OK everyone, important moral questions here! Set your trifling trolley tracks and trickery to one side! IF you were set under the Sorting Hat in Hogwart’s Academy for Witchcraft and Wizardry, would you be a Hufflepuff, a Slytherin, a Ravenclaw, or a Gryffindor? Now, it’s important to remember that the books are all about a bunch of Gryffindors who save
the world a British boarding school from evil. And that Ms. Rowling, though awesome in many many ways, suffers from world-building problems in others (she is free to tell me my 7-book series, which unites all the children of the world in the love of reading, is conceptually flawed as well.)
There are larger problems, such as the eensy-weensy “er, not to Godwin your whole series, and I know your evil wizard from the 30s backstory was going there, but, um, why aren’t wizards ruling the world, with Voldemort having a continental empire, full of Muggles whom he has shuffling off, of their own accord, under the imperius curse, quite horribly with no need for guards or jailers or even wizards to construct the camps…?” Naturally in a book for children one would put it more, “why aren’t wizards trying with a bit more of a ‘can-do spirit’ to take over the world, I wonder?” Setting that aside, within Hogwart’s itself: we get Cedric Diggory to remember, and he’s super-hot and everything in a pale, unhealthy way, but otherwise, Draco Malfoy’s initial pronouncement that he’d rather not be in the school at all than be a Hufflepuff is not really gainsaid, leaving you with the impression that they are a bunch of morons. Not so! The eventual TOTAL FAIL fanfic Harry Potter and the Methods of Rationality, while written in some wiki fashion by libertarians, or possibly by the character Randy in Stephenson’s Cryptonomicon (which some of you may have heard of from Stephenson-quoter-kun) has some very good features (I realize it does not sound at all plausible when I have laid it out like that but it really does have its moments). Fine, technically it’s written by the Less Wrong people. Waaaay different.
In any case, this is their rubric (I am quoting all this from memory, obviously, as I think Draco may aver he prefers death to Hufflepuff, but—) clever kids in Ravenclaw, evil kids in Slytherin, wannabe heroes in Gryffindor, and everyone who does the actual work in Hufflepuff. This is right, in re: Hufflepuff. And Neville Longbottom should be a Hufflepuff for this reason. Not because he’s stupid, or isn’t brave! That’s not true! He is brave, and if he has trouble learning at first because he’s anxious, he comes out a fine wizard! But he does what he knows to be right, all the time, and he supports his friends with all the power he has at any time, and when those two things conflict he thinks of what’s right for the other students, and the school, and not just Harry and Ron, who want to go have a thrilling adventure under the invisibility cloak, failing ever to consider that Harry is basically a sitting duck, in a pot, with a bay leaf, and probably some leeks are in there, to any Death-Eater of any stripe lurking around in one of the 200 forbidden areas they enter.
This brief statement still gets something wrong that the book seems at least to consider before going off the rails. Something so obvious it’s silly. Even stipulating they are all evil, (which they are not) some of the Slytherins are smart enough to be on the side of right out of pure self-interest, in case the side of right should win. Which, OBVIOUSLY! A good one-third of them should have made just this calculation! Unless we are to think that (as HPMOR stipulates) only “pureblood” wizards have been going to Slytherin, and its enrollment has been dropping precipitously (and this would be an excellent place to teach Draco, and your child, about Mendelian genetics BTW). In this case, if all the families are very closely intertwined, there is the possibility for massive, disproportionate retribution against others as well as yourself. But you’re a Slytherin—perhaps you don’t care! Or, you should at the least make an arrangement for a last-minute side-switch, keeping one valuable piece of Death-Eater information in reserve, in order to show up with it when it is juust clear they are doomed, and claim to have been on the side of right all along, working as a mole, hmm? But separately, we know from our experience with characters in the book that people with essentially good natures can be sorted into Slytherin. A talented, brave, ambitious, good child may get sent there, and then there’s no reason why he should become a Death-Eater by his O.W.L.s, is there?
Ravenclaw is for book-studying smarty-pants types even in the Rowling. And Hermione isn’t here because…? She’s too brave to be anything but a Gryffindor? Do all the other three branches of the school just suck? That seems like bad organization.
John: Ravenclaw duh
Zoe: Ravenclaw duh, but with extra duh
Violet: Hufflepuff! (Asked why she chose this (she having had the books read to her and seen some of the movies) she said, “I like helping people and making friends. Like how me and Man Xin like to stay after class to sweep the classroom!” She’s just as smart as her sister, it’s only that she has an extraordinarily bubbly, cheerful, friendly, silly, happy personality. May it remain ever so. When I see that great broad brow wrinkle even slightly at its lower edge with unhappiness I want to fix everything broken in the world.)
Belle: Slytherin FTW OH YEAH!1
To be fair, this isn’t entirely my fault. I had a difficult home life! My family’s been Slytherins for like ever. And why am I a Slytherin? It’s because I suffer from a failure of morality in which I privilege in-group members and tell everyone else in the world to fuck off. I recognize this is bad. It doesn’t make me cheat on my taxes or anything, because I support robust social services and see the need to pay for them. If I see you, in front of me, on the street, having a problem, I absolutely will help you. You’ll be right there! If I know you, and you’re having a serious problem, I will loan you money (don’t y’all all hit me up for money now, that would be tasteless). This is not always good though, not even if you say ‘dude, I’m just giving you that money’ at the start. People still can’t be friends with you sometimes. Often. Even if you make them promise! If you say, ‘look motherfucker, I’m giving you $1,000, and you don’t have to pay me back, but you do have to look me in the eye ever again.’ No. On a more problematic in-group morality note, if you were a beloved family member, truly within the magic circle, and through some really unfortunate series of events that was not entirely your fault, you needed help hiding a body…and it wasn’t your wife or anything (unless I hated your wife), and you hadn’t, like, killed a drifter for thrills or something. Most people would say, I wouldn’t even consider doing that for a second. I would say, I’d feel like I was pretty much obligated to do that. I’d be thinking, is there anyway I could say no to this and still feel OK. Sure I say this now but I’d feel different if there were an actual dead person yes, sure. But laws in principle? Again, I’m not trying to get anyone killed, and I certainly don’t even jaywalk in Singapore, because there are CCTV cameras on the streetlight poles. But, like—normal people say they think US laws that criminalize possession of small amounts of drugs are idiotic, but when they hear of someone getting caught with 20K of marijuana on the I-95 North they’re like, well, fuck that guy. No! It depends who that guy is! Maybe not fuck that guy! Maybe, rather, he should have done this and that beforehand, and you should always get off the highway in that part of North Carolina, and it was just shitty luck, and fuck the police? Also, separately, people can buy their way out of reasonably serious crimes as a minor in America if they’re white. Hm. OK, quite serious crimes depending on how one looks at things. This is not me, mind. Hmm. Even if a person is of age, but just presents themselves very well, and has had the foresight to be white and have money and have influential relatives, they can get out of things like that also. Even if it is simply a case of the no-getting-arrested in the first place (so crucial to further positive outcomes in the justice system.) I bet you guys knew that already. Is that bad? In principle it’s manifestly, horribly unjust. In practice, though, it’s like dancing to God’s own sweet music, I will tell you that.