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U.S. Government II Parkinson's Law - From the archive The...

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From the archive –The EconomistParkinson's LawThe report of the Royal Commission on theCivil Service was published on Thursdayafternoon. Time has not permitted anycomment in this week's issue of TheEconomist on the contents of the Report. Butthe startling discovery enunciated by acorrespondent in the following article iscertainly relevant to what should have beenin it.Nov 19th 1955IT is a commonplace observation that work expands so as to fill the time available for itscompletion. Thus, an elderly lady of leisure can spend the entire day in writing and despatching apostcard to her niece at Bognor Regis. An hour will be spent in finding the postcard, another inhunting for spectacles, half-an-hour in a search for the address, an hour and a quarter incomposition, and twenty minutes in deciding whether or not to take an umbrella when going tothe pillar-box in the next street. The total effort which would occupy a busy man for threeminutes all told may in this fashion leave another person prostrate after a day of doubt, anxietyand toil.Granted that work (and especially paper work) is thus elastic in its demands on time, it ismanifest that there need be little or no relationship between the work to be done and the size ofthe staff to which it may be assigned. Before the discovery of a new scientific law—herewithpresented to the public for the first time, and to be called Parkinson's Law*—there has, however,been insufficient recognition of the implications of this fact in the field of public administration.Politicians and taxpayers have assumed (with occasional phases of doubt) that a rising total inthe number of civil servants must reflect a growing volume of work to be done. Cynics, inquestioning this belief, have imagined that the multiplication of officials must have left some ofthem idle or all of them able to work for shorter hours. But this is a matter in which faith anddoubt seem equally misplaced. The fact is that the number of the officials and the quantity of thework to be done are not related to each other at all. The rise in the total of those employed is
governed by Parkinson's Law, and would be much the same whether the volume of the workwere to increase, diminish or even disappear. The importance of Parkinson's Law lies in the factthat it is a law of growth based upon an analysis of the factors by which that growth is controlled.The validity of this recently discovered law must rest mainly on statistical proofs, which willfollow. Of more interest to the general reader is the explanation of the factors that underlie thegeneral tendency to which this law gives definition. Omitting technicalities (which arenumerous) we may distinguish, at the outset, two motive forces. They can be represented for thepresent purpose by two almost axiomatic statements, thus:Factor I.—An official wants to multiply subordinates, not rivals; andFactor II.—Officials make work for each other.

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Term
Fall
Professor
N/A
Tags
English, Law, Work, increase, Parkinson s Law, Admiralty staff increase, especially paper work

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