Parkinson's Law

Bad: Military forces are essentially armed bureaucracies. 
Those who served in a developed country's military can hardly doubt its bureaucratic nature.

Worse: These armed bureaucracies are similar to disaster response bureaucracies; they wait and prepare almost all the time, with (hopefully) few most unpleasant tests. Their quality (performance) is largely unobservable to the taxpayer most of the time.

Even worse: These armed bureaucracies are similar to intelligence agencies; they can cover up their failures and low quality through secrecy, even hide some of their spending behind secrecy.

I called military forces 'bureaucracies'  in earlier posts as well. It's important to understand their nature. It's my assertion that only this allows voters/taxpayers to understand the military and treat it accordingly.

Today's topic is Parkinson's Law, which describes the tendency of bureaucracies to grow without justification, and even so if the demand or output shrinks. It's not really a law or theory, of course. It's descriptive of a common phenomenon. The original publication of Parkinson's Law was in 1955, so it's not news by a long shot. It's the same as with many other texts on Defence and Freedom: The publication date here doesn't really matter; the same text could have been published years earlier or later just as well.

I strongly advise to read the original article (source) of Parkinson's Law (a more comfortable version is here), which saves me the effort of summarising it comprehensively.

Two conclusions from the phenomenon come to my mind first and foremost:

Military forces require a strong and stern oversight as well as disciplinary action from legitimated outsiders (civilian leadership), and said outsiders need to understand the bureaucracy's tendencies.

Creative destruction (destroying at least parts of a bureaucracy once in a while) may be a vastly underappreciated policy recipe for military forces, ministries of defence and bureaucracies in general.


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