If magic were to manifest in the modern (present) age, how would first world governments attempt to classify and regulate its usage? To be more specific (and an example), if the USA created a Department of Magical Affairs, what would the primary and secondary concerns of such an agency be?

Further clarification, let's assume that magic is a field of study that anyone can learn with proper research, time, and dedication, but innate talent will cause variations in the extent/limits of power.

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    $\begingroup$ I'd say it is too broad only because magic is not really defined - the range that magic can take in books (etc) is vast; so what governments would be concerned about would dependent on what magic there was. $\endgroup$ – Nick Wilde Sep 16 '14 at 21:27
  • $\begingroup$ you have to define how magic works before his can be answered, if how to videos on simple magic spells can be spread by youtube and the materials are not particularly rare then it is basically impossible to regulate. $\endgroup$ – John Mar 17 '17 at 10:29

If magic were to spontaneously manifest, I don't believe that the reaction of the US would be to create an entirely new Executive Department for dealing with it. Rather, the mandates of the existing Departments would likely expand - and organizations would be created within them to handle issues relating to it. There would also be a bit of internal politicking concerning who exactly has what operating authority in what areas to what extent.

The concerns of the Agency would also likely vary based on what the magical system is actually capable of, where it comes from, and who has access to it. This would also highly shift which organizations have the most operational authority in areas dealing with magic.

In the US, Defense is the 4th highest category of Federal Spending - with an extensive research and development arm and a very broad mandate the first response will likely come from the Department of Defense. Assessment and Categorizing of the potential threat and utility of the magic system would likely be the primary concern. The Military Departments and the Intelligence Community would most likely be the first to task.

Following the Military (in no particular order) the Department of Justice and the Department of Homeland Security. In these organizations exist the US Secret Service, as well as the FBI and ATF. These three organizations have historically expanded their mandates - and would be likely to take in handling issues of illicit magic use. My money would be on the Secret Service first - their position previously in the Department of Treasury and now in Homeland Security allows them to act really quickly, eventually I think the tasks would be phased into other departments where relevant.

This would be the quickest way that a response to magic could happen within the US system. Sometime after the initial manifestation the Department of Magical Affairs would likely be formed, to take over the new excess tasks of new organizations - as well as various others.

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    $\begingroup$ it would be much funnier if due to some old laws on the books that the regulation of magic falls under one of the lesser Departments such as Department for the Interior, EPA, Department for Indian Affairs TSA, etc. $\endgroup$ – Robert Ben Parkinson Oct 2 '16 at 5:01

This is a rather more complicated subject than the question would make it. There's an old saying about how there are two things you would not want to see the making of: sausage and legislation. This issue is further clouded by the unique political landscape of the US, in as far as there are quite a few people who dead set against the use of magic in any form. So there is really no practical way to judge what language the chartering legislation of such an agency might contain, and thus, what it's concerns would be.

However, I don't think it too difficult to judge what the concerns of such an agency should be.

First and foremost, it would need to take a look at how magic, in whatever form it manifested, would affect the enforcement of existing law - and most urgently and especially laws regarding violent crimes such as murder. Considering the depth and breadth of federal, state, and local laws, this would require considerable resources as well as inter-agency cooperation.

The second most important area, from a regulatory perspective, would be the effect on commerce. This would include things like licensing, workplace safety, and environmental impact. This aspect is also far reaching and would require considerable resources and more inter-agency cooperation.


Probably the primary concerns would be that people did not use magic for illicit purposes (putting curses on people, etc.). A secondary concern might be something like encouraging education about magic, or if magic is an inborn rather than learned ability, seeking out and identifying magic-users. It would probably issue magic licenses to those who could pass a basic competency test, and fine those who used magic in certain ways without having a license.


Government is about control, their goal would generally be to control the magic. Whether through licensing it, through pulling it into their own programs, or something else. You can expect that military and law enforcement in particular will be very interested in both harnessing and controlling it.

It can be interesting to see how a lot of established franchises have looked at this problem. For example X-Men, The Psi-core from Babylon 5, TV shows like Alphas and the film "To Cast a Deadly Spell" have all looked at this problem from different angles. Even where you don't agree with their conclusions it can be very interesting to analyze how they reached them.

You can also draw a lot of parallels with the advance of technology, after all "sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic" - Arthur C. Clarke - so you can look at how government reacts to new technologies and then scale that depending on how dramatic the magic will be in this world you are building.


I imagine it would be much the same as learning how to pick a lock or jimmy a car window. The nature of crimes wouldn't be much altered, but the methods involved would, of course. Regulation and control would be done in much the same manner as we see for a variety of skills with criminal applications, such as restricting access to learning materials except through registered practitioners; having trained police personnel, both mundane and magical, to handle the new investigative procedures required to trace such acts back to their perpetrators; and trusting in the natural laziness/good nature of the average citizen. Just as we don't go around stabbing people just because we can, the number of offences committed with magic would be limited by the number of criminally inclined citizens, and if they're committing magical crime, they aren't utilising the various other methods available to them.

As far as classification goes, it would depend on how you can modify your magical output. If the same training or spell makes you into a first-rate baker -and- a first-rate spree killer, then what's to classify? If spells are limited in scope and/or power, you can find a scale, and classify it like anything else. Spells could be classified by purpose and power, and sold at a price dependant on either its perceived value, or regulated by government (such as the agency you propose).


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