Practical Example of Complexity in Present Civilization. Clausewitz.com
We should recall our previous 5 posts where Dr. Ian Morris explained his model of the exponentially increasing complexity of civilization since the last ice age. He left us with an uneasy sense of looming disaster in our present century—and without a clue about how we might mitigate the coming tsunami.
As an indefatigable Westerner, assuming that the coming problem is “fixable,” I looked elsewhere.
We have spent 110 weeks exploring the rise and fall of western civilizations since the last ice age. We have seen that the life spans of vast majority of those civilizations were measured in centuries and not millennia. The longest lasting: Pharaonic Egypt collapsed three times, separating the Old, Middle, New, and Late Kingdoms, but remained autonomous nearly 3,000 years. The Roman civilization, despite shrinking and shifting east from Rome to Constantinople, remained self-governing for a little over 2,000 years. The historic Sumerian civilization had its roots in the prehistoric Uruk civilization, which evolved out of the earlier Ubaid civilization, all of which spanned about 4,600 years; however, only the last thousand years of Sumer were in historic times. Every one of these civilizations developed increasingly complex structures as they grew, and some theorize that their last efforts to sustain themselves led to their ultimate collapses. They postulate this as a universal rule.
The Roman civilization left by far the best records of its rise and fall, and is well understood by historians. These records allow scholars the ability to trace how this Empire initially grew through pillage and plunder, requiring an expensive military base. Later, the mature Western Roman civilization needed to maintain its high-cost military base to defend its frontiers and police its enslaved empire, but the income from its already plundered empire was now too small to maintain the double-edged sword of the army of either well-paid defenders or under-paid rebels. Without the plunder of now impossible expansion, Rome’s income was limited to what could be produced within its captive empire. The unmanageable expense base was exacerbated by a combination of rapidly rising bureaucratic expenses and calamitous plagues (shrinking tax base). These circumstances led to increasingly complex governance in what appears (to Sustainability scholars) as the inevitable, unavoidable and unstoppable process of disintegration, the Roman equivalent of, “Let’s kick the can down the road to stay in office.”
Having experience in non-political management decision-making, I see downsizing as the overlooked alternative (return administration to Rome’s original noble family form, giving each soldier a plot of the fallow land in return for militia service—see Byzantines below—and I judge the scholars as a bit cynical.
Remarkably, these same scholars saw that the Eastern Roman Empire (Byzantium), in the face of the same expense and plague problems, but worsened by the attack of Islam, shed much of its complexity, resorted to an unpaid citizen-soldier base of landowner-militia to repulse the Arab expansion, and survived Western Rome’s collapse by 1,000 years. Rome could have followed the same course.
The scholar making today’s video presentation is Dr. Joseph A. Tainter, author of the book The Collapse of Complex societies. I recommend you not only listen to his presentation, which is easy to follow via the slides, but also to his answers to the audience questions after the presentation. Here is the video.
Frustration and exhaustion in our complex world. QuoteAddicts.Com
Rick’s thoughts on this subject.
As I viewed the presentation, I recognized many elements which are at the core of this year’s contentious U.S. Presidential election. One faction advocates ever-bigger government (more complexity with higher governmental expenses paid for by higher taxes) and the other side advocates ever-smaller government (less complexity with lower governmental expenses and lower taxes).
Of course, there are many more issues involved in the 2016 U.S. Presidential, Senate, and Congressional elections. But the remarkable public outrage advocating less government is about the ever increasing entanglement of citizens by an over-reaching governance exhibiting a rising contempt for the U.S. Constitution through fiat lawmaking by the Executive and Judicial branches, and unconstitutional independent government agencies with prosecutorial powers that defy the Bill of Rights.
Some of you will say, “Rick, do you really think this ‘over-reaching governance’ is ‘entangling’ you personally with ‘hidden laws’ and ‘unconstitutional prosecutorial powers’ that violate the Bill of Rights?”
Yes, I see my country being subverted by this foreign philosophy of governance by an aloof, elite, and unrepresentative administration calling themselves “Progressive” (by what standard that can stand the light of day?)—a mix of Europe’s Socialism, Fascism, and Communism. Just look at Europe’s history of chronic failure under these schemes, the latest being the European Union.
Read the free portions on Amazon of the book “Three Felonies a Day.” And read this article in the Wall Street Journal. Hidden laws and unconstitutional prosecutorial powers are a problem. “Déjà vu all over again,” Yogi Berra said. Just like the book 1984. Only this time, it’s on the ballot. We get to choose whether we continue to be protected by the Constitution, or we accept life under Big Brother’s boot.
And then there’s Hillary Clinton’s statement about our U.S. cultural traditions, morality, and rights:
“…deep-seated cultural codes, religious beliefs and structural biases have to be changed.”
How does that fit with the First Amendment to the U.S. Constitution? The amendment as adopted in 1791 reads as follows:
“Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.”
I am a Christian, and her words and intentions (cited above and elsewhere) are those of an aspiring tyrant, who seeks to make laws “respecting an establishment of religion, prohibiting (my) free exercise thereof,” and seeks “abridging (my) freedom of speech,” and right “peaceably to assemble” with fellow Christians. With the new and complex progressive form of government she advocates, we won’t be allowed “to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.” And that’s just the first Amendment.
She and her fellow Progressives also publicly advocate revoking the Second Amendment, which reads:
“A well regulated Militia, being necessary to the security of a free State, the right of the people to keep and bear Arms, shall not be infringed.”
Since I live far from the big cities, there are no Blue Bloods to rush to my rescue when I dial 911. The county Sheriff’s men (good, stout-hearted men) can’t help arriving too late to prevent a home invasion, but will have plenty of time to outline my body in chalk on my floor and block off access to my house with yellow Crime Scene tape.
But, of course, Ms. Clinton and her fellow progressive “elites” all have armed bodyguards and gated communities and workplaces, and will have them for the rest of their lives—at my taxpayer expense.
Read the crime log in your local (non-progressive) newspaper before you call this an imaginary threat! I will not be disarmed, nor will I—should the cretins finger me as the next victim of their “Three Felonies a Day” conspiracy of disingenuous laws—submit to being stripped of my right to keep and bear arms.
Once we’re disarmed, as dictator with the monopoly on violence, she’ll just tear up the Constitution.
In fact, for America, this is an existential election, much like that in 1933 in Germany.
Those who don’t know history are doomed to repeat it.” Edmund Burke.
Mr. Trump isn’t perfect—the only perfect man is Jesus Christ. But Mr. Trump is America’s last hope.
U.S. Readers, make a difference! Vote for the Constitution, and not to repeat Europe’s mistakes.
For you, my equally treasured readers around the world, you have just read my response to the historical conundrums of governmental “Complexity” and impending “Civilization’s Collapse.”
Thanks for visiting,
R. E. J. Burke
New Readers, if you want to further examine this website, insert “105” in the Search Bar at the top right of this page, and you’ll be taken to the page titled “Data-mining this Blog using Search Bar and Archives.”