C. Northcote Parkinson

A while back, a reader (I forget who) recommended a set of interviews with C. Northcote Parkinson (here and here).

They are well worth your time (if only for his awesomely aristocratic accent).

It’s amazing how much our knowledge of government has declined over time. Particularly, our understanding of democracy has deteriorated at an incredibly rapid rate. Parkinson says all sorts of (formerly) common sense things about democracy that sound crazy to a modern ear.

So much for advancement.


6 Responses to C. Northcote Parkinson

  1. robert61 says:

    Listened to the democracy interview. What a pleasant, measured old Tory. I have listened to a lot of Jonathan Bowden lately on my walks. Parkinson reminds me of him in both his thoughtfulness and the specific currents of his thought, but without Bowden’s giddy sense of transgression – which is probably a function of our times and of Bowden’s less comfortable class identity. Wish I knew who the American interviewer was.

    • KK says:

      According to the blog text, the interviewer is some Julian H. Franklin, and the interview is from 1959. Google recognizes a political science teacher with that name from Columbia University from that era who has put out a book called Animal Rights and Moral Philosophy in 2005. Guess he got tired of Locke.

      I’m a music nerd so I listen to a lot of WFMU. While I get the impression that the folks over there subscribe to the standard clever silly liberal worldview, it’s good to see that they are consistent in their search for esoterica by distributing this kind of material too.

  2. Five Daarstens says:

    After listening to the podcast, I bought his out of print book “East and West”(1963). A great history book in which the main thesis is that the East and west have gone through cycles in history of each other being dominant. Parkinson seemed to think (in 1963) that the East would shortly be rising again and seek dominance over the West. Another idea from the book is the the USA and Russia are natural allies and that this rise of the east again would make this alliance happen again.

  3. Senexada says:

    His book “Parkinson’s Law” is hilarious. It’s packed with bureaucratic insights while remaining light and amusing. Some of my favorite lines:

    On designing paperwork: “The art of devising forms to be filled in depends on three elements: obscurity, lack of space, and the heaviest penalties for failure.”

    On bureaucratic growth: “Politicians and taxpayers have assumed (with occasional phases of doubt) that a rising total in the number of civil servants must reflect a growing volume of work to be done. Cynics, in questioning this belief, have imagined that the multiplication of officials must have left some of them idle or all of them able to work for shorter hours. But this is a matter in which faith and doubt seem equally misplaced. The fact is that the number of the officials and the quantity of the work are not related to each other at all. The rise in the total of those employed is governed by Parkinson’s Law and would be much the same whether the volume of the work were to increase, diminish, or even disappear. “

  4. formerly no name says:

    “if only for his awesomely aristocratic accent”

    I think this kind of accent is now extinct:

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