Systemantics, by John Gall, New York: Quadrangle, 1977, 111 pp., $6.95.
There is now a new "law" to be added to those of Murphy, Parkinson, and Peter. It shall go down in history as Gall's Rule of Thumb: "If a System Is Working, Leave It Alone. Don't Change Anything!" Mankind will undoubtedly simplify it to read: "If it works, leave it alone!" Fundamental wisdom is expressed in its purity. What could be more obvious? What could be more ignored?
Dr. Gall presents his arguments in the same geometrical style used by his mentor, Lawrence J. Peter of "Peter Principle" fame. Here again, we see axioms, theorems, and corollaries used to bring out the worst in organizational man. Some 32 axioms are given. Number 14—"Some Systems Actually Work"—contains Gall's Rule of Thumb.
If a careful reader looks beyond the obvious irony of this book, he will find an underlying libertarian viewpoint. Chapter 12 offers, as a solution to government systems, two new freedoms: free choice of territory (distributional freedom) and free choice of government (principle of hegemonic indeterminacy). After an explanation of the two new freedoms and how they would work in everyday life, the author concludes his argument with the effects of their adoption:
The net result of the two new Freedoms would be to break up the Concentration of the Governed, to divide and distribute them throughout other governments, a principle which we shall call the Comminution of Hegemony. If practiced on a world-wide scale it could lead to revolutionary changes in the relationship of citizens to their governments, reversing the traditional polarity and making governments fearfully dependent upon the favor or even the whims of their citizenry rather than vice versa.
If there is a shortcoming, it is in the length of this book. Perhaps the author was applying the corollary of the fundamental theorem: "Systems Should Not Be Unnecessarily Multiplied." Or maybe he took to heart his Axiom No. 26: "The Larger the System, the Greater the Probability of Unexpected Failure." Either way, "It works and he left it alone"!
This article originally appeared in print under the headline "Systemantics".