Monday, August 24, 2009


the law according to parkinson, rodriquez, moore and bwendo
yesterday a newspaper story about filmmaker robert rodriqeuz reminded me of my continuing love for something called ‘parkinson’s law’. rodriquez’s mother had taught her son to get into multiple projects by citing her rule ‘if you want something done, give it to a busy man’. momma rodriquez’s law was a presumably unintentional update of parkinson’s first announced in
parkinson’s law, a 1955 tongue in cheek article written in the economist by one c. northcote parkinson.

'it is a commonplace observation that work expands so as to fill the time available for its completion. thus, an elderly lady of leisure can spend the entire day in writing and despatching a postcard to her niece at bognor regis. an hour will be spent in finding the postcard, another in hunting for spectacles, half-an-hour in a search for the address, an hour and a quarter in composition, and twenty minutes in deciding whether or not to take an umbrella when going to the pillar-box in the next street. the total effort which would occupy a busy man for three minutes all told may in this fashion leave another person prostrate after a day of doubt, anxiety and toil.’


in 1958 parkinson used the concept and name as the basis of a best-selling book which a wikipedia bio says ‘led him to be also considered as an important scholar within the field of public administration’.* the law itself maintained speed over the years and apparently developed a new following and even opposition in the computer/internet age.* a writer calling himself ‘lazy man’ applied parkinson to space/clutter and personal finance and has informed me the comparable term is ’lifestyle inflation’. are your resources swallowed up by parkinson's law?. he also came up with my lead picture.
a less sanguine author wrote wrote
debunking parkinson's law which seems to stem from a belief that parkinson had actually written a law. parkinson himself came up with a couple of logically similar sayings: ‘the man who is denied the opportunity of making decisions of importance begins to regard as important the decisions he is allowed to make.’ and something called the law of triviality.
in 1960 i began securing a liberal arts education in the guise of a freshman year at the wharton school of finance and commerce. in the class room of one of my dearest professors, richard rowan, i was first exposed to parkinson’s law and i repeated it at various times for the next 40+ celebrating both it’s meaning and applicability and the fact that it had been delivered as a ‘law’ with classic british humor.
a few years ago i discovered that i had been regularly misquoting the original law during one of the more interesting interactions i ever had with an oklahoma judge. i was in the blaine county courthouse in watonga, oklahoma, during a no court time. I was visiting with judge mark moore and somehow we got around to talking about parkinson’s law. we ended up doing a kind of google-off looking for the original statement of the law and i found out that i had substituted the word ‘allotted’ for parkinson’s ‘available’. judge moore and i both agreed at the time that there was a corollary of the law - a shorter time available for a task often results in its completion more efficiently. judge moore then incorporated the latter version of the law into a an inspirational judicial directive to lawyers moving a bit slowly - and, for better or worse, let parkinson and me share credit for the concept.
but i meander. i must exit because it seems i have followed bwendo’s blog and other writing law - the work of writing expands so as to exceed the time available for its completion

* parkinson continued a successful career in the area until his death in 1993. a couple of side notes suggesting other aspects of his life: 1]
the northcote parkinson fund, now called the train fund, sponsors a civil courage prize honoring very special people. a lyndon larouche backer claims larouche was the victim of a conspiracy involving parkinson, john train, and the fund and paints a politically bizarre picture of all three: john train and the bankers' secret government. 2] on the other hand a fan of his fiction tells us that parkinson wrote both naval historical fiction and his own take on p.g. wodehouse’s jeeves character: happy birthday, c. northcote parkinson



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2 Comments:

Blogger Lazy Man and Money said...

I don't believe I was debunking Parkinson's Law. I was simply trying to apply the same concept to personal finance - which I firmly believe is accurate. It's sometimes called "lifestyle inflation"

If you don't agree that Parkinson's Law is a law, I'd take it up with Wikipedia (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Parkinson%27s_Law) which I cited.

8/24/09, 10:27 AM  
Blogger Wally said...

as always I enjoy the read!

Hershel

11/21/09, 1:28 PM  

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