Tenth law of worker entropy

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Office anthropology™
Your parcel, madam.

The JC puts on his pith-helmet, grabs his butterfly net and a rucksack full of marmalade sandwiches, and heads into the concrete jungleIndex: Click to expand:

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The JC’s tenth law of worker entropy (also known as the “rule of collective agency”) states:

“One agent’s accommodation of another’s pedantry in the service of a common principal is equal, opposite, and reciprocal.”

Of any agent, the point at which her immediate concern — making enough of an intervention to convey an air of her own indispensability — is eclipsed by someone else’s. Especially if that someone else is also an agent in the service of the same principal, and extra-specially where that principal, by dint of its corporate personality or its great remove from the details of the matter at hand, is in no position to assert its own view of what is in its best interests.

This amounts to a kind of “honour amongst thieves”.

As we have remarked elsewhere, much of the financial services industry consists in agents of one stripe or another extracting a livelihood from the transit between them of a parcel — typically, millions of little parcels — owned by someone else — typically, millions of little someone elses.

Each parcel’s owner, a principal, has for one reason or another little capacity to observe or intervene in this game, but participates in it all the same because of a perceived historical tendency of parcels, in general, to rise in value over time at a greater rate than are they atrophied by this environment of persistent, universal rent-extraction.

Not always — as unit holders in Fairfield Sentry would no doubt attest — but nonetheless generally. As a rule, over the the run of western civilisation, the tide of prosperity has consistently risen, lifting all the millions of little dinghies upon it, even though each one’s hull has sprung a little, obligatory, leak.

So, the “care horizon”, and honour amongst thieves. The JC’s tenth law of worker entropy, which we will call the rule of collective agency is this: I will allow you your pedantry as long as you grant me mine. It is bad form to impinge on another agent’s reasonable aspiration to extract rent.

Modern management has evolved to suit, with the different kinds of agent separated and siloed into to areas of sole competence such that one “officious” agent has no standing over the the domain of another.

For example, a lawyer cannot, even if he wants to — and many of them do want to: I have yet to find one who does not — overrule a credit officer’s insistence that there must be a cross default in a overnight financing agreement. He may even get in trouble for trying. “Why should you even care? It does no harm to ask.”

See also