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Scarcity and Trade-Offs in Harry Potter

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Jenn Gresta



Scarcity and Trade-Offs in Harry Potter

 Scarcity is the essential term that the field of economics is based on. The concept of scarcity is often shown in the Harry Potter series. No matter what world someone lives in, magical or real, there are a set number of natural resources.

In Harry Potter And The Deathly Hallows J.K. Rowling states, “Your mother can’t produce food out of thin air,” said Hermione. “No one can. Food is the first of the five Principal Exceptions to Gamp’s Law of Elemental Transfiguration—” “Oh, speak English, can’t you?”...“It’s impossible to make good food out of nothing! You can summon it if you know where it is, you can transform it, you can increase the quantity if you’ve already got some —. (292- 293). As explained in the previous quote, food and other resources can be manipulated and changed into different forms. The essential point is that the basic form of the resource cannot just be made-up. When people know that resources are scare, it forces people to make a decision about what they’re willing to risk. Other resources aside from food may be scarce too. It’s also important to note that in the wizarding world their money system is made up of just keeping all their money in a vault.

In Rowling’s vision of the wizarding world, magic does not eliminate scarcity. While wizards are able to summon, charm, and transfigure objects, they are not able to create them out of thin air. Summoning is a form of a delivery service such that the wizard can call upon an object and the object flies towards the caller. Charming is a way of changing the properties of an item, for example charms can be used to make an object invisible or make it hover. Transfiguration allows wizards to turn one item into another. For example, wizards can transform glass into sand, a match into a needle, or a mouse into a goblet. While useful, most of the spells have restricted uses. It also needs to be noted that ability to cast spells is not innate but must be learned. Even though some wizards are more talented than others, all need to learn to control their magical skills and they all need years of training to master various sub-disciplines of the magical craft.

Spells are not unlike high-tech advances in the Muggle world. Arthur Weasley, the head of the Weasley family, often stresses this point. Arthur has a deep appreciation for the accomplishments of Muggles and their resourcefulness in dealing with scarcity without magic. All forms of Muggle transportation astonish him, to the point that he buys a Ford Anglia and enchants it to fly. Arthur is equally amazed by escalators. In his eyes, magic and technology play the same role: they are a way of dealing with scarcity; a way of creating a better life with scarce resources, which have unconventional uses. And while magic provides different solutions than technological innovations, the consequences of scarcity are the same in both worlds. Just as Muggles must face trade-offs, so do the Wizards.



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