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HARRY POTTER AND THE HALF-CRAZED BUREAUCRACY 104 MICH. L. REV. __ (forthcoming May, 2006). Benjamin H. Barton 1 HARRY POTTER AND THE HALF-BLOOD PRINCE. By J.K. Rowling. New York: Scholastic Press. 2005. Pp. 1, 652. $29.99. What would you think of a government that engaged in this list of tyrannical activities: tortured children for lying; 2 designed its prison specifically to suck all life and hope out of the inmates; 3 placed citizens in that prison without a hearing; 4 ordered the death penalt
  HARRY POTTER AND THE HALF-CRAZED BUREAUCRACY 104 M ICH .   L.   R EV .   __ (forthcoming May, 2006).  Benjamin H. Barton 1 H ARRY P OTTER AND THE H ALF -B LOOD P RINCE .   By  J.K. Rowling. New York: ScholasticPress. 2005. Pp. 1, 652. $29.99.What would you think of a government that engaged in this list of tyrannicalactivities: tortured children for lying; 2 designed its prison specifically to suck all life andhope out of the inmates; 3 placed citizens in that prison without a hearing; 4 ordered thedeath penalty without a trial; 5 allowed the powerful, rich or famous to control policy; 6   1 Associate Professor of Law, University of Tennessee College of Law. B.A. 1991, Haverford College;J.D. 1996, University of Michigan. The author gives special thanks to Indya Kincannon, Tom Galligan,Jeff Hirsch, Jennifer Hendricks, Helen Hershkoff, Jeff Thomas, Andrew Morriss, the participants at a HarryPotter and the Law presentation at the 2005 Law and Literature Conference in Gloucester, England, theUniversity of Tennessee College of Law for generous research support, and the Honorable Diana GribbonMotz. 2 First, a word of warning: if you have not read the Harry Potter books you may want to skip some or all of the footnotes. I will explain critical plot and character references in the main text, but will treat thefootnotes as a place for legal and textual support, added analysis, and references for Harry Potter readers.Ministry employee (and evil bureaucrat extraordinaire) Dolores Umbridge forces Harry to write “I must nottell lies” over and over again with an enchanted quill that slices those words into his hand and writes inblood. The worst part of the punishment is that Harry was actually telling the truth and was punished forpublicly announcing Voldemort’s return. Pp. 219, 346; see also J.K.   R OWLING ,   H ARRY P OTTER AND THE O RDER OF THE P HOENIX 263-68 (2003) [hereinafter T HE O RDER OF THE P HOENIX ]. 3 The wizard prison, Azkaban, is staffed by dementors, magical beings that suck all hope and life out of theinmates. See, e.g., J.K.   R OWLING ,   H ARRY P OTTER AND THE P RISONER OF A ZKABAN 97 (1999) [hereinafterT HE P RISONER OF A ZKABAN ] (describing Azkaban as “the worst place” and stating that “[m]ost of theprisoners go mad in there”). 4 In The Half-Blood Prince the Ministry arrests and holds a minor character named Stan Shunpike withouta trial on “suspicion of Death Eater activity,” although no one seems to think that Shunpike is actuallyguilty. Pp. 221, 331, 346-47. The “Death Eaters” are the evil Lord Voldemort’s supporters. Similarly, in The Chamber of Secrets 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 gotto do something” in response to attacks at Hogwarts. Fudge further defends the action by saying “I’munder a lot of pressure. Got to be seen doing something.” See J.K.   R OWLING ,   H ARRY P OTTER AND THE C HAMBER OF S ECRETS 261 (1999) [hereinafter T HE C HAMBER OF S ECRETS ]. 5 In The Prisoner of Azkaban the dementors have permission from the Ministry to kill Sirius Black uponcapture, and without any further trial, with the “dementor’s kiss.” See T HE P RISONER OF A ZKABAN , supra  note __, at 247. Similarly, Barty Crouch was given the dementor’s kiss without a trial in J.K.   R OWLING ,   H ARRY P OTTER AND THE G OBLET OF F IRE 609-10   (2000)   [hereinafter T HE G OBLET OF F IRE ]. 6 There are innumerable examples of this. Throughout the first five books Harry’s schoolboy enemyDraco Malfoy’s Death Eater Dad Lucius Malfoy is shown to have inordinate governmental access and  selectively prosecuted crimes (the powerful go unpunished and the unpopular facetrumped-up charges); 7 conducted criminal trials without defense counsel; 8 used truthserum to force confessions; 9 maintained constant surveillance over all citizens; 10 offeredno elections and no democratic lawmaking process; 11 and controlled the press? 12 You might assume that the above list is the work of some despotic central Africannation, but it is actually the product of the Ministry of Magic, the magician’s governmentin J.K. Rowling’s Harry Potter series. When  Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince  was released this summer I, along with many others, bought and read it on the day of itsrelease. 13 I was immediately struck by Rowling’s unsparingly negative portrait of theMinistry of Magic and its bureaucrats. I decided to sit down and reread each of the HarryPotter books with an eye towards discerning what exactly J.K. Rowling’s most recentnovel tells us about the nature, societal role, and legitimacy of government. influence. See, e.g., T HE P RISONER OF A ZKABAN , supra note __, at 125, 218 (arranging to have Hagrid’sHippogriff executed by the Committee for the Disposal of Dangerous Creatures); T HE G OBLET OF F IRE , supra note __, at 91-92 (appearing as the Minister of Magic’s honored guest at the Quidditch world cup). 7 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 Ministry of Magic pooh-poohsa charge of the improper underage use of magic, see T HE P RISONER OF A ZKABAN , supra note __, 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 T HE O RDER OF THE P HOENIX , supra note __, at 26-27, 137-51. 8 Harry’s trial in book five is an obvious example. See T HE O RDER OF THE P HOENIX , supra note __, at137-51. 9   See T HE O RDER OF THE P HOENIX , supra note __ at 629-31 (Dolores Umbridge interrogating Harry); T HE G OBLET OF F IRE , supra note __, at 593-600 (Dumbledore interrogating Barty Crouch). 10 The Ministry of Magic keeps tabs on all uses of magic in order to detect any improper or underage usesof magic. P. 368. 11 This requires an inference from the first chapter of  The Half-Blood Prince . See discussion infra PartIII.A. 12 In The Order of the Phoenix the wizard newspaper ( The Daily Prophet  ) regularly disparages Harry andProfessor Dumbledore as deranged for claiming that Voldemort has returned. See T HE O RDER OF THE P HOENIX , supra note __, at 94, 306-8 (stating that the  Daily Prophet  is discrediting Dumbledore underpressure from the Ministry of Magic); id. at 73-75 (same for Harry). 13 I did not, however, dress up as a Wizard or go to one of the local bookstore’s midnight Harry Potterparties. Cf. Triumph the Insult Comic, Triumph Versus Star Wars Geeks,http://www.milkandcookies.com/links/2536/details/ (Video of Triumph insulting Star Wars geeks incostumes, including this question: “How do you explain this [outfit] to your imaginary girlfriend?”).  I did this for several reasons. First, with all due respect to Richard Posner, CassSunstein or Peter Schuck, 14 no book released in 2005 will have more influence on whatkids and adults around the world think about government than The Half-Blood Prince . Itwould be difficult to overstate the influence and market penetration of The Harry Potterseries. 15 Somewhere over the last few years the Harry Potter novels passed from achildren’s literature sensation to a bona fide international happening.Second, Rowling’s scathing portrait of government is surprisingly strident andeffective. This is partially because her critique works on so many levels: what thegovernment does (see above), how the government is structured, and the bureaucrats whorun the show. All three elements work together to depict a Ministry of Magic run by self-interested bureaucrats bent on increasing and protecting their power, often to thedetriment of the public at large. In other words, Rowling creates a public-interestscholar’s dream (or nightmare) government.Her critique is also particularly effective because, despite how awful Rowling’sMinistry of Magic looks and acts, it bears such a tremendous resemblance to currentAnglo-American government. Rowling’s negative picture of government is thus bothsubtle and extraordinarily piercing. Taken in the context of the Harry Potter novels andthe personalities of the bureaucrats involved, each of the above acts of governmentmisconduct seem perfectly natural and familiar to the reader. The critique works becausethe reader identifies her own government with Rowling’s Ministry of Magic. 14   See R ICHARD A.   P OSNER ,   P REVENTING S URPRISE A TTACKS :   I NTELLIGENCE R EFORMS IN THE W AKE OF 9/11   (2005);   C ASS S UNSTEIN ,   R ADICALS IN R OBES :   W HY E XTREME R IGHT -W ING C OURTS A RE B AD FOR A MERICA (2005);   P ETER H.   S CHUCK ,   M EDITATIONS OF A M ILITANT M ODERATE (2005). 15 Over 10 million copies of  The Half Blood Prince were sold internationally in its first 24 hours of release. See Smothered in HP , T HE E CONOMIST , September 3, 2005, at 75 (“Garagemen in Beirut wereselling it; fisherman on the Greek island of Hydra too.”). Over 275 million Harry Potter novels have beensold worldwide, placing them among the best selling novels of all time. See Wikipedia, Harry Potter,http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Harry_Potter(last visited September 22, 2005).    Lastly, The Half-Blood Prince is a tremendous work of fiction that deserves amore careful reading of its themes and plot. It continues a trend in the Harry Potternovels: over the last six books Rowling’s Harry Potter novels have gotten longer, morecomplex, and much, much darker. The first two Harry Potter books tell straightforwardstories of good triumphing over evil (Harry defeating the evil Lord Voldemort) at themagical Hogwarts School. 16 The next four books present a more complex vision of anentire wizard society, including a wizard government, and an international struggleagainst Voldemort and his followers that does not feature easy answers, instant triumphs,unblemished heroes, or even clear lines between good and evil. 17  Rowling’s decision to eschew the tried and true formula of her first two books infavor of longer books featuring deaths, imperfect characters and moral ambiguity is bothexceptional and refreshing. She could have repeated her formula from the first two booksto great acclaim. Instead, she created a much richer world, where the more typical 16 The first two books,  Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone and  Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets clock in at a tidy 309 and 341 pages respectively, and feature quite similar narratives: the evil LordVoldemort’s attempts to return to power through unlikely pawns (a teacher in The Sorcerer’s Stone and astudent in The Chamber of Secrets ) are foiled by Harry and his friends. See J.K.   R OWLING ,   H ARRY P OTTERAND THE S ORCERER ’ S S TONE (1997) [hereinafter S ORCERER ’ S S TONE ]; T HE C HAMBER OF S ECRETS , supra  note __. In moral tone these books are very black and white, and in subject matter they are basicallycircumscribed to happenings at or around Hogwarts. 17 Each of the last four books is longer and more complex than the first two, and each abandons the “Harrytriumphs over Voldemort” structure of the first two. The bulk of the third book,  Harry Potter and thePrisoner of Azkaban , deals with the allegedly deadly prisoner of Azkaban, Sirius Black’s pursuit of Harry. See T HE P RISONER OF A ZKABAN , supra note __. It turns out that Sirius was wrongfully accused andconvicted (a running theme in each of the next three books), and he resumes his role as Harry’s godfather atthe end of the book. Book four,  Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire , tells the story of Voldemort’s returnto power, and features the first death in the series (one of Voldemort’s Death Eaters murders Hogwartsstudent Cedric Diggory). See T HE G OBLET OF F IRE , supra note __. Book Five,  Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix , is darker yet. Harry hits puberty, and is a moody mess throughout the book. For the firsttime Harry’s impetuousness and desire to confront Voldemort backfires, as Sirius Black is murdered, andHarry leads his friends into a trap set by Lord Voldemort. See T HE O RDER OF THE P HOENIX , supra note __.
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