Harry Potter and the Alienated Labour

Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows I have a comment on a point of libertarian theory in connection with the new Harry Potter book, but it is a SPOILER, so I’ve placed it in the comments section.

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0 Responses to Harry Potter and the Alienated Labour

  1. Administrator July 25, 2007 at 12:17 pm #

    BEWARE: SPOILERS for Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows below.

    One of the many interlacing themes of Deathly Hallows concerns a disagreement between wizards and goblins over the nature of property rights. Goblins regard the producer’s right to her product as to some degree inalienable; the producer can sell her product, but upon the buyer’s death, ownership reverts to the producer. Wizards, by contrast, regard sales as final, and permit ownership to pass by inheritance.

    The book portrays both sides of the dispute as sincerely held, and doesn’t choose sides between them. (One might think that Neville’s ability to summon Godric’s sword from the Sorting Hat after Griphook had taken possession shows that the wizards’ position must be correct. It shows no such thing. All that it means is that the spell that Godric placed on his sword is still working; it tells us nothing about whether Godric was within his rights to cast such a spell.)

    I’m reminded of similar disputes about principles of just acquisition and transfer in the real world, e.g., the conflict between Lockean and mutualist theories of land ownership. A still closer parallel is with disputes over intellectual property, where (among those benighted souls who believe in it) there’s disagreement as to the extent to which the producer’s rights are alienable. I just thought it was interesting, and pleasing, that Rowling included this among the various sophisticated issues explored in the book.

  2. max July 25, 2007 at 5:05 pm #

    The only problem with this in the real world, that I see, is most products are not produced by one single person, but rather by a collective. And would you grant property rights to all the people involved in the process or to the “company” that produces them?
    This is even the start of the trouble, because what liability is on dangerous products, who will be held for trial?
    What would be the difference in contract?
    Who would own a house or even the ground it is built on?

  3. Anon2 July 25, 2007 at 11:43 pm #

    Who would own a house or even the ground it is built on?

    The PEOPLE will own the house and the ground and the streets! Oh, wait, guess that’s communism. 😉

  4. Sheldon Richman July 26, 2007 at 5:59 am #

    I’ll have run that by my wife and son, since I haven’t read the books. 🙂

  5. Black Bloke July 26, 2007 at 7:15 am #

    I’d also note that the goblin idea of the true possession of labor products was described by Griphook as a collective idea. Godric Gryffindor’s sword didn’t just belong to any particular goblin craftsman, it belonged to the collective known as the goblins.

    Rowling said without saying what brought such disparate groups as goblins, wizards, muggles, elves, etc. together in relative harmony was not some act of the ministry, or some universal loyalty to government, but trade. The individualistic wizards were able to partner with the collectivist goblins with gold and the service of money creation.

    I have to organize my thoughts on the economic ideas of the books one of these days, only then will I be able to write competently.

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