Industrial Insight

Cut spending…. | March 29, 2011

March 29, 2011

What Parkinson’s Law Says About Federal Spending

By John Tamny

Parkinson’s Law. While analyzing British naval history, author and scholar C. Northcote Parkinson revealed as false the widely held view embraced by politicians and taxpayers that the need for more civil servants will reveal itself through a growing volume of work completed. The truth is something quite different.

As Parkinson observed, “the number of the officials and the quantity of the work are not related to each other at all.” In his case, Parkinson witnessed the non-relationship up close through studies of the Royal Navy’s bureaucracy.

While the Royal Navy could in 1914 claim 146,000 officers and men served by 3,249 dockyard officials and clerks, plus 57,000 dockyard workmen, by 1928 there were only 100,000 officers and men, yet the number of dockyard officials and clerks had risen to 4,558. This, despite the fact that the number of British warships had declined from 62 to 20.

Parkinson went on to point that over the same period, the number of Admiralty officials had risen from 2,000 to 3,569. The British Navy had shrunk by 1/3rd in terms of men, and 2/3rds in terms of ships, thus forcing Parkinson to conclude that the growth in the number of workers for the Royal Navy “was unrelated to any possible increase in their work.”


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About author

I'm the executive vice president for a steel casting trade association, the Steel Founders' Society of America. I've got a crazy wife, five crazy children, three crazy people that married into the family, and two crazy fun little grandsons.







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