Fantastic Political Mechanisms and Where to Find Them

Warner Bros Studios

The political system of politically free countries is based on the fundamental principles of liberal democracy. This means that in the functioning of these countries liberal thoughts play an important role. To name just a few: rule of law, protection of human rights and freedom of speech or separation of powers, are all important characteristics of a liberal democracy. These features have a huge impact on our life if we live in a modern democracy and we can experience their significance every day.

However, it might come as a surprise how much we can learn even about fictional societies if we are familiar with liberal ideas. Csaba Tóth, strategic director of Republikon Institue, has been examining the political systems in fantasy and science fiction for quite a long time. He has analyzed several famous fictional world’s political systems, including the Star Wars universe, The Lord of the Rings or Star Trek. Based on the conducted analysis, an event was recently held at the ELTE University – one of the most prestigious universities in Hungary – devoted to the political background of the new movie from the Harry Potter universe: The Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them. The discussed topics included the following: Does separation of power exist in the wizarding world? What status do non-magical people (muggles) have in the secret society of wizards and witches? In the presented article I will try to answer these questions. Please, bear in mind that the analysis contains spoilers.

Warner Bros Studios

The new movie tells the story of Newt Scamander, a British wizard, who travels to the American wizarding community with a suitcase filled with magical creatures. The complications start when some of the “fantastic beasts” escape and Newt has to find them as quickly as possible. While following the adventures of the young British wizard, we may also learn a little more about the aurors, who are basically the police officers of the wizarding world. And it seems that they have way too much power.

There is a scene in which Graves, an American auror, interrogates the protagonist, Newt Scamander and his companion, Tina Goldstein – a dismissed American auror. The reason of the interrogation is that Newt broke the law of the American wizarding community by not having registered when entering the country and losing his suitcase filled with magical creatures. Tina Goldstein’s crime, however, was delay in reporting the situation to the authorities for one day, because she wanted to solve the case by on her own to get her job back. What is incredible, though, is that the 5-minute-long interrogation ends with a death sentence for both suspects ordered by the interrogator and that the execution was to be carried out immediately. Although it does not seem valid in the least, it looks like the process was completely legal. This sounds very disturbing, because during the process the auror acted as a prosecutor, an investigator and a judge at the same time. This kind of concentration of power can only be observed in totalitarian regimes and it is hard to believe that a morally good system could work this way.

Of course, the movie also proves later that the execution would have been a mistake (What a surprise! The execution of the main protagonist would be a bad decision!) and that Graves, the mentioned auror, simply tried to abuse his powers to satisfy his own interests. What is certain is that this scene raises some serious questions about the functioning of the wizarding community. It looks like the rule of law is just as unimaginable in their world as magic is in ours. And if rule of law does not exist in a political system then the people who are assigned to make decisions about our lives can act as they want, which is, ultimately, the definition of totalitarianism.

Furthermore, we have to realize that in the wizarding community the protection of the minority rights does not work very well either. Let us consider the status of house elves, for instance, who despite being intelligent magical beings, are often kept as slaves by wizarding families (like Dobby, who is probably the most famous house elf in the Harry Potter universe). We shall also mention muggles, who do not have any legal capacity in the wizarding world. In fact, it seems that wizards and witches have more rights compared to anyone else (muggles or other species), which sounds quite worrisome. All in all, segregation is a very serious issue in the wizarding community, thus it is not surprising at all that it is filled with internal tensions.

There are a lot of other examples which prove that the wizarding community does not function effectively. It seems that because of magic they did not develop some of the most useful findings of the muggle world, such as liberal democracy, which could contribute to a more peaceful life in wizarding community. Instead, they are stuck in the middle ages with serious minority rights violations and aurors who basically have absolute powers. This is really dangerous. Indeed, they were able to defeat Grindelwald or Voldemort (some of the most dangerous dark wizards of all time), but without an institutional reform someday there would probably emerge another auror who would try to use his absolute power to take over control, or fights between the wizards and those who are legally inferior to them could occur.

This is also a good lesson for us in the real world. It might be just a fantasy movie, but it shows us very well why we should appreciate the most important mechanisms of liberal democracy since they show us that we can live our everyday lives in freedom without the fear of the central power.

Barna Mazan
Republikon Institute