Collapse? So what? Who cares? What’s in it for me?

Published 7:00 am Tuesday, August 5, 2014

Dr. Joseph A. Tainter, an anthropologist and professor at Utah State University, has devoted a good portion of his professional career to the study of collapse as it relates to prior societies.  His book of 1988, entitled “The Collapse of Complex Societies – New Studies In Archaeology”, records his findings resulting from the study of 27 earlier societies covering thousands of years. He focused on the following three collapses: The Roman, Mayan, and Chacoan.
“Collapse,” as used here, is defined basically as “the sudden, pronounced loss of an established level of sociopolitical complexity” such as America’s financial system collapse of 2008.
It means that the investment for recovery to date weakens America’s ability to cope with subsequent events of collapse. Two such potential events hinge on a global monetary system collapse involving the dollar as the world’s reserve currency, and America’s massive debt load.
America’s social and political evolutions over time have created a very complex sociopolitical society. “Sociopolitical” is the one word term to denote the government style that involves itself in the social issues of its population such as health, education,  etc., as well as, normal political issues.
The website “”, shows our Federal Government consists of at least 598 departments, agencies, commissions, and other entities.
The website of the U.S. Office Of Personnel Management lists employee counts for the fiscal year 2012, the last posted, at 4,312,000 employees for the executive branch, military, and legislative & judicial positions of government. Our government has become very complex.
Tainter’s research reveals that after a certain point in complexity growth, increased investments in complexity fail to yield proportionately increasing returns.  These 4 concepts lead a society to collapse: 1. Human societies are problem solving organizations; 2. Sociopolitical systems require energy for their maintenance; 3. Increased complexity carries with it increased costs per capita; 4. Investment in sociopolitical complexity as a problem solving     response often reaches a point of declining marginal returns.
The first three concepts serve as the foundation for the fourth concept.  This fourth concept means that the results we get for added investments in complexity are not worth the money invested.
The average person might not be interested in the meaning of concept number 4 as it relates to a national problem.  But he or she certainly understands the reality of buying family groceries; and, over time, paying more for less quantities of food. The food chain from the soil to the grocery store becomes more complex, possibly with new regulations required by the government, along with other possible added costs for processing and distribution. Adding complexity to the process creates the condition of “declining marginal return for added investment” for the family.
Within the concept of “declining marginal returns for added investments”, I believe, lies the answer to the failure of the stimulus efforts since the crash of 2008.  The dollars invested by the Federal Government thus far have failed to return the economy to its pre-2008 performance levels.

By: Aaron Russell Sr.

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