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The "increasing unnecessary complexity leads to collapse" hypothesis was very adeptly explored in the context of the collapse of many ancient societies by archeologist Joseph A. Tainter in his book Collapse of Complex Societies[1]. Briefly, he argues that most civilizations rely on some sort of wealth producing trick. As they grow they increase societal complexity to maintain that trick. After a while, the complexity produces negative marginal returns, after which the response of the society is to further increase complexity resulting in further negative marginal returns and eventually leading to collapse.

The only civilization that was able to escape these collapse dynamics was the Eastern Roman Empire which underwent a radical simplification of administration in the latter half of the first millennia and thus greatly outlasted the Western Roman Empire, which could not adapt.

[1]. http://www.amazon.com/Collapse-Complex-Societies-Studies-Arc...

Thanks for that. I won't buy from Amazon anymore because of the way they treated me as a seller (they refunded a customer's money after they claimed they didn't recieve the item, after attempting to return the item), but it's certainly available on Alibris http://www.alibris.com/The-Collapse-of-Complex-Societies-Jos.... A note to anyone else wanting this book: it's expensive. $50 for the paperback, $225 for the 1988 hardcover. It must have been a textbook.

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