C. Northcote Parkinson discovered his famous laws by studying the evolution of the british government on the long-term.
It has thus been possible to establish that about 200 years, and the number of colonies of Great Britain declined, the more he needed bureaucrats to administer them. The Colonial Office has achieved its workforce, the more important the day of the destruction of the last british colonies. And nobody has lost his job.
All of its bureaucrats have simply been transferred to the Foreign & Commonwealth Office.
Student of the british navy through the centuries Parkinson has found that while the number of vessels in the fleet of His Majesty declined, the number of civil servants of the Admiralty increased. Parkinson’s has even predicted that one day the british Navy has more admirals than ships!
I have read the book of Parkinson’s when I was a parliamentary correspondent in Ottawa there are a total of thirty years. It reminded me of the album of Tintin “The broken Ear”, in which Hergé depicts the San Theodoros, a fictional country in Latin America whose army has more colonels than corporals. It was an allusion to the old cliché that circulated on the mexican army whose numbers would have understood 3487 colonels and only 27 corporals.
It had given me the idea to check the numbers of the canadian army. Don’t worry. It included a lot more corporal than of the colonels. But I still discovered something pretty hilarious about it. At the time, she had more general officers (132) of tanks (116)!
The Royal Navy, which once ruled the seas, is today a shadow of what it once was. Since the Falklands war of 1982, the number of her ships of war has declined by nearly 75%. In 2020, it claims to align 89 ships of war, but in reality, it has only 27 (six destroyers, 13 frigates, 7 submarines and an aircraft carrier) which can be considered as real ships of the first line. That is to say, able to fight and survive in a battle with an enemy sophisticated. And so it has more admirals than actual ships of war…
This is the case since 2008, when the prophecy of Parkinson’s is made. Several british media had, at the time, pointed out. The English press is returned to the question in 2019 noting that his prediction will be verified always. This has probably prompted the Royal Navy to announce recently that it was planning to reduce the number of admirals of the four.
And in Canada, the situation has improved since the late 80’s?
Not really. The number of tanks has decreased considerably. There are now more than 80 tanks in the canadian armed forces. But, between 2003 and 2018, the number of generals and admirals has increased by 60%! Dozens of generals and admirals have been added to the workforce.
Canada deploys a good number of as liaison officers with bureaucracies, the military of friendly countries and international (NATO, UN, etc).
Back in Quebec in closing, I would not be surprised if another of the famous laws of professor Parkinson also applied to all our bureaucracies: the number of civil servants of an administration naturally increases of 2% per year, even if there is no more work to be done.
In a comment to my previous blog post on the issue, François Ricard makes an observation that deserves to be meditated upon. He wondered if one of the oldest human institutions should not inspire our potential future reforms of the bureaucratic. The organizational chart of the catholic Church, an institution nearly two thousand years with 1 billion 250 million of the faithful, to serve, and it includes only 4 levels of decision-making: the parish priests, bishops, archbishops and the Pope. He notes that the cardinals, often honorary, are only advisers of the Pope. But, it should be stressed, the Church is of divine inspiration!