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Guest Post: Complexity And Collapse

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Tue, 07/26/2011 - 16:29 | 1495812 redpill
redpill's picture

This guy can be a bit blathery, but this one line makes up for it...

"Complexity is itself a tax;"

I wish more people understood that concept.

Tue, 07/26/2011 - 16:53 | 1495896 SheepDog-One
SheepDog-One's picture

When you have to fill out a pile of paperwork and get govt approval to buy 10 gallons of gas, yea its a big tax.

Tue, 07/26/2011 - 16:55 | 1495904 Ahmeexnal
Ahmeexnal's picture

complex systems are in reality quite simple

Tue, 07/26/2011 - 19:35 | 1496305 Mercury
Mercury's picture

I dare you to try and get anything significant accomplished through a Massachusetts county land court in under a decade.

Wed, 07/27/2011 - 03:56 | 1497024 AldousHuxley
AldousHuxley's picture
MUST SEE: Flaws of globalization: A prophetic interview with Sir James Goldsmith in 1994 Pt1




Billion Chinese and Indians are willing to work as slaves for the benefit of top 0.1% corporate executives and shareholders. American and European middle class has no chance unless a revolution happens.

Wed, 07/27/2011 - 04:19 | 1497032 AldousHuxley
AldousHuxley's picture

Laura Tyson See Start of a `Lost Decade' for Many Americans

She was a spokesperson in favour of GATT, arguing with Sir James Goldsmith on Charlie Rose that American jobs will be increased by the trade agreement. Now that traitor is saying that displaced workers face lost decade.


LAURA TYSON; Candidates for Obama's Inner Circle

BEING CONSIDERED FOR A top economic post, possibly in a return tour as director of the National Economic Council.



A prophetic interview with Sir James Goldsmith in 1994 Pt2


Tue, 07/26/2011 - 19:38 | 1496317 Rodent Freikorps
Rodent Freikorps's picture

Yeah. It's called bribery.

Grease for the wheels.

Tue, 07/26/2011 - 21:22 | 1496507 Mec-sick-o
Mec-sick-o's picture

I agree if you are talking about organized complexity and emergence.

Tue, 07/26/2011 - 17:08 | 1495943 Ghordius
Ghordius's picture

Therefore: Flat Tax & Balanced Budgets. So simple.

Tue, 07/26/2011 - 19:41 | 1496324 Talleyrand
Talleyrand's picture

How about: No tax & no govt thugs?

Tue, 07/26/2011 - 17:16 | 1495961 SWRichmond
SWRichmond's picture

Yes, by trimming words and choosing them more carefully, CHS has crafted an excellent work.  Really well done.  Should be read by all small business owners.

Tue, 07/26/2011 - 17:17 | 1495964 Bindar Dundat
Bindar Dundat's picture

Complexity is to evil...as Democracy is to freedom...


The rule is never ever ever eat anything bigger then your head...

Tue, 07/26/2011 - 17:43 | 1496032 Use of Weapons
Use of Weapons's picture

I gave you a +1, although you're only 50% correct.

Having complexity is indeed an energy tax - for example, having a brain that can process sentience is a large energy tax; huge in fact. However, that large brain allows us to create tools, systems and interpersonal relations that offset this tax and creates a (vastly more) surplus of energy. If this wasn't the case, homo sapiens wouldn't have survived as a species1. In our case the emergent properties of an organised complexity [our minds; actually, probably more social based grammar + language, but that's a much longer thread] (i.e, SENTIENCE) offsets the energy tax of a long period of youth / immaturity [10-13 odd years], helpless babies and the energy demands of the grey matter.

The fact that the GOP doesn't really get this isn't my issue - neither did Ayn Rand. I think the bottom line is that taxes are fine as long as they result in a net increase of surplus. Obviously, they don't always do so - but conversely, they don't always not not provide surplus.


See below for a longer attack on the OP piece - if you want.

  • 1. For now... and no, I'm not getting into Neanderthal DNA, Lizards and Squids tonight
Tue, 07/26/2011 - 22:30 | 1496654 MayIMommaDogFac...
MayIMommaDogFace2theBananaPatch's picture

they don't always not not provide surplus

Triple negative, uh, nice touch...

 Not, not. ;)




Wed, 07/27/2011 - 01:09 | 1496909 snowball777
snowball777's picture

Those babies just aren't pursuing their own rational self-interest...or Randoids merely use objectivism to rationalize behaving like babies.

Tue, 07/26/2011 - 16:29 | 1495814 GeneMarchbanks
GeneMarchbanks's picture

Thank you Captain! Obvious that is.

Tue, 07/26/2011 - 21:07 | 1496450 hedgeless_horseman
hedgeless_horseman's picture





Allison Krauss and Yo-Yo Ma



'Tis the gift to be simple,

'tis the gift to be free,

'tis the gift to come down where you ought to be,

And when we find ourselves in the place just right,

It will be in the valley of love and delight.




When true simplicity is gained,

To bow and to bend we shan't be ashamed.

To turn, turn will be our delight,

'Til by turning, turning we come round right


'Tis the gift to be loved and that love to return,

'Tis the gift to be taught and a richer gift to learn,

And when we expect of o-thers what we try to live each day,

Then we'll all live together and we'll all learn to say,




'Tis the gift to have friends and a true friend to be,

'Tis the gift to think of others not to only think of "me",

And when we hear what others really think and really feel,

Then we'll all live together with a love that is real.





Tue, 07/26/2011 - 16:31 | 1495815 JW n FL
JW n FL's picture

Morning Star

Video: Fear Trumps Greed in June Flows




Worth Watching.

Wed, 07/27/2011 - 02:26 | 1496977 Thorlyx
Thorlyx's picture

One guy said that fear is the beginning of wisdom. Let's hope....

Tue, 07/26/2011 - 16:36 | 1495822 alexanderstollznow
alexanderstollznow's picture

one thing which certainly isnt complex is the mind of Charles Hugh Smith.

for some reason, he seems to be confusing 'big', or 'tall' (in the case of ships), with 'complex'.

there is no cogent concept of complex in the above piece, and nothing which looks like a logical progression at all.  for example, if 'kleptocracies and banana republics' share, inter-alia, the feature of inefficient workforces which cant be sacked, how is it that America's unemployment rose so quickly over a couple of years, as a result of it being sacked?

Charles, please note, that ships can be very complex without adding more levels until they roll over. 

Tue, 07/26/2011 - 16:55 | 1495903 r101958
r101958's picture

Umhhh......the folks being sacked, for the most part, were not government workers......

Tue, 07/26/2011 - 17:04 | 1495937 SheepDog-One
SheepDog-One's picture

Well just replace a 'tall ship' with a ridiculous Rube Goldberg contraption.

Tue, 07/26/2011 - 17:40 | 1496027 SWRichmond
SWRichmond's picture

Obviously you are an amployee and not an employer, and not an accountant.  SMall business owners know exactly what he is talking about.

"This government will operate like an ambuscade." - Patrick Henry, at the Virginia Ratification Debates, 9 June 1788.


An extended wuote:

A number of characters, of the greatest eminence in this country, object to this government for its consolidating tendency. This is not imaginary. It is a formidable reality. If consolidation proves to be as mischievous to this country as it has been to other countries, what will the poor inhabitants of this country do? This government will operate like an ambuscade. It will destroy the state governments, and swallow the liberties of the people, without giving previous notice. If gentlemen are willing to run the hazard, let them run it; but I shall exculpate myself by my opposition and monitory warnings within these walls. But then comes paper money. We are at peace on this subject. Though this is a thing which that mighty federal Convention had no business with, yet I acknowledge that paper money would be the bane of this country. I detest it. Nothing can justify a people in resorting to it but extreme necessity.


Tue, 07/26/2011 - 21:45 | 1496573 Frankie Carbone
Frankie Carbone's picture

Uhh, your wiring is complex. Perhaps someone should check for short circuits. I mean,... what the fuck exactly are you trying to say again?????

Tue, 07/26/2011 - 16:33 | 1495833 EscapeKey
EscapeKey's picture

Tainter: The Collapse of Complex Societies


An absolutely brilliant book. Societies collapse because there's no longer an economic reason for them to exist.

Tue, 07/26/2011 - 16:43 | 1495862 cossack55
cossack55's picture

Follow on read:   Collapse   by Jared Diamond

Tue, 07/26/2011 - 17:16 | 1495962 Sophist Economicus
Sophist Economicus's picture

Collapse = Liberal Horseshit.

Tue, 07/26/2011 - 17:20 | 1495972 JPMorgan
JPMorgan's picture

I also recommend the documentaries Collapse with Michael Ruppert and Zeitgeist - Moving Forward.

Tue, 07/26/2011 - 17:34 | 1496010 EscapeKey
EscapeKey's picture

Zeitgeist MF = communist propaganda. I really didn't like it.

Tue, 07/26/2011 - 18:45 | 1496172 Absinthe Minded
Absinthe Minded's picture

I connected with "Collapse". Michael Ruppert, though a bit dramatic, I believe is on to the real end game. It's oil, plain and simple. We all realize we are critically depending on a finite source. The question about collapse is not if, but when. I pray that my 15 year old daughter will actually be able to drive her own car, and that's only a year and a half away. I've loved cars all my life and it's hard to imagine a life without them. If you haven't seen "Collapse", you owe it to yourself to see it, if just for the insight about everything we use oil for. A very sobering wake up call.

Wed, 07/27/2011 - 00:32 | 1496870 Rhodin
Rhodin's picture

I disagree, not on the importance of oil, but on the idea it is in short supply by scarcity.

The oil price is managed by megabanks somewhat inversely to how they manage the silver price.  (ie. they want as high a price as the market will bear)

  "Peak Oil" propaganda eases the acceptance of the high price, if that fails they will try the "Global Warming"/ carbon tax again or some such scheme.  One way or another they extract higher revenue most of the time.  The price has little relation to the supply, but supply ia also managed, sometimes with troops.   Most info relative to reserves, supply, consumption etc. is controlled by the banks that control the cartel.  When supply escapes their control for awhile (it does) they arrange problems at a refinery or two, or stage a war in oil production territory.   Someday they may lose control, until then they could easily arrange a fake collapse if they thought it would gain them more control, revenue, and/or further the NWO. 

Wed, 07/27/2011 - 06:36 | 1497066 BlackVoid
BlackVoid's picture

You are wrong.

If oil was not scarce, the Saudis would not start drilling under the Persian Gulf. Yet they do.

If oil was not scarce, there would be no drilling in the Mexican Gulf. Yet, there is.

I oil was not scarce, there would be no oilsand projects. Yet, there are.


Besides, mainstream propaganda does everything it can to deny / ignore Peak Oil. A sure sign that it is not an agenda, but a real thing.

Wed, 07/27/2011 - 11:59 | 1498101 Rhodin
Rhodin's picture

You are wrong

Perhaps.  I previously agreed with peak oil, and was either wrong then or now!  Since i can't know how much i don't know, and the reliability of most info in this area is suspect, i try to keep an open mind.

If oil was not scarce, the Saudis would not start drilling under the Persian Gulf. Yet they do.

If oil was not scarce, there would be no drilling in the Mexican Gulf. Yet, there is.

I oil was not scarce, there would be no oilsand projects. Yet, there are.

Yes, known ultra cheap to produce oil is scarce, but all of the production mentioned is profitable at current prices.   Considering who is doing the producing, the price will be supported in the face of decreasing demand and/or increasing supply as long as possible. 

The Saudis are obviously less than transparent.  Are they hiding that they are running out (as many believe) in shared fear of loss of oil market control?  Or are they hiding an "off the books" reserve out of fear of invasion and/or oil market crash? 

A acquaintance (fof) spent most of last year checking capped unproduced wells for leaks in the gulf.

Besides, mainstream propaganda does everything it can to deny / ignore Peak Oil. A sure sign that it is not an agenda, but a real thing.

Have you considered that that is precicely the conclusion you are supposed to reach?  You also get to fell superior to MSM in the process which reinforces your belief. Diabolical!



Tue, 07/26/2011 - 23:03 | 1496741 OldTrooper
OldTrooper's picture

Zeitgeist is somewhat interesting, as long as you can spot the obvious flaws in their 'final solutions'.

Tue, 07/26/2011 - 18:03 | 1496066 HarryHaller
HarryHaller's picture


Tainter's book is like zooming out from our every day life to understand how the zeitgeist of today fits with the history of civilization in its entirety.


1st of 7 part series of a lecture by Tainter that describes the basics of his thesis in the book:



The book is still well worth the time, even if you're just reading the three examples of collapse Tainter covers in detail (Roman, Chacko, & Maya) and the conclusion.

Tue, 07/26/2011 - 20:44 | 1496419 Atomizer
Atomizer's picture

A brief description by Tainter of his collapse theory


Tue, 07/26/2011 - 18:14 | 1496089 Atomizer
Atomizer's picture

I'll link the video, once at home desktop.

Tue, 07/26/2011 - 18:22 | 1496097 Use of Weapons
Use of Weapons's picture

Interesting, so thankyou

At 5.26+ he makes the clear distinction between what he considers "not complexity" and "complexity" - organisation + differentiation are both required. He also, earlier in the talk, notes that he's not using the term in the same way that physics or biology does. Well, he is - but he's bastardising it. Which is a shame, as the points he's made so far are somewhat interesting [specialisation as a precursor to modernity is a theme close to many anarchist thinkers].

Other than that, it is a bit painful to watch him mis-use a very rigorously defined concept with his simplified version - grrrr.

Tue, 07/26/2011 - 19:54 | 1496354 HarryHaller
HarryHaller's picture

From a layman's perspecitve, I think Tainter's 'bastardization' (for lack of a better term) is an attempt to explain complexity in a way that anthropology hasn't addressed in the past.  Social complexity tends to be discussed as a phenomena and a byproduct of culture in the social sciences, with the processes or agents that create it being distinctly separate.  Tainter argues that what's important isn't so much as to how it comes into being, but how complexity plays an active role - as a strategy that is used by society rather than just a result created by social specialization.

Tue, 07/26/2011 - 16:36 | 1495844 max2205
max2205's picture

Buy AMZN and short SPY...till you die

Tue, 07/26/2011 - 16:37 | 1495845 silver surfer
silver surfer's picture

This rant reminds of The State by Anthony de Jasay. He goes into great detail about this subjets. From the minimal state to the totalitarian state.

Tue, 07/26/2011 - 16:38 | 1495849 traderjoe
traderjoe's picture

Allow me to formally object to the new comment rating system: (1) it's more cluttered and harder to get through as many comments; (2) it smacks of a popularity contest; and (3) it slows down the user experience. I used to actually scan the comments first before reading an article - typically great comments and reviews which allowed me to determine whether I should read the entire article.

I've learned a lot from my fellow ZH'ers, and am indebted to TD for the creation and support of such a community. Some of the comments - especially from the ZH greats - were long comments and even tutorials per se. A LOT of information was packed into the comment section - both in form and format.

But the new systems reminds me of Marketwatch - and the fight to see who can get more up arrows than others. It's a system that plays more to pithy quips and jokes, than substantiative commentary.

For my part - not all progress is good. Cheers...

Tue, 07/26/2011 - 16:42 | 1495860 Roamin Fro
Roamin Fro's picture

I agree... thumbs up ;)

Tue, 07/26/2011 - 17:17 | 1495965 Buckaroo Banzai
Buckaroo Banzai's picture

One really nice thing about the new commenting system-- it looks a LOT better on smartphones than the old system did.

Tue, 07/26/2011 - 17:23 | 1495980 traderjoe
traderjoe's picture

It's a lot more cluttered on my iPhone 3Gs. And slower to load as well (though TD said somewhere that the load performance should improve over time). 

The boxes, shading, and comments take up too much real estate. And it was easier to hit the junk button than one of the two arrows...

Tue, 07/26/2011 - 17:28 | 1495992 Buckaroo Banzai
Buckaroo Banzai's picture

Really? I think it looks better on the iPhone. On the old system, comments would get more and more difficult to read the more nested they were. In a big comment thread eventually  it would just look like this:


s is




t tha

t you

are t


g to r


Tue, 07/26/2011 - 17:39 | 1496023 traderjoe
traderjoe's picture

True to that part. I haven't seen an extended conversation on the new system yet, so can't comment. For the regular comments, personally I think it's harder to read - there's less on each 'screen' (i.e. more scrolling). 

Tue, 07/26/2011 - 22:56 | 1496721 saulysw
saulysw's picture

Should we just add a few replies here and see what happens?

Tue, 07/26/2011 - 23:38 | 1496631 tip e. canoe
tip e. canoe's picture

if 'anyone' wanted a way to easily quantify the ZHeitgeist, they just got it handed to them on a silver platter.

Tue, 07/26/2011 - 22:41 | 1496682 MayIMommaDogFac...
MayIMommaDogFace2theBananaPatch's picture

It's a system that plays more to pithy quips and jokes, than substantiative commentary.

You're talking about our economic/political system now, right?  Am I right!?!?


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