Alarmed by a job application and a corresponding Facebook post (click here), I have recommended reading two books to those who are interested in learning about how governments or non-governmental organizations (NGOs) work:
- “Bureaucracy” (Ludwig v. Mises, 1944, free download here: https://mises.org/library/bureaucracy)
- “Parkinson’s Law and other Studies in Administration” (C. Northcote Parkinson, Raffles Professor of History, University of Malaya, 1957, click here)
“Bureaucracy” by Ludwig von Mises is a 130-page book. It explains the differences between profit management in the free market and bureaucracy in the state. The book is straightforward to read. Mises argues that the methods used in businesses to increase efficiency do not work for reforming the government. This is because the way they are funded is different. The book was first published in 1944.
The book looks at bureaucracy and its impact on society. It explains what bureaucracy is, the roles it plays, and its limits. This analysis includes both government and private businesses.
Mises describes what bureaucracy involves, its history, and its main features. He discusses two kinds of bureaucracy: in the government and in the private sector. He examines the challenges of bureaucratic management, especially in democratic systems, and compares it with political leadership. For bureaucracy in businesses, Mises discusses how it is similar to and different from government bureaucracy. He focuses on the effects of profit and market competition on bureaucracies in private companies.
Mises also explores how bureaucracy influences efficiency, innovation, and decision-making. He criticizes bureaucratic systems for being too rigid and focused on rules. This can prevent quick responses and flexibility.
He compares different bureaucratic systems in government. This includes a comparison between bureaucracies in totalitarian states and democratic governments. He discusses how these differences impact freedom and individual rights.
The final part of the book discusses changing and replacing traditional bureaucratic systems. Mises questions whether it is possible to reform bureaucracy and explores alternatives. He suggests ways to lessen the negative aspects of bureaucracy and emphasizes the importance of individual freedom and market processes.
Throughout the book, Mises, an Austrian economist with libertarian views, argues that bureaucracy is necessary but naturally less efficient than private businesses. This is because it lacks the drive for profit and does not receive market feedback. He recommends reducing government roles and enhancing private market roles to improve efficiency and freedom.
“Parkinson’s Law and other Studies in Administration”
The book ‘Parkinson’s Law and Other Studies in Administration’ by C. Northcote Parkinson, was first published in 1957. It is famous for introducing Parkinson’s Law. This law says that work grows to fill the time available for finishing it. The book contains a series of essays that are mostly satirical and funny. They discuss different problems in management and administrative inefficiency.
The main idea of the book is Parkinson’s Law. Parkinson suggests that the amount of work increases to fill the time set for finishing it. This idea is often used to talk about how bureaucracies become inefficient and keep growing.
Parkinson also presents ‘The Law of Triviality’, also known as the Bike-Shedding Effect. This idea suggests that organizations focus too much on small, trivial matters. Parkinson illustrates this with an example where a committee spends more time talking about a bike shed than a nuclear reactor. This happens because small items are easier to understand.
The book includes a part about how bureaucracies resist change. It talks about the continued use of old practices and structures.
Another concept in the book is ‘The Rising Pyramid’. This refers to bureaucracies becoming top-heavy, with more managers than workers. Parkinson looks into how people’s personal goals and the environment they work in affect their behavior in a bureaucracy.
One essay I like is ‘The Will of the People’. It looks at democracy in administrative settings. It examines how decisions are made and the false idea that the public has control.
Parkinson also talks about how people are chosen for promotions or important roles. He criticizes the often unfair and biased methods used.
In the ‘Plans and Plants’ section, Parkinson humorously examines office and administrative building designs. He shows how these designs reflect and impact how the organization works. There is also a part called ‘High Finance, or the Point of Vanishing Interest’. Here, Parkinson makes fun of the complex financial management and budgeting in big organizations.
The book ends with a discussion on how personal characteristics affect work and the functioning of an organization.
Throughout the book, Parkinson uses humor and satire to highlight the problems and ridiculous aspects of bureaucratic systems. Although the book is humorous, its observations are still important in discussions about how organizations behave and are managed.
The books “Parkinson’s Law and Other Studies in Administration” by C. Northcote Parkinson and “Bureaucracy” by Ludwig von Mises are important in the fields of organizational studies and management. They both discuss bureaucracy, but in different ways and with different goals.
Parkinson’s book uses a funny and satirical style. It makes fun of how bureaucratic systems are inefficient and how work can grow unnecessarily. On the other hand, Ludwig von Mises’ “Bureaucracy” is more serious and theoretical. Mises, an economist and social philosopher, looks at bureaucracy from an economic and sociological angle. He criticizes how bureaucratic management is inefficient and rigid, especially in socialist governments.
“Parkinson’s Law” talks about how bureaucratic systems are often inefficient, how they tend to grow more than needed, and how they make important issues seem less important. Mises’ book, however, looks at the nature of bureaucratic management. He compares it negatively to management in private businesses driven by profit. He argues that bureaucracies, especially in socialist countries, are less efficient and adaptable than private sector businesses because they do not focus on profit and loss.
Parkinson’s goal is to both entertain and inform. His book is seen as a critique of bureaucratic practices, but it is written in a way that many people can enjoy and understand. In contrast, Mises’ goal is more focused on ideology and academics. He criticizes government bureaucracy and supports capitalist, market-based systems. His views are strongly based on economic theory and libertarian ideas.
“Parkinson’s Law” is often mentioned in discussions about organizational psychology and management. It is seen as a funny yet smart commentary on how work is done in large organizations. Mises’ book is influential in economic and political areas, particularly among those who support free-market economics and are critical of government intervention and control.
In summary, while both books discuss bureaucracy, Parkinson’s “Parkinson’s Law and Other Studies in Administration” does so with humor and satire, highlighting the absurdities and inefficiencies of bureaucratic growth. In contrast, Mises’ “Bureaucracy” offers a serious, theoretical critique of bureaucratic systems, especially in socialist governments, from an economic and libertarian viewpoint.
I believe that you should have read both books, whether you plan to work in a government organization or not.
Martin “Freedom” Schweiger