It is a beautiful idea where anyone regardless of his/her background could achieve great things via their own effort, magic on the other hand seems to destroy this ideology completely. Despite only less than 1% of the entire population could perform magic, their talent grants them unlimited riches and power. Initially an outcast centuries ago, these gifted staged a coup d'etat and to this day individual without the ability to manipulate magic is called a muggle and will never hold top position in the government. The wizards all agreed that meritocracy will enable the society to prosper, the problem is they wished to co-exist with the normal people amicably and my question is how can muggles be willing to work hard in a world filled with wizards? (All magic follows DnD style)


5 Answers 5


Copypaste the British Monarchy (ish):

Head of state: Arcmage - highest mage of all (aka the King / Queen) I offer to give him/her representative functuions, and also veto rights to outrule ruling of House of Mages or House of Muggles (see later). But such veto could be overvoted.

House of Mages: (aka House of Lords) I offer this to be say 81 seats, where Arcmage has one seat. All seats are voted by public, but only mages can run for a seat here. Otherwise give them about same rules as House of Muggles (see later)

  • Propose new laws (and vote about new laws)
  • Check laws voted by House of Muggles and have a right to outvote such law. But House of Muggles can overvote such decission

House of Muggles: (aka House of Commons) I offer 201 seats, where only muggles can run for a seat.

  • Propose new laws (and vote about new laws)
  • Check laws voted by House of Mages and have a right to outvote such law. But House of Muggles can overvote such decission
  • Prime Minister is always a muggle
  • Prime Minister selects a government, such government has to have at least 101 votes from House of Muggles (and only from them) to get approved. But generally, member of government can be "anyone"

The system

Arcmage should be academic/magical thing. The best mage of all mages should get such position

To pass a law - one of houses proposes a law and passes it by it having more than 50% votes. The other house either approves or dissaproves such law.

If law is disapproved, it is sent back to house of origin, where 2/3 have to vote it in order to pass it further. If not, such law is rejected.

If law is approved, it has to be officially signed by arcmage. If not, 2/3 of both houses combined can outrule such law and pass it.

General elections: Every 4 years, where whole House of Muggles is voted

House of Mages elections One third of country elects one third of House. A seat for a mage is for 6 years. Every 2 years there are elections for one third of House.

Obviously, the above are drafted proposals how the system might work. But I think its good basis to play with


Notice that in DnD mages does not have "unlimited riches and power", magic takes effort.

Since magic takes effort that leaves space for the muggles. The relevant theory is comparative advantage. In short if a wizard needs to work 1 minute to acomplish task A, and 2 minutes to acomplish task B - while a muggle needs to work 1 hour for either task - it will make economic sense for the wizard to hire muggles to do task B. DnD style magic is highly specialized so these comparative advantages will exist.

  • $\begingroup$ Exactly. Bear in mind that D&D wizards run out of spells pretty quickly, and if they are so badly outnumbered, there's not much they can do, unless they already are at a very high level. And even in that case, catch them when they have exhausted their spells, and they are an easy kill. $\endgroup$
    – o0'.
    Commented Sep 7, 2015 at 10:01
  • $\begingroup$ The muggles are probably not going to be idle, then, but they’re definitely not going to have a very high standard of living and will end up having to do everything the mages don’t want to, and only that. That’s not something it seems likely they’ll be happy with. $\endgroup$
    – Davislor
    Commented Sep 8, 2015 at 5:09
  • $\begingroup$ do you mean a muggle needs to work 1 min for either task or do you mean 1 hour? $\endgroup$
    – depperm
    Commented Sep 8, 2015 at 15:58
  • $\begingroup$ @depperm 1 hour. $\endgroup$
    – Taemyr
    Commented Sep 8, 2015 at 17:05
  • $\begingroup$ why would it make economic sense to hire a muggle to spend 1 hour on a task that you can do in 2 min? $\endgroup$
    – depperm
    Commented Sep 8, 2015 at 19:36

Merit is dependent on each activity. To merit political power, you must be gifted in the domain of political business, to merit high level military responsibilities you must be a good strategist, to merit great acknowledgement in science you must be a great researcher.

Basically, being a muggle only prevent you to earn great merit in the domain of magic.

Well, you could argue that magic could massively alter your capacities in any domain. But then you have to make the best duo "great wizard expands capacities of great X" (where X can be any kind of profession). Therefore, it would make perfect sense to judge the capacities of each person without magic to select them, and to select the best "enhancer" with a separate test. And you are just back were we started, with simply a new subclass of wizardry : "enhancement".

To have a problem building a meritocracy, you would have to add new rules on your magic system as "spells can only be cast on the caster/on a wizard".


TLDR: in theory a meritocracy should work regardless of mages since commoners are just as good at governing as mages and thus should have no trouble earning a right to govern. In practice things are more complicated, but these are due to human flaws which get in the way of meritocracy in general, not specifically about the presence of mages. However, all of this is moot because a system that prevents muggles from holding top office is not a meritocracy

Government has to do with ideas, planning, thought, and building of intelligent rules and budget. none of this has anything to do with magic. A muggle will be no worse at governing then a mage, because it doesn't take magic to do the work of politicians or governments! At most a mage may have an advantage in communicating information across great distances, but it's easy for a muggle to have a mage payed to help with those tasks.

I think your confusing "has lots of power" for "has merit in this particular job" when you talk about meritocracy". A muggle who can create a balanced fiscal policy is far more useful then a mage that can shoot lightning from his hand, summon magical animals to fight by his side, and summon food but still sucks at balancing the budget if your goal is to figure out a budget! A proper meritocracy will promote those with the ideas and vision to make the government work, which will be primarily smuggles because there are 99 times as many of them, so you have a much larger recruiting pool for which to find great candidates.

In fact looking back at Taemyr answer again. Considering that mages can do so many other important things I would imagine most of them would be called on to do the stuff they do better, rather then do the stuff their no better then muggles at. If you assume mages require time to train and master magic this means they have less free time to focus on learning how to govern then a muggle as well. Thus a purely rational meritocracy government would have very few mages in political office.

Which leads to the big problem, muggles are at least as good, if not comparatively advantaged, to hold top office. Any system which refuses to allow this is by definition not a meritocracy. Your mages make up 1% of your pool of people, thus 99% of the time a commoner exists that is better then a mage as a leader simply because there are so many more to chose from. Refusing to allow these commoners office will significantly lower your governmental fitness by guaranteeing less skilled individuals become leaders 99% of the time.

At this point the question sort of falls apart. I do not know how to answer the question any further, because your kind of asking me to prove two mutually exclusive ideas, I can't prove A && ~A.

So lets instead take your starting world, focus on the meritocracy part you stated, and extrapolate it out to something that may be close to what you imagined.

As I said in a perfectly rational world muggles will hold office the majority of the time, but humans are not perfectly rational beings, no matter how much I wish we were. Meritocracy are great in practice, but ultimately the people with power like to consolidate power, even if that means preventing those who would better utilize it have it. In real life you would have an issue with mages ending up in office because they have power (magic) and use it to consolidate other power (political) to the expense of the government at whole; rather or not they realize what their doing. However, this is a phenomenon that is hardly limited to magic users. Our own society would like to be a meritocracy, but the truth is those with money and the right connections (power in our world) continue to be elected to office over those who may have better talent for governance.

So what if the world is a meritocracy on paper, and does not explicitly refuse to allow muggles power. In the US every president has been christian, and up until recently every president was white; even though that is disproportionate to the number of minorities in our country. Perhaps something similar happens in your world. The government states that merit is allowed, but creates a culture where mages are seen as more capable leaders. There are many ways a government can be slanted to favor one side over the other, such as allowing mages to use their magic to send messages they use to complain but forbidding non mages from highering mages for the same thing, so that non mages can't advertise themselves easily. This would create a world that is supposedly a meritocracy but with mages in a position of power still. It is, however, a meriotocracy in name only.

The other option is to have a single position or two, your president or grand minister, that are obligated to mages without the rest having such standards. If you make your prime leader a mage you can still have a meritocracy system for every other position. In US terms your president is a mage, but your congress can be either.

This is closer to a meritocracy, because while you have a much much smaller pool of potential candidates to draw on when you only are picking one odds are you can get a candidate almost as good in the mage pool, owing to the bell curve nature of intellect and how little variance you get in the very top of the bell curve (if you pick 100 mensa candidates and choose one at random the difference between his IQ and his peers will be much less then the difference between picking 100 random folks at random and comparing one guys IQ to the rest). It's only once you start filling all offices with mages that you start to use up all the great-politicians-who-happen-to-also-be-mages and force yourself to resort to mages who are not good politicians but are still better then the even-worse mages.

With this system you would end up with your congress, your pull of candidates who are not mages, being almost exclusively non-mage. Not only would you expect 99% to be non-mage by default, but since your leader is a mage commoners would likely focus on voting non-mages even more to compensate for this obvious pro-mage bias.

At this point you have a check and balance between mage and non-mage by having one large pool of non mages vs one mage with extreme power. This system could work, just compare any modern government with one 'main' leader and one congressional body, and how their checks and balances work.

However, this system would create a very strong us-vs-them sentiment. Every time the congress and the leader argued it could be seen as an argument between mage and non-mage parties.

These are not foreign government either. It's not uncommon for the leader of a government to be from a different political party as the majority of it's congressional members, making decisions between the two be battles over two competing idioms with the each side complaining the other is getting in the way. In the end factions are an inevitability of government and impossible to get around.

However, the fact that you have laws explicitly forbidding a group of people from holding power is a cultural issue that will cause tension. It may not be enough for revolution, but it would always be a rally call, something the commoners were fighting to change. A system when the leader is almost always a mage because of culture and indirect effects, but the law does not explicitly forbide a non-mage, would work as well for mages without causing nearly as much tension between the two factions.

In either case you ultimately are not working with a meritocracy by definition. A true meritocracy would simply have rules requiring mages and non mages to be tweeted fairly, with a set of checks and balances to prevent one side from ever setting rules that clearly hinder the other, while allowing either side to rule if elected. The 'best' solution (that is realistic given human nature) would be two political parties, one emphasising mage and the rich rights and using magic (or technology and higher education) to solve all our problems, and one emphsising common laborer and the poor, and let them fight it out politically like every other polit


Difficult to have a plausible answer to this.

While muggles may be able to do many or even most tasks more economically than wizards, it is still possible and likely that the wizard caste holding much greater individual power (and whom are more or less unassailable by muggles armed with conventional weapons) would band together and live as rentiers, basically using the muggles as slaves/debt-serfs/servants.

Bear in mind that merely being limited in the array of battle magic that can be deployed does not mean that Wizards could not totally dominate through the usual channels of social hierarchies.

This is exactly the premise of Moorcocks Elric novels.

There would be wizard factions both in favour of and opposed to emancipation of muggles, much as there were factions for and against negro slavery.

However that is where the similarity of the situation ends since while there is no important difference between black and white humans, there is a qualitative and undeniable difference between muggles and wizards.

You could allow technology to advance such that muggles can compete using technology, however there is nothing to suggest that Wizards could not still dominate society, or that wizards would be any worse at developing and using technology than muggles.

Having wizards collectively decide to give up their innate powers as an act of altruism seems to go against human nature as we know it. However if you really want to go down this route I think what would happen would be this:

  • Pro-muggle emancipation faction of Wizards gains the upper hand and passes various laws unpopular with some Wizards
  • There is a wizard civil war. Many wizards and vast quantities of muggles die.
  • The pro-muggle wizards eventually win, mainly via the slight advantage gained by being able to deploy hundreds of thousands of muggle troops.
  • There then follows a multi-century epoch in which muggles gradually gain more rights, which slowly leads to more rapid technological development. This period is characterised by a more restrained approach to magic engendered via memories of the horrors of the wizard-war.
    • Once the cultural memories of the horrors of the wizard-war start to fade, things flair up again except now the opposing sides are equipped both with advanced magic and machine-guns.

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