There seem to be several instances in the books where the judgments of the MoM seem questionable.

  • The execution of Buckbeak
  • Harry's trial for underage magic
  • The show trials of the Death Eaters
  • Umbridge's appointment and methods at Hogwarts
  • The denial and cover-up of Voldemort's return for so long

Are there actually element's of corruption in the ministry? Had it secretly been under the influence of you-know-who for some time? Is this simply meant to imply well meaning incompetency?

  • I can't think of any specific incident that would suggest Death Eater influence, though I'd suggest making this question more specifically about Death Eaters. As it is, this question is a little broad, but a question about specific Death Eater subterfuge would be interesting, especially if you have a few cases to back up the idea.
    – Zibbobz
    Apr 22 '14 at 14:59
  • 1
    What's "The show trials of the Death Eaters"? I can't remember well
    – Voldemort
    Apr 22 '14 at 15:02
  • @Voldemort I was referring to the apparently public trials of V's assistants following his downfall. They always seemed to me to be very public and showy
    – Liath
    Apr 22 '14 at 16:25
  • 1
    @Zibbobz technically, the execution of Buckbeak was under Death Eater influence. Lucious Malfoy precipitated the decision and Walden Macnair carried out the sentence (admittedly as part of his job). At the very least, Malfoy's influence over the Ministry and the Hogwarts Board of Governors stinks of cronyism and nepotism (amongst purebloods).
    – Dacio
    Apr 22 '14 at 16:34
  • 2
    You need to define corruption in this context. I think it's clear that the MoM is fairly vile from the start, but that doesn't automatically mean they were corrupt. (You can have an organization that's competent and professional that's also devoted to evil ends.) Apr 22 '14 at 18:51

It's hard to answer this, so I'll focus on the points you listed, except the third because I don't get it/remember.

The execution of Buckbeak

Buckbeak attacked Draco, and he told his father, Lucius, who happens to have great influence in the ministry (this may be a sign of corruption).

... BUT, if you think about it, Buckbeak did bite a young student (although it was Draco's fault). It is not unreasonable to tag the creature as dangerous. Execution may be a bit too extreme, though - however, this may be a sign of a super strict and firm ministry rather than a corrupted one.

Umbridge's appointment and methods at Hogwarts

Umbridge just followed the orders of the ministry, so technically she didn't do anything wrong. She's just ultra insane with an obsession for status - but technically she's not trying to crumble the system or support Voldemort.

The denial and cover-up of Voldemort's return for so long

This was done in a pitiful attempt to maintain Fudge's reputation - yeah, probably adds up to a corrupted system.

Harry's trial for underage magic

Umbridge sent the dementors. Her intention was revealed to be that she was doing her best to shut Harry up - remember that it was the ministry's prime objective to hide all information about Voldemort, so Umbridge just did her best to accomplish this objective (very extreme and insane however). She didn't do it to help Voldemort though.

First of all, the Ministry has had some Death Eaters infiltrated. And Lucius as well. This of course affects the way things work in the Ministry.

Then, it was obsessed with keeping its reputation (Fudge and Umbridge). It's up to you to judge if that makes them corrupt or not (probably yes since they endangered everyone by shutting up Dumbledore).

And finally, it has some insane high-ranking staff like Umbridge. But she's just crazy.

Conclusion? Comparably, it is a pretty standard government...

  • 12
    "Pretty standard government" is pretty corrupt, if you ask me. ;)
    – jpmc26
    Apr 22 '14 at 19:52
  • 12
    Umbridge just followed the orders of the ministry, so technically she didn't do anything wrong. Seriously? The Nuremberg Defense? Apr 22 '14 at 23:53
  • 1
    "It's up to you to judge if that makes them corrupt or not" ... really? Umbridge openly and vigorously persecuted the victims of Voldemort's pureblood-supremacist ideology. Apr 23 '14 at 0:10
  • 2
    "she's not trying to ... support Voldemort." "She didn't do it to help Voldemort though." So says Voldemort. :-)
    – Justin
    Apr 23 '14 at 2:45
  • 1
    She didn't do it to support Voldemort, she supported Voldemort because he let her do what she always wanted to -- put her heel down on Muggle-born, Mudbloods and subhuman filth. There's a reason that she's often considered a worse villain than Voldemort himself.
    – Shadur
    Apr 23 '14 at 11:25

This is actually covered fairly well in the books. I don’t know that I would go so far as to call it corrupt, but it is essentially a government office, so things will happen from time to time. But, specifically:

The execution of Buckbeak

There is no reason to suspect much corruption here. Technically, he attacked Draco, and was ordered to be put down. The same thing happens to us Muggles if a dog attacks a child. Sure, from the reader’s point of view it is unjust, because we know that Draco is exaggerating the claims to get his way, and his father has a lot of influence. But that doesn’t make it corrupt.

Harry’s trial for underage magic

This is a clear case of the Minister having it out for Harry. Harry at the time is very vocal that Voldemort has returned, and the ministry is trying to hide it. Not because it is corrupt, but because they refuse to believe it for various reasons.

The show trials of the Death Eaters

Not real sure what you mean here. I suspect it was the "trials" of suspected Death Eaters after the fall of Voldemort. In these instances, there often was just not enough proof. This also happens out of universe. Lots of hear-say, not a lot of actual proof. The justice system does what it can.

Umbridge’s appointment and methods at Hogwarts

This could probably be called corruption. It stems from the Minister’s personal vendettas.

The denial and cover-up of Voldemort’s return for so long

Again, the Ministry was afraid of what this might mean, and so they denied it out of necessity rather than corruption.

  • 4
    +1 We drew pretty much the same conclusions XD! Nice.
    – Voldemort
    Apr 22 '14 at 15:24

Government, or 'political', corruption occurs when an office-holder or other governmental employee acts in an official capacity for personal gain. (Wikipedia definition).

As such:

  • The execution of Buckbeak

    In and out of itself, not a sign of corruption as other answers noted. BUT... the fact that Malfoy was a money contributor and it was his son that was attacked, it MAY have been corruption.

    Unfortunately, we have no baseline to compare against (a beast attacking someone poor and being either ignored or put down by MoM) to be sure.

  • Harry's trial for underage magic

    This was clearly corruption by above definition. The "personal gain" was preventing Fudge's embarassment and preventing possible (in his opinion) competition from power by Dumbledore.

    To achieve that, he clearly abused the power of his office (full trial for underage magic; moving trial time to prevent witnesses/defence).

  • The show trials of the Death Eaters

    If you mean Stan Shunpike, that's questionable. There WAS an admitted confession from the person to being a DE; even if people familiar with him judged it to be empty boasts.

    If you mean post-first-fall-of-Voldemort; they weren't really "show" trials. No clear corruption there. Heck, witness Barty Crouch Jr.

  • Umbridge's appointment and methods at Hogwarts

    Same as Harry's trial. This was clearly done for Fudge's personal gain (prevent political power rise of Dumbledore as competitor).

    Never mind her using Dark artifacts and other methods ranging from unethical to illegal.

  • The denial and cover-up of Voldemort's return for so long

    Same as above. Voldemort's return would mean Fudge is gone and Dumbledore is in - everyone in Wizarding world would prefer it that way. Clear corruption.

  • Of course, the main example of what an average American would think as "corruption", namely money for political favors, wasn't even listed in the question directly: Malfoy's influence through money giving.

    "'What private business have they got together, anyway?'"
    'Gold, I expect,' said Mr. Weasley angrily. 'Malfoy's been giving generously to all sorts of things for years . . . gets him in with the right people . . . then he can ask favours . . . delay laws he doesn't want passed . . . oh, he's very well-connected, Lucius Malfoy.'

All in all, I agree with User who Must Not Be Named.

For all of her love of liberal politics and Big Government; J.K. Rowling managed to write as much of a Libertarian "any government is corrupt, even when it pretends to be benevolent" critique as one can wish for.

  • I'm not sure how you get "any government is corrupt" out of this, though -- just that the Ministry is. Granted, there isn't much said about the new Ministry established after Voldemort's final demise, but Harry apparently trusts it enough to work for it as an Auror.
    – Shadur
    Apr 23 '14 at 11:28
  • Also, "pretends to be benevolent" is practically a defining characteristic for corrupt governments in the first place. If they weren't corrupt they wouldn't have to pretend -- and contrary to bad fantasy stories, no government will ever outright admit "yeah, we're evil, but we're in charge so suck it up".
    – Shadur
    Apr 23 '14 at 11:30
  • @shadur ever heard of IVan the terriible? Apr 23 '14 at 11:46
  • Note that 'terrible' is an imperfect translation of the Russian word and not all connotations are negative. Judging by his history page on wikipedia he certainly seems to have been benevolent enough -- progressive reforms, self-rule on the provincial scale, introduction of the printing press... I'd have voted for him if there were elections in that day and age.
    – Shadur
    Apr 23 '14 at 14:55
  • @Shadur - (1) I know the connotations quite well since I actually speak fluent Russian :) ; (2) I wasn't referring to his designation, but to the fact that - while he didn't claim to be Evulz; his rule never tried to pretend to be warm and fuzzy and "for teh peeplz". It was as corrupt as ever in Russia; and unapologetically so. Ditto the Sun King. Apr 23 '14 at 15:08

The question might have been answered, but I have a clear example of corruption, involving Willy Widdershins, the guy responsible for the regurgitating toilets.

He stopped being prosecuted because he told Umbridge what Harry and the DA members discussed at Hog's Head.

“I have testimony from Willy Widdershins, Minerva, who happened to be in the bar at the time. He was heavily bandaged, it is true, but his hearing was quite unimpaired,” said Umbridge smugly. “He heard every word Potter said and hastened straight to the school to report to me —”

Then we have prof. McGonagall's reaction:

“Oh, so that’s why he wasn’t prosecuted for setting up all those regurgitating toilets!” said Professor McGonagall, raising her eyebrows. “What an interesting insight into our justice system!”

And also, we have Fortescue's reaction, who actually accuses the Ministry of corruption.

“Blatant corruption!” roared the portrait of the corpulent, rednosed wizard on the wall behind Dumbledore’s desk. “The Ministry did not cut deals with petty criminals in my day, no sir, they did not!”

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