Sunday, March 27, 2016

Gaius Publius: The Goal of the Neo-Liberal Consensus Is to Manage the Decline

Yves here. I anticipate that readers will debate whether decline is inevitable. My short answer is that with the caliber of leadership we have in the US and abroad, it’s hard to see how we escape it. And we may be too far along a bad trajectory to change course in a big enough way.

But Jospeh Tainter, in his classic study, he Collapse of Complex Societies, had to concede that some societies were able to pull themselves out of a downward path, yet offered no guidance as to why they were different, save that their ruling classes acted to ward it off. Tainter was likely unwilling to examine these cases because he was dogmatic about the cause of collapse: it was the rising cost of complexity, in particular, the increasing cost of energy. He rejected culture as a cause of decline. Yet even if he is correct about how energy needs drive complex societies towards their own demise, that does not obviate the idea that better leadership and/or better social values can enable civilizations to adapt rather than fail.

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