Home Politics Monbiot's Corollary To Pournelle's Law Of Bureaucracy

Monbiot’s Corollary To Pournelle’s Law Of Bureaucracy



George Monbiot wants us to know that the big green groups, the environmental “charities”, are getting into bed with The Man. He’s entirely right, they are of course. The thing is though this isn’t specific to environmental groupings and charities. It’s an iron law of all organisations. Yep, including stuff set up by government.

We should thus call this Monbiot’s Corollary to Pournelle’s Iron Law of Bureaucracy:

The bigger and more established an organisation becomes the more timid and conformist it seems to get, until it’s almost indistinguishable from the interests it should be confronting. In this age of environmental crisis and collapse, of government lies and corporate power, we need our nature defenders to rise like lions after slumber. Instead, they queue at the abattoir gate like sedated lambs.

As commercial propaganda seeps into every corner of public life, trust collapses. No one knows what or whom to believe. We need campaigning groups that stand on principle, mobilise their members, use their own words and think their own thoughts. Instead, they swing in the winds of power.

Entirely so George, entirely so. As an organisation sets up the careerists, power skirts in HR and all the rest spot the opportunity. And before we know it that campaign to save the water meadow has both Tarquin and Jocasta running the PR section for the diversity council.

This has been explained before:

“Pournelle’s Iron Law of Bureaucracy states that in any bureaucratic organization there will be two kinds of people: those who work to further the actual goals of the organization, and those who work for the organization itself. Examples in education would be teachers who work and sacrifice to teach children, vs. union representative who work to protect any teacher including the most incompetent. The Iron Law states that in all cases, the second type of person will always gain control of the organization, and will always write the rules under which the organization functions.”

That’s just what happens to communal action. The first decade or two it works to solve the specific problem identified. After that it operates under the rules laid out by C. Northcote Parkinson.

Our guiding principle therefore becomes never trust an organisation over 30.



  1. Very true. I have also observed that as bureaucracies get “centralised” second personality type (aka jobsworth) predominates faster and actively creates rules or other barriers to prevent local knowledge being used, no matter how much this makes the organisation unable to achieve it stated aims. Seen this in government emergency services and multinational IT companies. IT companies prefered to lose money and avoid profit, let alone create customer satisfaction to please irrelevant bean counters on other continents. Perhaps charities should have limited life spans to prevent corporate arterial sclerosis like this. I note that small businesses tend to die with founders, explaining why they tend to more efficient and flexible than corporatised firms.

  2. To which I add the old saw that every cause starts as a movement, turns into a business and ends up as a racket.
    George is behind the times. Environmentalism moved on from being a business some time aga.

  3. CHOP hasn’t even lasted 2 weeks never mind 30 years. Turns out that getting into bed with the establishment by sleeping in your parents’ basement is better than crashing on the floor of a squat.


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