Nightingale’s Law

Obsolescence is the corollary of reform — Nightingale’s Law.

For example: every time there is an election, the government promises to raise pensions for seniors to keep pace with inflation. Consequently, many pensioners (who, as a group make up a sizeable proportion of the electorate) vote for the government party.

A far more reasonable and practical solution would be to index pensions to inflation. But while people would vote for this reform when offered, once introduced, it would build in obsolescence for the government.

Tinkering — as with pension rates — is change, but it is not reform. Governments shy away from actual reform because it limits the scope for future tinkering.

If there were one, simple solution to all of the country’s economic problems, just something that once carried out, would make everyone prosperous and healthy and happy, there would be a strong disincentive for a government to introduce that measure because if it did, it would work itself out of a job.

I do wonder if I could pad this out to a book length treatment, with humorous cartoons and funny examples and thus produce a popular book, like ‘Parkinson’s Law’? Remember that? C. Northcote Parkinson formulated the law that, ‘Work expands to fill the time available for its completion’. It seemed to fit the times because the 1950s were a period of expansion in the post war British Civil Service; when, for example, there were more people working for the Admiralty than there were sailing around in the ships of the Royal Navy. It was still true, more or less, before privatisation, cutbacks and civil service reforms. Does this mean that Nightingale’s Law is false? Not really, because the expansion of government administration goes on apace, it has simply shifted its ground to the European Commission. Parkinson’s Law is as true now as it ever was, and so too, it seems, is Nightingale’s Law.


About Zoe Nightingale

I am a writer of short stories, novels, poetry and non fiction.
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