In the Harry Potter series, the use of magic is regulated by "The Ministry of Magic". It seems that it is fashioned off any of the British ministries that regulate various industries and trades. However, I'm a bit confused at some of the liberties taken by the Ministry of Magic with magicians' ... liberties. The Ministry seems to overstep some common liberties when enforcing it's regulatory power. It's almost to say that though magic ability is an innate capacity of the magicians of the Harry Potter universe, they have no actual right to practice that magic as they see fit (with obvious exceptions of harm to others, etc.). It seems akin to me to say that I'd have no right to practice any other skill with which I may be innately attuned.
- Hagrid is banned from using magic because he was expelled from Hogwarts decades ago. Is this because magic is more like law or medicine, and you need proof of competency before you can legally practice, or is it because the ministry believes you do not have the right to use magic outside of their rules book?
- It's not just Hogwarts policy, but a policy of the Ministry of Magic that students of Hogwarts may not intentionally use magic outside of professorial supervision. This is similar to the issue with Hagrid. Does the Ministry believe you do not have an inherent right to use magic?
- It is not allowed to offer magical services to muggles, or enchant muggle items, or otherwise reveal the true nature of magic to any muggle. There's an entire economy being oppressed here with the only excuse being the safety of the magical community. Is that actually a legitimate concern?
- Azkaban is described as a rather horrid place, where the mere presence of your guards (Dementors), sucks any pleasantness from the place. Prisoners often go insane. The threat of such a prison is often a tandem operator to totalitarian regimes. It also seems to be the only magician's prison. Hagrid had to serve several months there in Chamber of Secrets for a benign offense, if I remember correctly, right there alongside the convicted Deatheaters.
- The Ministry seems to have no respect for privacy. They apparently are watching your every move, ready to pounce on you when you break their laws. More than once, Harry's transgressions were known immediately.
With the third example, I can understand an argument that magician safety is dependent on magic secrecy, but that's debatable. I also understand that out-of-universe, you need a reason why us muggle readers have never seen real magic, so I can suspend my disbelief on this point.
These elements combined leave me with a chilling feeling. Magicians don't live a particularly free life, at least not with regards to their use of magic. Does this assessment seem accurate, or am I missing something? Have other critics noticed this as well? Has J.K. Rowling commented or responded regarding this issue?
If I had to synthesize this question into a single sentence: Are magicians in the Harry Potter universe free to practice magic as they see fit, with the assumption that it is reasonable to prohibit harm against others?
I found Was the Ministry of Magic corrupt? for interesting examples of corruption, which is a staple of totalitarian governments.