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Magic isn't common, though it isn't particularly rare. This form of magic is based very much upon the emotional state of the user, where essentially the potency and type of the magic is dependent on the kind and strength of the emotion being felt. (If you are interested in the finer details of the system, they can be found in this question.)

In this world, a particular kingdom has created a culture with a heavy stigma against those who can use magic. They are almost universally hated by the population, and the government takes steps to capture and control them. (The populous would help any efforts because of this general hatred.)

My question centers around this: how would they control them?

Ideally, there would be little to no chance of rebellion. A couple of thoughts came to my mind:

  1. A drug that serves two purposes, one being to induce a specific emotional state to facilitate more consistent and powerful magic, and the other to be extremely addictive so that they have to rely on the government to get their fix. This drug will make an appearance either way, but I'm not sure whether it will be a sufficient control on its own.
  2. Capturing their families and holding them hostage. This seems to me to be a heck of a lot of work, and the amount of magic-users would make the amount of people they have to keep quite cumbersome.

To sum up, what is the best way for a government to keep control of a fairly large number of magic-users without resorting to capturing those important to them?

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  • $\begingroup$ Seems to be a lot of mixing here, pulling in all the worst elements of kingdoms, authoritarianism, police states, and propaganda control. Seems like you're well down the Orwellian path, so the eventual conclusion will be enslavement of the magic-users, followed by extermination. You seem to basically be asking how to enslave (or whatever you want to call it) the magic users. No real tricks there - just an ongoing campaign of lies and scapegoating and taking away their civil rights. Been done many times before. $\endgroup$ – user535733 Oct 27 '17 at 4:07
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    $\begingroup$ Your second option there seems counter-productive. A magic based on the strength of their emotion - can you imagine what their emotional state will be like once their families have been captured and held hostage? $\endgroup$ – colmde Oct 27 '17 at 8:24
  • $\begingroup$ Plus if the type of magic they can use is based on the type of emotion they are feeling... $\endgroup$ – Graham Kemp Dec 11 '17 at 12:47
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The government has their own magic users

I know the people at large hate the magic users and the government might be even in power thanks to agreeing with this.

But governments and authorities can be a practical, and even hypocritical lot. Just as casinoes sometimes hire former cheats to try and spot cheating taking place on their premises, the government could hire their own loyal and powerful mages to keep down the other magic users.

Of course this leaves the problem of how to explain to the people why they are employing wizards while at the same time trying to repress them. This is all about "spin" - i.e. propaganda. Governments are good at this sort of thing. This doesn't sound like the most democratic of governments so this shouldn't be too much of a problem.

But then how do they prevent their own mages from siding with the magic users they are trying to control? - A couple of options:

  • Appeal to their sense of patriotic loyalty
  • Pay them well.
  • Hire them from another country and so don't feel any ties to the magic users in this country.
  • Convince them they are protecting the magic users, either from their own powers (which are treated more like an unstable mental condition), or from the hating public - i.e. we have to keep an eye on them or they'll be attacked by the mobs.
  • Form an organisation who believes in their position, like the "Psi-Corps" in Babylon 5. Kind of similar to the point just above (protect by control), but also the realisation that there would be chaos from both the mages and the mundanes - in different ways - if mages were allowed loose. Magic is a dangerous power and so needs strict discipline. This also acts as a sort of ensurance - if you're a member, the chances of having fraudulent or exaggerated claims made against you by the public are greatly reduced.
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    $\begingroup$ One thing to add to this answer: maybe differentiate government-sponsored magic users from other users. For example, have the government claim that gov. users are priests who channel the divine energy of the state-sponsored religion, whereas rogue users channel demonic energy. This adds an extra layer that convinces the populace to participate in the control of their own volition (if they aid rogue users, they will go to hell, etc.). $\endgroup$ – barvobot Oct 27 '17 at 14:21
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Make them hate their magic themselves

In short, make them see their power as something terrifying, and need to be controlled somehow. Then, the government can come in and "help" these people control their magic.

Create "accidents", and blame it to them. Maybe inject them with a drug that destabilize their emotion. A magic user may go "ka-boom", and the rest of the magic user society is advised to take a tranquilizer pill to make crush their emotion.

This will be very effective if in the accident the user killed their loved ones. Just repeat, and offer the "cure".

This is actually what happened in X-Men, if I remember correctly, though the government didn't create the cure to manipulate the mutants.

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    $\begingroup$ Not sure if this will work: Compare it to the real world, where there was a similar situation with gay people. All it does is create an underground sub-culture who are pissed off with the authorities. Not the kind of thing you want made up of people with magic powers! $\endgroup$ – colmde Oct 27 '17 at 8:01
  • $\begingroup$ @colmde, there ain't "cure" for gay people, though... so it's understandable why gays are fighting - because most of the time other people can offer nothing but blame. In this answer cure is provided as an alternative. Still, there is no guarantee that every magic user will agree to receive such treatment. Using your "gay example", I'm not personally sure at all that homosexuals will build up queues to get straight-pills once they become available. Besides, unlike being gay, magic gives some certain power leverage over rest of the people which may be tempting enough for some to ignore risks. $\endgroup$ – user2851843 Oct 27 '17 at 10:33
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Give them a job and their family safety - as long as the magic user submits to the government

Seriously. Just give them a job and promise them that they and their families are safe.

Your population hates magic users. That means your magic users will be prosecuted or at least discriminated. The same applies to their families. There is no need to hold anyone hostage, they are held hostage in the whole country.

But you can give them a job. Make them do the dirty work your normal people don't want to do for example. And thereby grant them and their family special rights. Make it a symbol of power to have for example a special emblem you can wear if someone in your family belongs to the parliaments magic users. If you are wearing this emblem/badge/... you get access to priority queues at the doctor, can buy things that normal people would need a license for like drugs or weapons, can send your children more easily to a preferred university, ...

Whatever is rare in your world can be gained by the family. As long as the magic user in question helps the government and submits to everything they ask from him.

And if your magic user runs away - you will require the family to wear a different badge. One that signals that the family member did something horrible and they will not only lose their privileges, they will get less access.

This is a way of luring them in and then indirectly holding everyone they know hostage. Easy to set up, not too costly and a great way to play with the emotions of your populace.

@ArtificialSoul: "normal people would protest, because the magic useres who are employed by the goverment are not only a protected class but also get privileges - even if they do dirty work"

I don't think they would protest. Everyone would want a magic user that is employed in their family. And they would fear having one in their family that is not employed. They fear and hate the magic users, but they are locked away somewhere, doing work nobody else wants. It's a perfect way to make the population give you all the magic users without the costs for the program being too high.

The magic users themselves are not a privileges class - their families who reported them are. The magic users themselves are priced beasts that are locked away as soon as they are detected.

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  • $\begingroup$ I like your idea, but you have to think about the implications of controlling all of the magic users in the goverment as 'respected' employees when the people despise these magic users. If they are granted privileges over the normal people they will protest over it. $\endgroup$ – ArtificialSoul Oct 27 '17 at 8:47
  • $\begingroup$ @ArtificialSoul You wouldn't protest if you knew that the family on your left is getting preferential treatment because their son is supposed to dispose of prisoners and go to war. Uncontrolled magic users are despised, but government controlled magic user with bad jobs that nobody wants to do will not be despised. "You do what nobody else can and wants to do and we protect your family as long as you do so." $\endgroup$ – Secespitus Oct 27 '17 at 9:00
  • $\begingroup$ i meant that the normal people would protest, because the magic useres who are emplyoed by the goverment are not only a protected class but also get privileges - even if they do dirty work. $\endgroup$ – ArtificialSoul Oct 27 '17 at 9:27
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    $\begingroup$ @ArtificialSoul I don't think they would protest. Everyone would want a magic user that is employed in their family. And they would fear having one in their family that is not employed. They fear and hate the magic users, but they are locked away somewhere, doing work nobody else wants. It's a perfect way to make the population give you all the magic users without the costs for the program being too high. The magic users themselves are not a privileges class - their families who reported them are. The magic users themselves are priced beasts that are locked away as soon as they are detected. $\endgroup$ – Secespitus Oct 27 '17 at 9:37
  • $\begingroup$ oh, sorry, i misunderstood your point of making the families report their magic users to the government. Now it makes sense, and i agree that might work. $\endgroup$ – ArtificialSoul Oct 27 '17 at 12:11
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"Control" in this case is a tricky word: does your government aim to simply monitor and track the activities of these people with magical abilities, or actually dictate what they do?

If it is the former, I imagine that a simple Registry of Magic Users would suffice: there seems to be little incentive for magic users to defy the system and it is unlikely that this level of supervision will meet with much resistance. The Registry could require every magic user to attend mandatory courses, stating what they are allowed/ not allowed to do, and also scheduled counselling sessions to ensure that their emotions are well-managed and thus not a trigger for random outbursts of magic. Of course, this does require some expenditure, and may not be supported by a public pre-disposed to hate magic users. Alternatively, this can be a "voluntary" process: google Black Ribboners from the Discworld Universe.

The latter would require rather more drastic measures, such as mandatory screening for magical ability at birth. If some technology exists that suppresses magical ability, perhaps some such device can be forcibly implanted in every infant detected to have ability, removable only upon pain of death. The government will be the only party able to temporarily unlock the device, allowing the wearer to use his/ her powers for as long as allowed by the government, and the device can be remotely re-activated when needed.

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Here's what won't work

  1. Using families as hostages; not everyone's got a family and for those that do, not everyone loves their family.
  2. Disinformation: you said this was one kingdom, so there are other nation states. Any lies or propaganda spread by your kingdoms govt about magic users would be quickly disproven by sources of news from other nations.
  3. Drugging them; you'd have to be 100% effective 100% of the time, it only takes one to slip through the net
  4. Using other magic users; you can't use the MUs to police themselves. All the "police" MUs will be on the other side of the baton one day, they'll need as much goodwill as possible from their neighbours and peers.

To be brutally honest, the only effective control I can think of is culling them when they're detected. Why would a government keep a lot of superpowered people around when they've got a big ole grudge to settle ? Unless the government has an active use for them in the here and now then killing them ASAP makes most sense.

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Bind their magic and enslave them with the promise of releasing it back to them once they have fulfilled their duty. Use the Ludovico technique and the butterfly technique to create dormant sleeper cells ready at any time. Impose martial law, awaken magic users to enforce it, and boom. This would be the most effective way for them to control the magic population, as well as benefit from them. A magic user would grow up their whole life feeling that void inside them, that integral part denied to them. They would know it was there, and then be promised to get it back once their duties are done. I don't think there would be a single one who would resist.

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