5 Horrifying Realities Of The 'Harry Potter' Government
Deep down, many of us are still waiting for our Hogwarts acceptance letter to whisk us away from our dreary world of decidedly nonmagical cable bills and trips to Supercuts. And sure, it's a world full of danger in which even a child can't take a piss without fighting a giant troll. But, who wouldn't prefer that to life in a cubicle?
However, while Harry Potter's world looks like it would be full of whimsical adventures, once you stop and think about all the oppression, violence, and militant isolationism, it's more like the magical equivalent of North Korea. That's because in the Wizarding World ...
The Legal System Protects No One
Hidden within the Harry Potter stories is another, possibly cooler story than the one we got: a magical legal drama in which dark wizards use ingenious spells to carry out an ethnic cleansing, and agents of the state try to stop them. The bad guys have invisibility, teleportation, impersonation and mind control at their disposal, while the good guys' investigative methods include mind-reading, memory searches, and the (limited) ability to detect when illicit magic is being used. Hell, there could be volumes written just about how the Wizarding World would handle the rights of the accused. What are their privacy laws? What counts as evidence?
"Witches and wizards, I give you Exhibit A: this glove I just Accio-ed from the accused ... "
Instead, the hodgepodge of guesswork and random whims that make up the Wizarding World's legal system are about as consistent as the rules to that game your older brother used to make up as he went along ("No, my farts are worth 10 points! I have the fart stick!"). For example, when an elf magically threw a cake at his aunt, Harry Potter was almost expelled from Hogwarts for it. That's because although the Ministry Of Magic can instantly tell when an underage wizard performs magic around regular humans, they can't pinpoint the caster. That's like someone getting arrested because a gunshot was heard in his or her neighborhood.
Let's table the fact that humans enslaved the single most powerful species in the Wizarding World.
But, OK, people get nailed based on flimsy evidence in our world, too. But then, there's Harry's godfather, Sirius Black, long considered one of wizardry's most notorious mass-murderers. In reality, Peter Pettigrew (the evil weirdo who pretended to be Ron's pet rat and who presumably saw Ron masturbate countless times) committed the crime Sirius was blamed for. But, it was far from an ingenious frame job, especially considering some of the tools available to the prosecutors.
First, there's the Priori Incantato spell, which is essentially like accessing your browser history -- it shows you the last spell a particular wand was used to cast. At one point, it gets used on Harry's wand and proves that the wand was used to cast an evil spell. But, even that wasn't considered sufficient evidence that he did it. However, the magic police don't even bother using this on Sirius -- the fact that he was present at the scene of the crime was all the evidence they needed to ship him off to prison indefinitely, because, apparently, civil liberties are right up there with human fashion on the list of things wizards don't understand.
Another Black defendant screwed by the system.
Then there's Legilimency, which lets the caster peer into the target's deepest, darkest secrets, and Veritaserum, otherwise known as goddamn truth serum. Either one would've let them know whether Sirius was a murderer or, hell, whether he had ever stolen any coloring books. But, they use precisely neither of those things, for reasons that are never explained. They're apparently not forbidden by their constitution (if they have one, it's probably a sentient, unreadable scroll that flies around the room like a bat), but, even if their use requires consent of the accused, you would think Sirius would have agreed, rather than get shipped off to be tortured by soul-sucking ghouls the rest of his life (yeah, more on that in a moment).
"Ahem ... are you sure we can't change your mind, Sirius?"
"Nah, I don't want to be a bother."
And what about when Hagrid was shipped off to prison for the crime of "kids are being attacked in a way that's similar to attacks you were insubstantially linked to decades ago" (as happened in Harry Potter And The Chamber of Secrets)? There was no trial; the Minister For Magic just showed up at his house and said, "Pack your giant bags; you're going to Wizard Superjail." No real investigation was ever conducted, presumably because wizard justice operates on the important principle of getting all their business done in time for happy hour.
Although, it's hard to blame them when their workplace looks like a set out of Brazil.
The Entire Penal System Is Based Around Terror And Pain
As we mentioned above, British wizards only have a single jail, and it's run by indestructible specters of pure darkness who can suck out and eat a person's soul. So, mass murderers apparently go to the same horrifying place as wizards who couldn't pay their broom parking tickets. And you would better make sure all your affairs are in order before you go because -- even if you're lucky enough to get paroled -- you'll probably have 18 types of whatever whimsical bullshit name wizards call PTSD.
Does this look like the face of a well-adjusted person?
Azkaban is in the middle of an ocean, and it makes Guantanamo Bay look like spring break on South Padre Island. Hagrid called his imprisonment one of the worst experiences of his life, and he was only there for a few months. Sirius spent years there, and he came out prone to fits of anger, moodiness, irrational decisions, and bitchiness to house elves.
Dude can't even remember his own godson's name.
The debate about whether a prison should rehabilitate or punish isn't new, but when your only prison is a box manned by demons that does nothing but drive its occupants to violent madness, you would think they'd at least come up with a second option. Azkaban just makes wizard criminals worse -- when Voldemort's gang (the "Death Eaters") escape it, they're even more psychotic than they were when first thrown in.
Congrats, you've created a bunch of Doctor Dooms.
Yeah, speaking of psychosis ... what happens to you if you have a mental illness in that world? They have all sorts of whimsical cures for when you break a bone or get a nasty cut, but there is no mention at all of magical cures for people whose brains don't work right. So, if you're somebody who commits crimes due to a mood disorder, substance abuse, or outright delusions, good luck! You'll need to work through your issues in a dank cell surrounded by a howling army of Grim Reapers. That should fix your bipolar disorder, right?
That's the thing: The books portray the Wizarding World as a quaint society that operates in parallel to our own, kind of like the Amish. But, we wouldn't let the Amish run their own magical torture prisons, would we? Here's where you start to think that maybe it's time for us nonmagical folk ("Muggles") to intervene. After all ...
The Government Is An Incompetent Dictatorship
The overarching plot of these stories is that the evil wizard Hitler, Voldemort, is back after being presumed dead. The wizard government (The Ministry Of Magic) fails to react to Voldemort's return, because Harry Potter And The Ruthlessly Efficient Government Bureaucracy would not make for a terribly exciting read. The heroes needed to wind up on their own -- we get that. But, in making the government incompetent, J.K. Rowling accidentally created a political system that makes you long for the good old days when insane emperors could execute people for blinking in a way that displeased them.
"Oh, we still do that, too."
The Minister For Magic (the wizard president, basically) is technically elected, but everything the series showed us makes it seem like a dictatorship. Unlike in America, where the president can't suggest giving free puppies to veterans without half of Congress calling him the next Hitler, the Minister can order everyone around at will, with no checks or balances. The Minister we saw for most of the series was Cornelius Fudge, and he refused to acknowledge a significant body of evidence alerting the world that a genocidal maniac had returned. And the rest of the government just rolled with that attitude -- not a single politician, nor the branch of government dedicated solely to fighting evil, disputed him, leaving the anti-Voldemort effort to Hogwarts students and a handful of their teachers and relatives. That's like if George W. Bush had told us all to chill out in the wake of 9/11, and the only antiterrorist unit was an underground club organized by liberal arts students.
Complete with hipster ties and judging looks.
Later, Team Voldemort stages a secret coup by killing the Minister, telling the world he resigned and placing some random mind-controlled bureaucrat named Pius Thicknesse in his place. Then, the entire government starts following Thicknesse's orders, even though all his orders are violent, racist, and insane. They went from representing the people to holding countless mock trials literally overnight, and nobody questions anything. That would be like if, halfway through his presidency, Obama was replaced with a bizarrely robotic neo-Nazi ordering the extermination of all nonwhite Americans, and every single government office just rolled with it. Only, this is a universe in which the wizards know that mind control is a thing.
"Well, not anymore they don't."
And keep in mind, this isn't some 1930s Germany situation here, where one party seized control with a large segment of popular support. According to the best estimates that Harry Potter fans have to offer, Voldemort only had around 50 Death Eaters and a couple hundred lower-level goons. It's unclear how big the Ministry is, but, considering they had about 500 employees working on the Quidditch World Cup alone, it's safe to assume they could have mounted some kind of resistance if they had really wanted to.
Why didn't they? We can think of one reason ...
Most Wizards Are Selfish Dickheads
J.K. Rowling knew she had to explain why the Wizarding World chooses to hide itself from Muggles without making all of the wizards seem like self-involved, elitist shitlords. So, in Sorcerer's Stone, she wrote a scene wherein Hagrid explains that Muggles would want to use magic to solve all of their problems, which is a hassle that wizards simply don't want to deal with.
If you think of "problems" in terms of chores such as laundry and dishwashing, then that logic is sound. Muggles would get lazy and want magic to address every tiny inconvenience, and that would be a stupid waste of sorcerer juice. But, let's look at the big picture -- namely, things such as starvation and resource shortages. Those problems go a little beyond "inconvenience" and fit more neatly into the category of "you're a gigantic asshole if you use your powers to make flying cars and have spell wars with each other instead of helping here."
"Can't you see we're busy!?"
Let's take food. Now, every single one of you already know that food is the first of the five Principal Exceptions to Gamp's Law of Elemental Transfiguration, which means you can't magically conjure food out of nothing. But, you can conjure water at will, and you can multiply or enlarge pre-existing food with no apparent limit. In other words, a single wizard could prevent anyone in the world from ever dying of starvation or thirst ever again. They could also conjure up magical clean water at disaster sites, duplicate expensive medication, and give us infinite oil without the need for environmentally destructive extraction techniques. Basically, if you can think of a resource the world needs, wizards could provide it with relative ease.
"Yo, we heard you basic Muggles like pumpkin spice."
There's a point where "we don't want Muggles to get lazy" devolves into "we're too lazy to help," and that point is somewhere around the third pile of famine stricken corpses. If wizards came to Muggles and said, "Hey, we can eradicate hunger forever; just don't bug us to help you clean your living room," we would pay them any amount of money to do that. Hell, they could just run everything through a front charity if they were worried about randos coming to them begging for magical cures for cancer.
"Ooh, sorry, we only accept Galleons."
Wizards Should Be Viewed As An Unchecked Superpower
"So, what if they have a shitty, backward society and don't bother to help out their nonmagical neighbors?" you might say. "It's not like that's a reason to go to war with them or anything. Maybe it is like North Korea, where the world has decided it's too much trouble."
But, think about how freaked out we've gotten over the prospect of terrorists getting weaponized pathogens or dirty bombs or even getting a pair of nail clippers aboard an airliner. Now, ask yourself how hard it would be for a rogue wizard to wipe out a city or bring down a plane. Here's a hint: They can teleport -- anywhere, any time, and through any walls.
They can pop into the cockpit of a plane and zap the pilot dead with their wand -- not only does the plane crash, but there wouldn't even be evidence of foul play. Zap into the control room of a nuclear power plant or a missile base ... use your imagination. The ability to instantly teleport and instantly kill pretty much turns you into a god. If you don't want to get your hands dirty, just control the pilot's mind or the minds of the officers in charge of a nuclear submarine. Shit, just mind-control Kim Jong Un and make him deliver the command to launch his arsenal at his neighbors. Sit back and laugh while the Muggles wipe themselves out.
And it only takes one guy. Even if the Muggle world is at peace with the wizards, each citizen of that community -- even children -- carries a device that can alter your memory forever, make you jump from the Empire State Building, or go on a genocidal rampage on their behalf. Even without a Voldemort to push a violent agenda, all it takes is a lone wizard civil servant snapping after losing everything in a divorce or one teenager deciding it would make for a funny prank. "But, we could just shoot them!" You would never know! Remember, in that fictional universe, the general public doesn't know wizard powers exist, and public officials only have a vague idea. When evil wizards kill Muggles in the story, Muggle newspapers just write them up as accidents. All we would know is that one day, without warning, everyone was on fire.
Probably by accident.
Every wizard citizen possesses a pocket-sized weapon of mass destruction, and the only check on that power is a government and criminal justice system that is completely fucked. And when a genocidal wizard did sweep into power in the UK, the rest of the international wizard community had no means to intervene. We know there are wizards from all around the world, so did they all just collectively not give a shit that Great Britain had been conquered by Magic Bin Laden? It's like if the terrorists from Olympus Has Fallen had successfully taken over the White House and then proceeded to run the country while the rest of the world shrugged their shoulders in indifference.
So, yeah, in reality, every single intelligence agency in the world would be toiling in secret with one goal in mind: figure out how magic works, how it can be countered, and how every wizard in the world can quickly be assassinated before they figure out what's happening. There's your eighth Harry Potter book, JK!
Or ninth? Tenth? We're not really sure anymore.
Deep inside us all -- behind our political leanings, our moral codes, and our private biases -- there is a cause so colossally stupid that we surprise ourselves with how much we care. Whether it's toilet paper position, fedoras on men, or Oxford commas, we each harbor a preference so powerful we can't help but proselytize to the world. In this episode of the Cracked podcast, guest host Soren Bowie is joined by Cody Johnston, Michael Swaim, and comedian Annie Lederman to discuss the most trivial things we will argue about until the day we die. Get your tickets here!
For more reasons the wizarding world is more than a little sketchy, check out 6 Horrifying Implications Of The Harry Potter Universe and Why 'Harry Potter' Is Based On A Terrible Decision.
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