summary of the first, second and third laws. The Essence of Mrs. Parkinson’s Law

Parkinson's laws: a summary

As you know, igno­rance of the laws does not exempt from respon­si­bil­i­ty, but study­ing them helps make life eas­i­er, pro­tects the busi­ness from unlaw­ful out­side inter­fer­ence, pro­tects the fam­i­ly from unnec­es­sary prob­lems, and helps save mon­ey.

More­over, we are talk­ing not only about those laws that are spelled out in the con­sti­tu­tion of a par­tic­u­lar state, or the laws of physics, which, if used skill­ful­ly, can also be use­ful in the econ­o­my. Today we will talk about Parkin­son’s laws.


First, let’s get to know their author. Cyril North­cote Parkin­son was born at the begin­ning of the last cen­tu­ry in an Eng­lish fam­i­ly. His par­ents were cre­ative peo­ple: his moth­er gave music lessons, his father was a painter. And their son in his youth became inter­est­ed in his­to­ry. He grad­u­at­ed from Cam­bridge Col­lege, first received a mas­ter’s degree, and then a Ph.D. No won­der that Cyril Parkin­son was a very obser­vant per­son, he trav­eled a lot. He shared his obser­va­tions with stu­dents at lec­tures both in his native Eng­land and abroad.

From 1950, for 8 years, he was a pro­fes­sor at the Uni­ver­si­ty of Malaya in Sin­ga­pore. At the same time, he pub­lished his laws, col­lect­ing them in a book, which he called “Parkin­son’s Laws”. How­ev­er, by this time, some of his coun­try­men had already man­aged to get acquaint­ed with the works of Parkin­son. Ini­tial­ly, the chap­ters of his future book were pub­lished in the British mag­a­zine The Econ­o­mist. And there they were pub­lished in a satir­i­cal col­umn.

A lit­tle time passed, and it became clear to every­one — this is not fun­ny just because it real­ly works.

Basic Laws

There was no more humor in Parkin­son’s laws than com­plete­ly seri­ous judg­ments on the top­ic of the for­ma­tion of bureau­cra­cies, the orga­ni­za­tion of a suc­cess­ful busi­ness, the cre­ation of a suc­cess­ful fam­i­ly. In the same place it was pos­si­ble to obtain rel­e­vant infor­ma­tion for every­one, name­ly: how to save on elec­tric­i­ty, how to over­pay tax­es to the state. As a result, by the mid­dle of the last cen­tu­ry, Parkin­son’s book became a real best­seller and still remains a ref­er­ence book not only for the heads of large com­pa­nies, high-rank­ing offi­cials, but also for some house­wives around the world.

In fact, the pro­fes­sor’s con­clu­sions are uni­ver­sal for any sec­tor of the econ­o­my and each social stra­tum of the pop­u­la­tion. In them, one can find argu­ments about the growth in the num­ber of man­agers and the answer to the ques­tion why pow­er and mon­ey lit­er­al­ly go into some­one’s hands, while oth­ers can­not suc­ceed in any way. To under­stand that the book of an Eng­lish­man is a work for all time, it is enough to famil­iar­ize your­self with its sum­ma­ry. Among oth­er things, the obser­vant Briton even cre­at­ed the retire­ment age law. On a top­ic that became rel­e­vant for Rus­sians in 2018, a sci­en­tist from Britain said that any work­er begins to lose his grip 3 years before reach­ing retire­ment age, no mat­ter what this age is. But let’s get acquaint­ed with the obser­va­tions that have become laws, in order.

The first

Cyril Parkin­son for­mu­lat­ed his first law as fol­lows: the vol­ume of any work will always increase in order to fill the time allot­ted for its imple­men­ta­tion. Oth­er­wise it sounds like this: work in any case will take all the time that is allo­cat­ed to it. For exam­ple, if a stu­dent knows that his term paper should be ready by Sep­tem­ber, then in 99% of cas­es out of 100 he will fin­ish it at best on August 31st. Although, if desired, I could do it much faster. But in the vast major­i­ty of cas­es, a per­son puts off until tomor­row what can be done today. The same applies to the con­duct of work.

Well, what work­er, know­ing that his task must be com­plet­ed by a cer­tain date, will rush to com­plete it, unless, of course, he is promised a big bonus for this, or his name is not Stakhanov. The same applies to offi­cials. But there the sit­u­a­tion devel­ops even more para­dox­i­cal­ly. Their num­ber is con­stant­ly grow­ing, accord­ing to Parkin­son’s obser­va­tions, at least 5% per year. And this is not because they have more work to do, it’s just that in the bureau­crat­ic appa­ra­tus they not only drag it to the last, but also try to shift part of it to some­one else.

In addi­tion, the Briton came to the con­clu­sion that almost all those in pow­er or who con­sid­er them­selves to be in pow­er cer­tain­ly want to expand the staff of their sub­or­di­nates. Agree, this is typ­i­cal not only for offi­cials from fog­gy Albion. Look at how our author­i­ties oper­ate.


Parkin­son’s sec­ond law speaks to our needs and abil­i­ties. Accord­ing to the obser­va­tion of the Eng­lish­man, the first nev­er go sep­a­rate­ly from the sec­ond. That is The more a per­son earns, the more he spends. Expens­es always rise as income increas­es. Hence the well-known pos­tu­late that there is nev­er too much mon­ey. And this applies not only to the per­son­al bud­get of every­one, but also to busi­ness plan­ning. The same rule applies to the state trea­sury. The high­er the stan­dard of liv­ing of the pop­u­la­tion in a par­tic­u­lar coun­try, the high­er the tax­es there.

Often they increase in con­nec­tion with the grow­ing needs of the author­i­ties. And this, we recall, was noticed even more than half a cen­tu­ry ago.


Parkin­son’s Third Law reminds us to say “stop” some­times. The Eng­lish­man, hav­ing stud­ied the expe­ri­ence of dif­fer­ent com­pa­nies, great ancient civ­i­liza­tions, final­ly came to the con­clu­sion that any devel­op­ment leads to com­pli­ca­tion and, as a result, “buries” what was cre­at­ed ear­li­er.

You need to under­stand that the lim­it to per­fec­tion, con­trary to pop­u­lar belief, still exists. A rose can­not be more red than it was brought out by a tal­ent­ed breed­er. And a horse can­not run faster than its capac­i­ty, even if it is led by the most excel­lent rid­er. Sim­i­lar­ly, a per­son, hav­ing cre­at­ed some­thing extra­or­di­nary, soon­er or lat­er must move on to cre­at­ing some­thing new, and not engage in con­stant improve­ment of some­thing that does not cause any com­plaints any­way. In gen­er­al, do not rub the rug to the holes.

The same goes for busi­ness. If your enter­prise has turned from a small cof­fee shop into a respectable restau­rant, do not try to turn it into a fash­ion­able hotel. Since the begin­ning of your busi­ness, you have great­ly increased wor­ries. Remem­ber how easy it was to man­age a team of 10 peo­ple, and how hard it is for you now.

And yet tax­es are con­stant­ly increas­ing, com­peti­tors are press­ing, inspec­tors have over­come. Is this not enough for you? Do not ruin your­self and your suc­cess­ful busi­ness.

Mrs Parkinson

It is not sur­pris­ing that such an out­stand­ing hus­band of his Father­land, and of the whole world, had a very out­stand­ing wife. She also con­tributed to Parkin­son’s human val­ue sys­tem. Her fem­i­nine gaze, of course, was more direct­ed towards house­hold chores. And this is what she came to the con­clu­sion: accord­ing to the law that Mrs. Parkin­son deduced, the warmth that comes from one of the fam­i­ly mem­bers through his impec­ca­ble house­keep­ing con­stant­ly grows and over­whelms him. And he can share it only with those who are more cold-blood­ed in this sense.

Other observations

In addi­tion to the above “basic” laws of Parkin­son, he is also cred­it­ed with oth­er less ambi­tious, in essence, but no less rel­e­vant for each per­son, again, regard­less of his social sta­tus, income lev­el, reli­gion, nation­al­i­ty, gen­der and age.

  • Delay Axiom. Accord­ing to it, there is no more reli­able and cun­ning form of refusal than a request to wait for the ful­fill­ment of some request or demand. You don’t want or can’t do some­thing, but you can’t say “no”, just say that you will do it a lit­tle lat­er. How many times has your young man put off going to the reg­istry office? He knows exact­ly how the delay axiom works.
  • law of a thou­sand. It says that any enter­prise or com­pa­ny whose staff has reached 1000 peo­ple no longer needs out­side help. You no longer need to invite a clean­ing com­pa­ny or free­lancers there. Such an orga­ni­za­tion becomes self-suf­fi­cient, it has every­thing and every­thing that is nec­es­sary for doing busi­ness.
  • tele­phone law. It appeared long before cel­lu­lar com­mu­ni­ca­tion became wide­spread and mobile hand­sets became not a lux­u­ry, but a means of com­mu­ni­ca­tion. So, Parkin­son’s phone law says: any tele­phone con­ver­sa­tion is the more effec­tive, the less time spent on it. Remem­ber this when you prove to your col­league that he is wrong for the hun­dredth time over the phone. Maybe it’s eas­i­er to sit down and dis­cuss every­thing, using illus­tra­tive exam­ples as evi­dence, rather than scream­ing into the phone?
  • The law of sci­en­tif­ic research. Accord­ing to this law, which ini­tial­ly seems to be aimed at a nar­row cir­cle of cit­i­zens, suc­cess­ful sci­en­tif­ic research is impos­si­ble with­out increased fund­ing, which, in turn, makes it impos­si­ble to con­tin­ue the study of any­thing indef­i­nite­ly. The cash flow will inevitably dry up. But does it only work in sci­en­tif­ic cir­cles? See Parkin­son’s third law above.
  • Law of infor­ma­tion. It is not about a per­son or orga­ni­za­tion, but about tech­nol­o­gy, which, how­ev­er, is already grad­u­al­ly becom­ing part of soci­ety, and in some cas­es, the fam­i­ly. If in the days of Parkin­son cars grad­u­al­ly flood­ed every­thing, now we are all sur­round­ed by cars with arti­fi­cial intel­li­gence. In some indus­tries, they have already replaced humans. So, accord­ing to the law of infor­ma­tion, an increase in its amount occurs in order to fill the entire mem­o­ry of the car­ri­er. And the need to increase the mem­o­ry of these same media requires the cre­ation of new ones.

And, as a result, the devel­op­ment of tech­nol­o­gy and the emer­gence of more and more advanced stor­age media. How long have you been ask­ing Alice, who lives in your phone, how are you and her doing?

Practical use

It must be remem­bered that the author of the above laws him­self was sure that every­thing he saw and record­ed was not as scary, sad and bad as it seems ini­tial­ly. He con­sid­ered the pur­pose of his research not to show human­i­ty in what “unbear­able” con­di­tions it exists, but to make it think and rise above these very laws.

It is no coin­ci­dence that Parkin­son expound­ed them in a play­ful, humor­ous form. That’s why smile and go through life not accord­ing to the above rules, but strict­ly con­trary to them.

For exam­ple, stop spend­ing every­thing you earn — you had enough some time ago and small­er amounts. Keep your needs under con­trol, even if your capa­bil­i­ties have begun to great­ly exceed them. Put the mon­ey you save on this into more ratio­nal needs.

Buy real estate, for exam­ple, and when your chil­dren grow up, you can imme­di­ate­ly pro­vide them with hous­ing, and not go to the bank for a loan, which, of course, will lead to even more expens­es.

In the mean­time, rent an “idle” apart­ment for rent. Spend the funds received on the pur­chase of a house on the beach. Next time you will not have to spend mon­ey on hotel accom­mo­da­tion dur­ing your vaca­tion, and the best par­adise for meet­ing grand­chil­dren in old age can hard­ly be imag­ined.

Do not delay pay­ing off debts and loans — the soon­er you rid your­self of this finan­cial depen­dence, the faster your busi­ness will go uphill. Make a “stash”. Some believe that it should be at least 20 per­cent of all income received. If you feel like this is too much, start putting aside a small­er por­tion of your earn­ings.

The finan­cial “airbag” will be thin­ner, the main thing — it will be. But sleep­ing with a pil­low is always more com­fort­able than with­out it.

It is up to every­one whether to fol­low the advice of the Eng­lish philoso­pher or not. By the way, after retir­ing for 33 years, he lived in a cozy place on one of the Chan­nel Islands. He wrote books, paint­ed pic­tures and sailed. It might still be worth fol­low­ing his advice. And then, most like­ly, finan­cial well-being, hap­pi­ness in fam­i­ly life and all oth­er ben­e­fits that you can only dream of as a sane and pur­pose­ful per­son await you.

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