The Collapse of Societies

Sun Tzu taught that organizations grow until their protected, internal elements are divided from their external competitive elements. In their internal region of control, planning works, creating stable hierarchies of elites. These elites gradually raise the costs of external competition so that the organization can no longer support itself. The chaotic, independent, creative action of the common people required for successful external competition is controlled out of existence and the organization fails. Two new books look at different aspects of this process and how leads to the collapse of advanced societies. Bill Greene's Common Genius explores how the rise of intellectual elites undermines the effectiveness of common people, who are on the front lines of external competition (both in business and war) and are the foundation of any successful society. John Tanter's The Collapse of Complex Societies looks at the archeological evidence that in every failed civilization their increasing internal complexity lead made it so that resources devoted to meeting new challenges eventually produce negative returns. Is this happening to America? In this earlier post, we discussed how government and legal systems raise the cost of independent, stiffling creative impulses. In external military competition, we see how the growth of the legal system and the media's growing lack of strategic necessity makes it nearly impossible for the US to fight a war. The protected elites in the government, legal system media, and academia are making it increasingly difficult for common people to go about their regular activities of competing with one another successfully. If this continues, our society will collapse.