32

Before the Quidditch World Cup, Mr. Crouch Sr. says:

“Oh and I’ve been wanting a word with you too, Arthur,” said Mr. Crouch, his sharp eyes falling upon Mr. Weasley. “Ali Bashir’s on the warpath. He wants a word with you about your embargo on flying carpets.”

Mr. Weasley heaved a deep sigh.

“I sent him an owl about that just last week. If I’ve told him once I’ve told him a hundred times: Carpets are defined as a Muggle Ar­tifact by the Registry of Proscribed Charmable Objects, but will he listen?”

...

“Ali thinks there’s a niche in the market for a family vehicle,” said Mr. Crouch. “I remember my grandfather had an Axminster that could seat twelve — but that was before carpets were banned, of course.”

From this we can see that it was Arthur Weasley who banned carpets, because Crouch calls it "your embargo". That means this ban can not be older than Arthur, and in fact should be quite recent, as Arthur was not born into his position at the ministry. As Mr. Crouch says, he remembers that his grandfather had a (flying) carpet, he has seen it and probably was allowed to fly on it when he was younger.

On the other hand, flying brooms are obviously not banned, otherwise there would be no flying lessons and no Quidditch.

The reason Arthur gives is that they are Muggle Ar­tifacts. But so are brooms. While the original books don't mention anything about the origin of flying brooms, Quidditch Through the Ages says that brooms were chosen because they were Muggle Ar­tifacts.

If (wizards and witches) were to keep a means of flight in their houses, it would necessarily be something discreet, something easy to hide. The broomstick was ideal for this purpose; it required no explanation, no excuse if found by Muggles.

The same is true for a carpet, it requires no explanation, no excuse if found by Muggles.

So there is no factual reason to ban carpets but allow brooms.

One could argue cultural bias, but the fact that the ban is recent and carpets were used in England before the ban seems to invalidate that reasoning.

So why did Arthur ban carpets while he has no problem with brooms? He even created a loophole for flying cars, and nobody would deny that a car is a Muggle Ar­tifact.

Later we hear that

Ali Bashir was caught smuggling a consignment of flying carpets into the coun­try

If he is willing to take the risk, that means that there has to be some demand for carpets. They are not as popular as broom, but there is some demand, and they are certainly more convenient to use. What is the benefit that justifies to prohibit something a part of the population wants? Why would a charmed carpet be more dangerous than a charmed broom to Muggles?

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    It seems like the sort of thing that might get swept under the rug. – Nathan K. Jul 18 at 23:06
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    @NathanK.: THWACK. QuestionAuthority, the "your" in "your embargo" could just refer to "you people who work in England's Ministry of Magic" - there's no reason to think it refers specifically to Arthur. – Martha Jul 18 at 23:55
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    Broom Lobbyist have pulled the string so there is no competition in the whole kingdom of England. Now Carpet Lobbyist has to use muggle forum to influence England magical world. – xdtTransform Jul 19 at 8:50
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    Because arbitrariness is the norm in the wizarding law and government. E.g. why are exactly these three certain curses “unforgivable”? So it’s not surprising that this leads to despotism… – Holger Jul 19 at 9:51
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    Given that they originate in the Arabic countries, the ban may just be related to xenophobia that eventually culminated into Brexit. – Tomáš Zato Jul 19 at 13:09
43

It's probably down to culture.

Note Ludo Bagman's immediate scepticism to the idea that the carpet could supplant the broom.

“Well, they’ll never replace brooms in Britain, will they?” said Bagman.
(Goblet of Fire, Chapter 7, Bagman and Crouch).

Flying carpets aren't banned everywhere. They are legal in Asia. The only place that we know where they are definitively banned is Britain.

Why should the humble broom have become the one object legally allowed as a means of wizarding transport? Why did we in the West not adopt the carpet so beloved of our Eastern brethren?
(Quidditch Through the Ages, Chapter 1, The Evolution of the Flying Broomstick).

This quote also demonstrates that Britain has banned not only carpets but all forms of object-based transport other than brooms. Brooms are therefore the only object which one is "legally allowed" to use to travel with.

This suggests a strong cultural preference for brooms. In Britain the broom quickly took off (excuse the pun) in popularity. In Asia it was less popular and flying carpets were preferred (and therefore remained legal). Put it down to what wizards would put up with. Ban carpets and everyone apart from Ali Bashir has no problems. Ban the broom and there'd be uproar. Just look at the reaction when Dumbledore suggested suspending school Quidditch for a single year.

“It is also my painful duty to inform you that the Inter-House Quidditch Cup will not take place this year.”
What?” Harry gasped. He looked around at Fred and George, his fellow members of the Quidditch team. They were mouthing soundlessly at Dumbledore, apparently too appalled to speak.
(Goblet of Fire, Chapter 12, The Triwizard Tournament).

The way in which laws are written seems pretty haphazard and the democratic accountability fairly limited in the wizarding world. Nevertheless, Fudge was hounded from office so there clearly is some element of needing to keep the people happy. People in Britain loved brooms so they were the only form of object-based transport the Ministry didn't ban.

Why brooms were so much more popular than carpets from the early days isn't clear. However, there were qualities other than just being a Muggle object which was easy to hide. The advantage of the broom is hinted at just after the section of Quidditch Through the Ages quoted in the question.

If they were to keep a means of flight in their houses, it would necessarily be something discreet, something easy to hide. The broomstick was ideal for this purpose; it required no explanation, no excuse if found by Muggles, it was easily portable and inexpensive.
(Quidditch Through the Ages, Chapter 1, The Evolution of the Flying Broomstick).

Flying carpets may well be just as good as flying brooms in other respects but it's not difficult to see why they would be seen as bulkier and more expensive to produce than brooms. Parking your carpet indoors is cumbersome. Parking a broom certainly isn't. Everyone has a broom. Perhaps not every wizard had a carpet to charm.

As for the legislation, this is the only time that we hear about the Registry of Proscribed Charmable Objects in canon. The timing and the nature of the ban aren't revealed anywhere but you're likely overstating Arthur Weasley's involvement. Crouch most likely described the embargo as "your embargo" because the enforcement of this particular law is Mr Weasley's job. The embargo is just the enforcement of the law, and the law seems to be longstanding (given how ludicrous the idea of people giving up brooms is). So this was almost certainly not Mr Weasley's ban.

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    Good answer. One other plausible aspect is that a broom that winds up in Muggle hands by mistake (an estate sale, say) is more likely to be thrown away whereas a carpet would probably find its way to someone's home, increasing the risk of a violation of the Statute of Secrecy and/or Muggle injuries. I agree that it was unlikely to have been Mr. Weasley that put carpets on the Registry, though he may have introduced the embargo in order to enforce the existing rules. – Harry Johnston Jul 19 at 0:18
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    Regarding "easily portable and inexpensive", a good broom seems quite expensive. Even a medium broom seems beyond the capabilities of the teachers, else why keep the old training broom at school? And while a broom is portable, walking around with a broom is not common and will attract attention. – QuestionAuthority Jul 19 at 5:24
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    Adding to this great answer, it might be that, because of the broom-flying traditions in Britain, the government used this protectionist policy to save the struggling broom producing industry that otherwise couldn't compete with the more practical carpets (more loading space, more people, ...) from abroad. – Kakturus Jul 19 at 7:54
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    I don't think explaining why your old-looking broom has "Broomaster Pro 2000" in golden letters on its handle is that easy... – T. Sar Jul 19 at 13:20
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    @Kakturus Or, consider that Crouch says the "Axminster ... could seat twelve" - which you can't do on a Broom. The choices to transport your children are to take the Knight Bus, shuttle back-and-forth with side-along apparition, or to pay the Ministry for a Portkey or a Floo connection... And, as Fudge & Malfoy demonstrate in Order of the Phoenix: Politicians love money. – Chronocidal Jul 19 at 13:29
15

I think you are reading too much into Crouch's use of your embargo.

Arthur says he didn't allow Ali Bashir to import flying carpets because they are on the "Registry of Proscribed Charmable Objects". The "embargo" may be Arthur's rejection of this particular import request.

Flying carpets could have been added to the "Registry of Proscribed Charmable Objects" any time after Crouch's grandfather acquired the flying Axminster.

We should probably not rule out cultural bias just because flying carpets were once allowed. These things can come and go based on random influences.

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    Calling rejecting a single import request an embargo would be a bit of an exaggeration, but it is likely that Bashir made several requests and they were all rejected, if not by Arthur personally than by his staff on his instruction. At that point describing it as "your embargo" would be a perfectly normal, if slightly imprecise, use of English. – Harry Johnston Jul 19 at 0:22
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    @HarryJohnston I agree. It's also possible that Crouch was deliberately exaggerating for effect. – Blackwood Jul 19 at 0:51
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    That's possible, but we have this about the flying car: “Arthur Weasley, you made sure there was a loophole when you wrote that law!” shouted Mrs. Weasley. – QuestionAuthority Jul 19 at 5:29
9

London is crowded.

If people use brooms to go from point A to point B, when they arrive, they can toss their broom into a closet. If a muggle drops by unexpectedly, the extra broom in the closet would barely raise an eyebrow.

If people used carpets to go from point A to point B, when they arrive, what would they do with their carpet? Throw it on an empty spot of floor? Is there enough room? Roll it up into a closet? If the closet isn't large enough, that raises problems. If a muggle drops by unexpectedly, the extra carpet on the floor, or rolled up in a closet would be questioned. Especially if it was gone the next day, and a different in its place the day after.

Now, Britain is a much more than just London, but I could see them being banned throughout all of Britain just because the ministry wants them banned in London proper.

Britain is also very wet. Carpets are large, and may be awkward to roll up to get through doorways, so there may be a tendency to leave them outdoors, which is something a British muggle wouldn't do, again attracting notice.

6

It may be a matter of safety. Consider the stance usually shown when characters ride a broom in HP:

  • Because they straddle it, their legs at least partially surround the shaft of the broom at all times. This helps to secure them to the broom to some extent, even moreso if they keep their legs together.

  • They also (except in some situations while playing Quidditch) tend to keep a firm grasp on the broom handle at all times, with one or both hands. Again, this helps to secure them to the broom.

Now consider a flying carpet:

  • The rider simply sits atop the carpet. They could be thrown off by a gust of wind, or by not banking enough during a turn, or by accelerating or decelerating too quickly. The risk of these things would certainly be greater than on a broom. Enchantments of some sort could maybe help mitigate these issues, but there would still be little to nothing securing them to the carpet. I suppose they could lie prone and grasp the sides of the carpet, but that would still not be all that secure, and sounds rather uncomfortable.
  • Being a carpet, it would be quite easily be buffeted by wind; certainly moreso than a broom.
  • If the carpets were in any way flexible while in flight (unlikely, but possible) they would be even more dangerous. However, if they could be temporarily made flexible, they could potentially make for an excellent means of catching falling individuals.
  • Per one of my previous points, they would be limited to slower top speeds and be less maneuverable, lest their rider(s) be thrown or blown off. Their bulkiness could also lead to them getting stuck in some cases.

All in all, I'd say the ministry had plenty of reason to ban flying carpets, as the danger they pose to their riders, and potentially those around them, is simply too great.

I could see them being used as stationary floating platforms, however.

  • 8
    Try sitting on a round handrail, hold on with both hands if you want, and have someone push your shoulder. Good luck staying upright; your hands basically have zero leverage. The only reason they stay on the brooms is magic, so there's no reason that people can't stay on carpets by magic. – DavidW Jul 19 at 20:43
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    @DavidW To expand on that, if the legs are not straight but bent at the knees, as we see in the film, the center of gravity is above the broomstick, so good luck keeping your balance without any external influence (push, wind, or change of direction). – QuestionAuthority Jul 20 at 8:56
  • @DavidW It's not a round handrail, though; the Cushioning Charm on them makes it more like an invisible bicycle seat. – nick012000 Jul 20 at 9:35
  • @DavidW Do you have a reference for that? – user102803 Jul 20 at 11:50
  • Does any of this have in-universe basis? – David Richerby Jul 21 at 11:36
5

Of course there is no canon on this, but I think it is a safety issue - not riding safety, mind you, but NON-riding safety. Consider the case of a Muggle (e.g a police officer) entering a Wizard's home while the Wizard is absent. A broom may be safely stored in a closet, or even just leaned against the wall in an out-of-the-way corner, and there is virtually no chance of the broom being identified as a flying object by the Muggle (there being no motive to touch it). A carpet, however, is liable to be laid out on the floor (hiding in plain sight, while also ready to fly at a moment's notice); if the Muggle happens to step on it, the carpet might 'interpret' that action as intent to fly - oops! Statute of Secrecy violated! One could of course keep the carpet rolled up - but the Muggle might see it and wonder 'Why is a perfectly good carpet rolled up?', unroll it to see if something is hidden in it (a police officer, remember), and suddenly become airborne! Plainly a flying carpet is more of a risk, exposure-wise, than a flying broom.

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    Saying a rolled up carpet is suspicious is a huge stretch, I personally have one rolled up under the stairs at the moment. Also whilst a nice theory on the stepping on it and flying that doesn't seem likely to be the case so could you try and find some evidence that, that is how the flying carpets work and edit it in? – TheLethalCarrot Jul 19 at 13:00
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    "... unroll it to see if something is hidden in it (a police officer, remember), …" I'm struggling to remember why there might be a police officer hidden in a rolled up carpet - oh, never mind :) – alephzero Jul 19 at 18:46
  • I think all of these flying devices require a Wizard to fly. Otherwise, they would act as normal brooms and carpets – TimSparrow Jul 22 at 12:32
3

I had a very different feeling when reading these lines.

Trade wars

The only decisive difference between a flying carpet and magical broom is their origin. Carpets are manufactured somewhere in the Orient, the brooms are homeland product.

Banning the carpets does not provide more safety, more secrecy, or more utility to the populace.

(I know, the answers above state it differently, but, hey, they are wizards. There would be charms for any of the aforementioned problems, you could use transfiguration to make a carpet small enough and stow it away, etc. Basically, we do not have enough evidence from the books on presence or absence of utility or safety from either carpers or brooms, so we might assume, both can perform. Additionally, carpets are used in other countries and their users don't have the problems listed above.)

Banning the carpets is a typical protective move of the government to shield the homeland market from abroad manufacturers.

This decision is purely political. Hence, it does not have a logic: both carpets and brooms are "muggle artefacts;" both allow for flying. There was also some additional utility to carpets, but no one cares. Basically, the only relevant difference between brooms and carpets is the manufacturer.

It is actually a rather widespread explanation in non-English HP fanon, so it's not completely my own accord.

2

If you have a spell failure while flying a broom, you are a stranded pedestrian with a broom, or preferably an oddly shaped package. (Assuming that brooms, like cars, generally act progressively more flaky long before they completely conk out. It's really rare to have a car die on the highway without the driver having enough time to pull over to the side, for example.)

If you allow carpets for people, you are opening up the possibility of carpets for cargo, and a broken down cargo carpet is going to be much harder to handwave away.

(Completely absolutely non-canon, just trying to think of a good solid plausible excuse. Inspired by the much more workaday magic of Harry Turtledove's The House of Daniel, where a busload of protagonists passes a magician swearing at a broken-down cargo carpet, and there is a brief discussion of the economics of hiring a mage versus a truck.)

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    If you have a spell failure while flying anything above a height that is clearly visible from the ground, what happens after the landing is no longer your problem. And the remains of a person splashed on the ground will look suspicious, no matter what is near them. – QuestionAuthority Jul 20 at 8:48
  • @QuestionAuthority Wizards seem to be more resilient than muggles are. Witness Harry falling from a height that'd probably kill a muggle and walking away with just a broken arm (until an incompetent Defense professor Vanished his bones while trying to fix them). – nick012000 Jul 20 at 9:33
  • Catastrophic failures aren't as likely as hurried or emergency landings. – arp Jul 20 at 12:22
  • @QuestionAuthority edited to hopefully address your concerns. – arp Jul 21 at 2:45
0

Remember, the Ministry's goal is to ensure that magic remains hidden from Muggles. Brooms may have proven less conspicuous than carpets in Britain.

Edit: Arthur Weasley mentions, "Carpets are defined as a Muggle Artefact by the Registry of Proscribed Charmable Objects." It is apparent that the Ministry of Magic drew up a list (in 1992) of Muggle artefacts to which magic should not be applied. It may have been decided that limiting the number of different artefacts that could be magical would limit the Muggles' exposure to magic. Why brooms and not carpets? Since carpets are acceptable in other areas of the International Wizarding World, my hypothesis is that, in Britain, brooms were deemed to be less likely to be accidentally used for flying by a Muggle. European wizards' use of brooms in Quidditch, the apparent requirement of special training to use a broom for flying and the possibility of protectionism are also reasonable factors to consider.

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    Do you have any evidence that this was the case that you could edit in? – TheLethalCarrot Jul 19 at 22:43

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