone who utters his name) and includes a de facto government-run press. In contrast, it is a private organisation – the Order of the Phoneix – which persists in fighting the Dark Lord.
Choice is central: In almost all the books, choices of individuals are key. In the first book, Harry chooses to not to be in Slytherin and the hat respects his choice. Even wands’ choices are respected: when Harry picks up his wand he is told that that “wand chooses the wizard.” The result is that when a wand is coerced, it will not serve its owner adequately. The Imperius Curse which allows individuals to control others is an ‘Unforgiveable Curse’ – which would lead to a life sentence in Azkaban.
Meritocracy: Alyssa at ThinkProgress claims that a lesson of Harry Potter is that ‘inherited wealth can be corrupting.’ She gives the example of Draco but ignores the example of Harry himself who is left a large fortune (unbeknown to him). Harry’s first home was in bourgeois Godric’s Hollow: the same area where Dumbledore and even a successful author lived. This is of course leaving aside the fact that Draco’s mother is essential to Harry’s final ploy against Voldemort. Indeed, I would say that meritocracy is at the heart of the Wizarding World. Dumbledore even changes ‘help is available to those who ask for it’ to ‘those who deserve it.’ Both Ron and Harry come from a deprived upbringing, yet J.K Rowling says when they grow old
“Harry and Ron utterly revolutionized the Auror Department,” Rowling said. “They are now the experts. It doesn’t matter how old they are or what else they’ve done.”
Indeed, part of the case against Voldemort is that he values blood over ability (his dislike for Muggle-born despite their abilities, for example). While the Ministry is run by the Dark Lord, positions are given based on nepotism and corruption (when Ron is disguised as a worker while infiltrating the Ministry, a Minister threatens his wife lest he fix the water damage in his office).
Entrepreneurship: Rowling also seems to value entrepreneurship: wands are supplied not the by government but by Olivanders,
HSBC Gringotts is run by another species, Madam Malkin provides robes – and there are a whole host of other shops from Honydukes to Zonkos. The entrepreneurship of Fred and George allow them to set up their own prank shop. Underlying the availability of all these outlets is economic freedom, voluntary exchange and private property.
The folly of central planning; Voldemort arrogance leads him to believe that he can outmanoeuvre Harry. In contrast, each person fighting Voldemort brings their own bit of dispersed knowledge to help: Hermione’s use of spells, Ron’s realisation of the room of requirement, Harry’s parsletongue. Accepting that knowledge is dispersed allows Harry to question Olivander, learn from the ‘half-blood prince’, seek Griphook’s help. In the first book, Ron plays chess, Harry uses his Quiditch and Hermione uses her knowledge on herbology in getting to Professor Qurriel. In contrast,
the politburo Voldemort deatheaters are merely servants, any advice given to him is rejected and often leads to people being killed.
Individuality: John Stuart Mill valued the individual and his growth against the whims of the majority. In the Deathly Hallows (book), the idea of the ‘greater good’ associated with Dumbledore’s
communist dark past and symbolises putting the collective first rather than the individual. The books are littered with tiny examples showing individuality and uniqueness: each person’s patronus has its own character that symbolises the individual, Luna’s eccentric behaviour even helps Harry.
Appeasement in the face of aggression, the Ministry falters and allows the threat of Voldemort to grow; Fudge first ignores that there is a clear and tangible threat as it grows. Voldemort and his followers use this time to recruit, to kill and cause havoc. This means that the state (the Ministry of Magic) cannot respond adequately. If Voldemort is Hitler, then Fudge is undoubtedly Chamberlain. Whats more apparent is that Voldemort hates Muggles and lesser wizard for who they are, not for what they do. The use of force must be used to fight terror and any form of appeasement will merely spurn
Al-Qaeda the Dark Lord.