The Daily Telegraph informs us that “under the new ‘Real Time Information’ (RTI) system, more than a million businesses – as well as charities, churches and families who employ nannies or cleaners – must report immediately any wage payments to the taxman. The Chartered Institute of Taxation says that many small businesses were thinking of folding because the system is the last straw in a long line of excessive bureaucracy from the taxman. It described the RTI as a possible ‘route to insolvency'”. Amen to that.
About a quarter-century ago an anthropologist by the name of Joseph Tainter described in detail how societies like ours get in to intractable difficulties over time. In essence, history shows that societies tend towards collapse as their rulers load ever more layers of complexity on complexity in never-ending efforts ‘to solve problems’. Each time a layer of complexity is added, the amount of work (energy) needed to sustain complexity goes up, and the benefits (marginal returns) on that aggregate complexity diminishes.
Eventually the society simply lacks the resources (primarily, but not exclusively the ‘master resource’ energy**) and the will to sustain non-productive complexity – and so the complex society collapses. It’s happened this way, with variations on the theme, throughout history to societies like those of the Western Chou Empire, The Harappan Civilisation, Mesopotamia, Mycenaean Civilisation, The Egyptian Old Kingdom, The Hittite Empire, The Western Roman Empire, The Olmec, The Lowland Classic Maya and others.
Tainter’s book is called ‘The Collapse of Complex Societies‘ and is prescient – especially when one learns of yet another layer of almost unmanageable complexity like this latest piece of abject nonsense being inflicted on our society by our rulers. I don’t suppose that the new RTI system will collapse western civilisation later this month, but it is another excellent example of how rulers try to solve problems by imposing ever more pointless complexity on their societies. In this case to make it ‘easier’ to pay welfare benefits.
Whatever happened to Occam’s Razor, aka ‘Keep It Simple, Stupid’ (KISS)?
** On the link between ever growing societal complexity and energy usage, have you noticed the trend cost of energy over the past decade or so? You may wish to take a look at one of my earlier posts, ‘Energy – Reality Intrudes’.
‘Chaos over biggest employment shake-up in 70 years’: http://tinyurl.com/c69e626
‘The Collapse of Complex Societies’: http://tinyurl.com/cpkqr72
‘Occam’s Razor’: http://tinyurl.com/n9ng