The Politics of Potter Revisited


Nick Gillespie blogged about this initially way back in November 2005, but University of Tennessee law professor Benjamin Barton's theories about the libertarian heart of Harry Potter are being hyped again by his college's P.R. department as we ramp up to the July 21 release of whatever the heck the last novel in the sequence is called. (I'm neither fan nor not-fan…haven't read any of them, saw one of the movies and was a bit bored.) Part of Barton's message about the political message at the heart of J.K. Rowling's fantasy world:

"What would you think of a government that engaged in this list of tyrannical activities: tortured children for lying; designed its prison specifically to suck all life and hope out of the inmates; placed citizens in that prison without a hearing; ordered the death penalty without a trial; allowed the powerful, rich or famous to control policy; selectively prosecuted crimes (the powerful go unpunished and the unpopular face trumped-up charges); conducted criminal trials without defense counsel; used truth serum to force confessions; maintained constant surveillance over all citizens; offered no elections and no democratic lawmaking process; and controlled the press?

"You might assume that the above list is the work of some despotic central African nation, but it is actually the product of the Ministry of Magic, the magician's government in J.K. Rowling's Harry Potter series."

Barton said he thinks the anti-government thread that runs through the Potter novels is significant because the books have great potential to sway public opinion.

While speaking at the libertarian gathering FreedomFest in Vegas over the weekend, a panel on Atlas Shrugged was confronted with the question: in 50 years, will libertarian gatherings be mulling over the continuing libertarian significance of Potter? My firm answer: It remains to be seen, only time will tell, the future is inherently kaleidic and unknowable, etc.