Balancing the Budget in the Wizarding World

July 20, 2011

Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows set a new four day record for US box office totals on Monday, raking in a whopping 187.2 million. All the fanfare made me nostalgic, and I spent some time today reading through a few of the more charming sections of the book series. I was surprised at my new take on the books: I was reading more into the politics of the Ministry of Magic than I was into the characters of Ron, Hermione and Harry. I started thinking, "What would it look like if the Ministry of Magic had to balance their budget?"

The Ministry of Magic is of course J.K. Rowling's hysterical (and sometimes harrowing) satire of the modern state—she does such a good job of painting a picture of bureaucratic overload that she even prompted analyses from the academic community about the striking similarities between her view of the state and the views of the Public Choice school of economics.

Believe it or not, we Muggles are a bit better off in terms of debt talks. Here are a few reasons why:

First, the Ministry of Magic appears to be entirely unelected and unchecked, and so there are no "bums" to vote out when the Wizarding world is unhappy with the way things are being run. In fact, the Minister of Magic, the highest executive position, is an appointed one. It is unclear who does the appointing. By contrast, in the US the national debt and tax reform appear to be a driving force in the upcoming presidential election, with news sources in a frenzy over which party has the more popular plan.

Speaking of news sources, we Muggles also have a leg-up on the wizards in that we have a free press. In the Wizarding world, it is very clear that the Ministry of Magic often censors the Daily Prophet.

As an interesting aside, one of the only things that wizards are not allowed to create out of thin air is money, as it is one of five exceptions to Gamp's Law of Elemental Transfiguration. While our Muggle government has that ability, I would advise against using any of that black magic in efforts to minimize the debt.

Here's the take-away: We have all the tools we need to fix the budget problem. We have the Principles of Sound Tax Policy, a (comparatively) responsive government, and a populace that is willing to make the tough calls required to get the job done. There is no reason not to see substantial, sound reform.

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