Harry Potter 7: The Deathly Hallows

J.K. Rowling

The final book in the Harry Potter series gives us a lot of insight into the Ministry of Magic and how Voldomort takes over society through the legal framework of Wizarding law. Early on in the story, we learn that the Ministry falls and is now being led by the Deatheaters. While at the helm of the central government, they turn the wizarding society into a page of a Holocaust survival novel as people are rounded up and accused of practicing magic while being “muggles” or “half-bloods”, or normal, non-magical humans.

There are a number of important libertarian lessons we can glean from this incredibly dramatic climax of Harry Potter’s adventure as he becomes an Enemy of the State, Undesirable #1.

Centralized Government is Easily Corruptable

Voldomort’s takeover of the government comes so swiftly: a sentence uttered by a patronus informed the guests of the wedding that it had fallen. It’s leader, Scrimgeour, was executed by the deatheaters. So the coupe ended and the new reign of terror began.

The fact is that it is frighteningly easy to takeover a government. They are the central legal agency of a society. Anyone aspiring to gain control over it need not resort only to violent revolutions and coupes; we see the transition of power happen quite frequently by “strong men” voted into power by democratic vote. Just look at the Presidents of the US in the 1900s until now and how drastically they changed the legal framework of our society, from Wilson to FDR to LBJ to Nixon to Reagan to George W and Obama and Trump; all have drastically increased the size and scope of the government in their own way.

More notorious figures such as Fidel Castro, Hitler, Lenin, Che Guevara, Pinochet, Chavez, Pol Pot, Mao, all seized control of their own regional governments and changed drastically the legal framework mostly for the worse. The Handmaid’s Tale, an excellent TV adaptation of Margaret Atwood’s book series, paints a similar picture: a group of religious zealots overthrow the central government and drastically change the laws to create a repressive, violent framework in which women become slaves to produce children for the ruling class. It happens far more often than people care to admit. In fact, the entire role of the CIA abroad can be summed up as one of “forced regime change”: meddling in elections and political systems to get people into power they approve of.

Libertarians argue that the old extraterrestrial phrase “Take me to your leader” is actually the core of the problem, here. Having a central legal entity that makes all rules for a society is easily targeted by those who want power and control over that territorial area. By having a framework in place that makes ALL the rules for society, you invite in people who want to use or alter that framework to have power over others.

Imagine if there were only local governments. Imagine if every town/province in the US were to have it’s own, separate, and distinct government without a central pillar of control such as the federal government. (PS: this was very much the American revolutionary framework of government in the late 1700s that organized for secession and formed separate, local governments outside of British centralized rule)

Imagine now being an invader such as Voldomort faced with taking over this world: in order to wrestle control from approximately 35,879 local governments in the US at the time of this writing, you would have to go to each one in order to claim it. No central agency binds them together. Each one would have to be subdued, it’s leader subverted, it’s processes claimed, it’s bureaucrats converted, it’s tax proceedings seized. Each would have different processes and not be beholden to centralization; each conversion would therefore be distinct and utterly time consuming.

Moreover, resistance would be more fierce under such a situation. While of course small governments can’t amass great resources like central governments to build tanks and bombers, small governments have the benefit of local knowledge and an actual emotional and physical connection to those in it’s province; it can rile up a guerilla defense by the general population much more easily than can a central government far removed from the people it claims to “defend”.

The libertarian case for smaller government is not only a case for accountability and responsibility: it also contains within it a practical aim of not being as easy to be corrupted and usurped by power hungry men. To our knowledge, the Ministry of Magic is the only wizarding government in England and was an easy target for Voldomort as a result.

Those in Government Happily go Along With the New Boss

While some people in the Ministry did not go along with the new regime, others were very happy to. People like Dolores Umbridge were always interested in having power over other people and was a perfect fit for the more aggressive enforcement of legal edicts now required. She was tickled pink about being able to enforce the twisted rules she helped to bring about; the misery of others and the power she had over the course of their lives was her drug of choice. Others in the Ministry did not like the new rules but just silently went along with it hoping it would end or not be as bad as they think it will be. Still others continued to just “do their jobs” and just followed orders without making a conscious or ethical choice to do so.

Étienne de La Boétie wrote the “The Politics of Obedience: Discourse on Voluntary Servitude” in which he described how it is that normal people could support and actually aid the functions of even the most tyrannical, despotic governments. He showed how their self interest guided them:

“Roman tyrants … provided the city wards with feasts to cajole the rabble…. Tyrants would distribute largesse, a bushel of wheat, a gallon of wine, and a sesterce: and then everybody would shamelessly cry, ‘Long live the King!’ The fools did not realize that they were merely recovering a portion of their own property, and that their ruler could not have given them what they were receiving without having first taken it from them.

when the point is reached, through big favors or little ones, that large profits or small are obtained under a tyrant, there are found almost as many people to whom tyranny seems advantageous as those to whom liberty would seem desirable… Whenever a ruler makes himself a dictator, all the wicked dregs of the nation… all those who are corrupted by burning ambition or extraordinary avarice, these gather around him and support him in order to have a share in the booty and to constitute themselves petty chiefs under the big tyrant.”

He then goes on to explain how the tyrant may only do evil with the willing hands of the people in service to that tyrant. There is no way that governments can do evil without the bureaucrats, judges, enforcers, prisoners, executioners, armies, and other willing participants and cohorts of it’s violence:

“He who thus domineers over you has only two eyes, only two hands, only one body, no more than is possessed by the least man among the infinite numbers dwelling in your cities; he has indeed nothing more than the power that you confer upon him to destroy you. Where has he acquired enough eyes to spy upon you, if you do not provide them yourselves? How can he have so many arms to beat you with, if he does not borrow them from you? The feet that trample down your cities, where does he get them if they are not your own? How does he have any power over you except through you? How would he dare assail you if he had no cooperation from you? What could he do to you if you yourselves did not connive with the thief who plunders you, if you were not accomplices of the murderer who kills you, if you were not traitors to yourselves?

You sow your crops in order that he may ravage them, you install and furnish your homes to give him goods to pillage; you rear your daughters that he may gratify his lust; you bring up your children in order that he may confer upon them the greatest privilege he knows—to be led into his battles, to be delivered to butchery, to be made the servants of his greed and the instruments of his vengeance; you yield your bodies unto hard labor in order that he may indulge in his delights and wallow in his filthy pleasures; you weaken yourselves in order to make him the stronger and the mightier to hold you in check.

From all these indignities, such as the very beasts of the field would not endure, you can deliver yourselves if you try, not by taking action, but merely by willing to be free. Resolve to serve no more, and you are at once freed.”

The Cultivation of a General Hatred of So-Called “Criminals”

In the story, muggles who practice wizardry become enemies of the State. There is an entire branch of the government created to register muggle magic practitioners, although many refuse to register because they know what comes next, and very quickly those who are registered are rounded up and put before a kangaroo court and imprisoned. Led by Dolores Umbridge, the new bureau is constantly hunting people and breaking up families, seizing a mother or father or both despite all of their “papers being in order”. They are brought in by hunches and “tips” offered by other bureaucrats and neighbors.

What governments often do is create an “out group” and then drum up hatred of that group. The Jewish communities were targeted by Hitler in Nazi Germany partly because of their success in business, finance, and academia and because of their uncanny knack in accumulating masses of wealth, but also because they were a minority among peoples and were easy targets to become the “hated” out group of the majority. Once this hatred has been instilled, it becomes easy to ramp up aggression against them over time: first they are registered, then they are only allowed to own property in certain parts of the society, then their businesses and shops are closed by law, then they are silenced and not allowed to appear in the news/media to defend themselves and outcry the abuses they suffer, and eventually they are rounded up and imprisoned and potentially a mass genocide is committed against them.

It doesn’t matter that the group being targeted has not actually committed any property violations, the main distinction that libertarians make between criminals and non-criminals. It doesn’t matter that these measures are applied to groups and not individuals, as libertarians point out that only the individual is capable of committing a specific crime or property violation and only that individual may be held responsible for it.

Yet the “out group” mentality rages on. Consider the recent situation that the government’s response to the Covid virus regarding face masks. In an excellent article by Reason.com, it is pointed out how wearing masks has morphed away from it’s original purpose of protecting people from the virus and into a political status symbol and identifier. Despite the incredibly conservative CDC itself stating that all vaccinated people may resume life as they had before the new Covid rules were put in place, which implies not wearing a face mask in public especially outdoors, people in more liberal / Democratic states are extremely hesitant to do so.

Many claim now that they don’t want to be misperceived to be Republicans who have pretty consistently been opposed to the mask mandates since the onset of the pandemic. Consider this in the sense of the “out group”: masks are publicly visible statements or declarations of allegiance to the self righteous left. This visible marking, like the stars the Jewish people were forced to wear in Germany, makes it easy to identify those politically opposed to them. If they have a mask, they are aligned with you. If not, they are in the “out group”. (Also see Dr. Seuss’ book “The Sneetches” for more on this)

Despite all the mounting evidence that vaccines and natural immunity are reducing the severity of the pandemic and reducing interpersonal transmission rates quite rapidly despite the lifting of mandates and Covid restrictions and the left’s claim of always “following the science”, still those who refuse to wear masks (Read: Republicans) are anti-science, dumb, hill-billies, Trump fanatics, etc. Remember that in order to have in out group, you must make that group out to be of a lesser being. They must be labeled as barbaric, savages, dumb, uneducated, impossible to co-exist with in society, etc.

Readers of this blog will know that I’m not a Republican and do not side with either or any political party, as the right certainly makes similar claims about the left in order to try to also make them into the “out group”, but this particular example must be mentioned as illustrative in the context of Voldemort’s initially ideological (anti-Muggle rhetoric) and then his physical attacks (arresting/imprisoning) on the muggle population of Harry Potter’s world.

Selective Enforcement of Laws and Bribery

Another important part of the rounding up of muggles is the way it is enforced on particular people. Only by hearsay or through tips is the legal entity summoned. Mobs hired by the Ministry comb the streets harassing anyone even suspected of being a Muggle. If someone has a grudge against someone else or is annoyed at their neighbor, they can put a tip in at the ministry to have them legally removed and put in prison.

This is common with authoritarian societies. Consider the recent move for red flag laws in the US: many times, the initial complaint or claim of wrongdoing comes from someone personally connected to the individual being investigated. Once the spotlight is on them, there’s a good chance they’ve done “something” wrong given that there are so many laws that change so frequently that no one really knows how to follow all of them. This is one of the reason the 4th amendment in protecting against unreasonable search and seizure is specific about requiring a written statement regarding the item or behavior that is expected to be found by the search. There is an excellent book called “Three Felonies a Day” by Harvey Silvergate that points out how most people on average break at least 3 federal laws per day.

The goal is to be able to arrest anyone at any time. People living under FDR had a joke: 3 men are in jail discussing why they were arrested. The first man says: I charged prices that were too high and was charged for price gouging! The second man says: I charged prices that were too low and was charged for unfair competition! They looked at the third man who said he was selling stuff at the same price as everyone else so he was charged for price collusion. This has nothing to do with justice or property rights; instead, this is about the power to arrest and harass anyone they choose to.

Bribery was another scenario pointed out by the Rowling as being common practice in authoritarian bureaucracies. When Ron dresses up as someone in the Ministry so that they can sneak in, he is told that his wife (not Ron’s, the person who’s identity he stole) is on trial for being a Muggle. He is told that if he can get the “rain curse” out of the man’s office (where it constantly rains indoors, a bit of a jab at bureaucracy in general being fairly morose and depressing) then his wife may have a bit more leniency put on her sentence/trial since the person’s office is the head of legal enforcement, after all.

It’s bad enough that the Ministry is rounding up innocent people to put them on trial, but blackmailing someone into doing favors in exchange for having fewer punitive charges raised against someone who is innocent anyways? This is incredibly commonplace generally, even in the US. The federal courts couldn’t possibly see every case brought before it, so the agents generally force those arrested into plea bargains of giving up something like information or someone else to arrest or else facing massive sentences.

Bribery is a most common corruption in bureaucratic societies although it seems to flourish at all levels of every government ever in existence. Because under socialism money and exchanges are not possible or at least frowned upon, the only way to be “more equal than everyone else” and to therefore not live in the same squalor and poverty as everyone else, is to know someone in the apparatchik or pay in other ways such as favors or gifts.

Nationalization of All Transportation Networks

Another means the Ministry uses to control society is to claim ownership and authority over all means of transportation. They control the floo network where wizards can instantly teleport between buildings without apparating, and in doing so they try to trap Harry Potter into traveling by foot or by broom which would all but ensure that Voldemort can find and catch him.

The Ministry’s monitoring of this network is not new; it happened a lot in Book #5 as well. Most governments want drastic control over the ability of their citizens and non-citizens to come and go as they please: the Berlin wall, passports, the wall they are talking about between Mexico/the US, even the government’s ownership of all roads and the recent TSA takeover of all airport security and identification checks are all means of monitoring and, in many cases, of restricting the freedom of moving about in the world.

Governments have often sought to keep citizens trapped in their country. When more freedom and prosperity is readily visible in other countries, the tendency for migration away from more abusive countries to less abusive countries is high. Indeed, Jefferson often opined about how the various states of the US allowed people to “vote with their feet” and that any state that subjected it’s citizens to more control, taxation, and restrictions tended to lose people to those states who did not.

This is why governments often turn to 2 very important strategies: 1) restriction of the freedom of movement and 2) greater centralization in the form of larger governments that cover more and more territory. The transfer of political power away from the 50 various states of the US to the central, federal government in the past 100 years is no coincidence; it is a general strategy used by those who want power to make sure that they can use that power over as many people as possible with very little chance of them escaping that control. The push for a “world government” that started with the League of Nations under Woodrow Wilson and most recently succeeded in a limited scope with the United Nations is also part of that strategy. Where do you go to escape once the entire world is run by a single, central government?

Laws Passed for Seemingly Good Reasons are Quickly Abused

In J.K. Rowling’s epic dismantling of so many of the usual abuses of governments in this beautiful and final book about Harry Potter, another one she touches on is the tendency for the abuses of a law to grow and evolve over time. When Scrimgeour comes to Harry’s group to disperse the items left to them in Dumbledore’s will, Hermione accuses him of unjustly holding the items for 30 days. She claims that the law that allowed them to do it was only to stop wizards from passing along items of dark magic to others; it’s the Ministry’s duty to submit evidence of wrongdoing or dark power for the law to be able to be used.

Scrimgeour basically dismisses her and derides her for not being a lawyer. Yet, she is perfectly justified in her criticism. What started as a law which protected people from violent, terrible items being transferred to new owners was hijacked to allow the Ministry to inspect every item passed along if they like.

This happens so often in every society that it’s hardly worth listing out, but let’s look at a few examples.

  • – The income tax, passed in 1913 under Wilson, was presented to the public as a small tax for the rich where only the top 1% would be taxed. Fast forward 100 years later, and basically 100% of people now have their incomes taxed.
  • – The drug war, started in the 1930s after Prohibition (what else were all the bureaucratic agencies in charge of outlawing alcohol supposed to do then anyway?), and who could be against protecting people from the scourge of drugs and criminals? Fast forward, and the drug war is now used as an excuse for police squads to bust down anyone’s door at all hours of the day night with loaded weapons. They often get the wrong address, find no evidence, or even kill innocent home/apartment owners in their crusade and face zero consequences for their destruction. The drug war is also used by federal agencies to fund super secret projects and political upheavals around the world (as that money comes from black market exchanges and cannot be tracked) and used by violent cartels and mafias for additional income. It is used as an excuse for police to seize property and money, funding their agencies beyond the normal means of taxation can bear. It fills many of the prisons and lines the pockets of thousands of jailers, police, court officials, lawyers, and others.
  • – Medicare, passed in the 60s. When it was proposed, the amount of money it actually cost in the first year, let alone today, was more than 7 times what it was proposed to cost. If any business ever estimated their costs to be a factor of 7 times off what it actually cost, they would instantly be out of business. Yet, the government continues to accrue massive debts and unsustainable costs due to a program that was “only going to cost a small amount”.
  • – Government college loans, originally proposed in the 70s with the GI education bill and with the intention to help general people get into higher education, has completely transformed the college world for the worse. College costs are soaring and unaffordable for most as they are saddled with the debt after college due to the fact that government loans continue to guarantee payment to colleges. When colleges see guaranteed income, they tend to raise their prices as much as the “market” will bear, yet in the case of government spending, the so-called market price is unlimitedly high and just continues to rise. Only by people refusing to buy something will prices come down, yet the government keeps shoveling funny money via the cartelized banking system and the Federal Reserve into the colleges that is often not ever even repaid.
  • – Speaking of the Federal Reserve, it had an incredibly limited scope when it first came into existence. Yet today it may buy government bonds, manipulate the interest rate, buy up bad loans, lend the government trillions upon trillions of dollars, inflate the currency, and generally involve itself with every sector of the economy. The scope creep of this organization never seems to end.
  • – Speaking of scope creep, the federal government itself has certainly strayed from it’s original intent and purpose. It now involves itself in every tiny minutia of every person’s daily life, while in it’s founding was limited mostly to foreign engagements/diplomacy and some basic conflict resolution between the States. Most people didn’t know who the President was and didn’t really care; he had no effect over them. This changed wildly with the advent of Lincoln, Wilson, FDR, and the other “big men” that expanded the size and scope of the Presidency and the federal government drastically.


Checking off another abuse of government power, Rowling also mentions the business license. Mundungus Fletcher is accosted in Diagon Alley for selling items without a license, whereupon he has his wares stolen from him by none other than Dolores Umbridge.

Licenses restrict the supply of a particular employee or business. Restricting the supply of anything leads to a higher price, generally accruing to the owner of the license. For example, a license for a plumber will raise his prices higher than if there was free entry into that field. Consider the “medallion” approach of taxi cabs in NYC; until they were dislodged by Uber/Lyft, there were only a certain number of taxis in the city available for rides. Any time you restrict supply without a corresponding decrease in demand, you raise prices.

But licenses go further than that: they give the State power over that business. During the recent Covid lockdowns, business owners who defied orders to shut their business were threatened with having their business license taken away. This would ostensibly disallow them from doing business at all and stop them from trading with anyone. What power could be more abused than corrupt officials deciding who is allowed to continue to stay in business and who is not? Never one to pass up seizing people’s property from them, as Mundungus found out, their entire business and surplus could be seized due to license violations.

Besides, who’s to say that we only need a certain number of hospitals, doctors, plumbers, taxi drivers, or hair dressers, anyway? If demand increases, the market reacts to the higher prices by increasing the supply of any given good/service (as people are attracted to enter into that industry by the higher prices being paid for wages/profits) and by then driving prices back down. Any attempt to destroy this process of self regulation must necessarily make some people worse off (e.g. the customers who have to pay higher prices and those potential business owners who are unable to acquire a license) than others (e.g. those who benefit from the licensure laws and higher prices by getting their license before other people have attempted to).

The Media

Rowling doesn’t have much good to say about the media. The Daily Prophet papers are taken over by Voldomort and the Ministry to market all of the recent actions of the Ministry as good and necessary to keep everyone safe. It’s widely known by most thinking people throughout the series that the Prophet is filled with the lies and propaganda of the Ministry. Even the renegade newspaper, The Quibbler, run by Luna Lovegood’s father and encouraging resistance to the Ministry and support for Harry, is subverted when Luna is taken by the Ministry for ransom.

The only media that holds the fort in the story is the pirate radio run by Fred and George Weasely. This was a delightful scene since Britain is no stranger to renegade, pirate radio stations disturbing the air waves. Although many of the broadcasts the British scofflaws did was broadcast from international water to escape legal recourse were meant to serve unmet musical needs that were not being played by the nationalized radio station (a form of rebellion and entrepreneurship in face of government monopolies and mandates to be a cry for freedom in and of itself), some were also political broadcasts such as calling for the freedom of Scotland from British rule and occupation.


I think this book is incredibly libertarian in it’s lessons and outlook. It’s also an easy book for younger kids and teens to read and understand. Despite the second half of this book not having as much to do with politics and society as the first half, the first half is jam packed with it (as you can see above).

The fact also that Rowling decided to end her book like J.R.R. Tolkien by having Harry Potter cast away the master wand to be destroyed and never used again is a very important metaphor, like in Lord of the Rings, for casting away political power and violence over other people. Harry did not want to follow in the path of the Ministry and it’s abuses of power any more than Froddo Baggins wanted to be ruler over all the land of Mordor and the rest of the world. The “ring of power to bind them together” under a single, centralized power is not what Harry or Froddo wanted; it is my sincere hope that someday this will be what no one wants.

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