Entrenched political elites will sacrifice anything to retain power, including their own country

Entrenched political elites will sacrifice anything to retain power, including their own country, by Glenn Reynolds.

Joseph Tainter’s The Collapse of Complex Societies [hypothesizes] that as societies grow they become more complex, slapping on layer after layer of institutions, regulations and customs to deal with challenges (and, I suspect, to facilitate the ruling classes’ extracting resources from the ruled). … [It] is a more general version of Jonathan Rauch’s Demosclerosis: The Silent Killer of American Government, which is about how special interests have parasitized the United States governmental apparatus, turning much of its resources to their own benefit and doing their best to prevent change. …

[A]s you vote, remember that the more resources you put under the control of the political class, the more likely it is that things will eventually go bad. Politicians seldom look past the next election, and they’re willing to sacrifice pretty much anything to hang on. And that “pretty much anything” includes you.

The end of the Western Roman empire was good for some folks, who got out from under the empire:

Of course, collapse isn’t, as Tainter notes, always so bad. When the Western Roman Empire collapsed, ordinary people were often better off because they were freed from the empire’s oppressive taxes and regulations (like the rules that sons of soldiers, civil servants and workers in government factories, among others, must enter the trades of their fathers). Many people in the provinces welcomed the barbarians.

The new governments were actually better at what governments are for, as Tainter writes: “The smaller Germanic kingdoms that succeeded Roman rule in the West were more successful at resisting foreign incursions (e.g., Huns and Arabs). … The economic prosperity of North Africa actually rose under the Vandals, but declined again under Justinian’s reconquest when Imperial taxes were reimposed.” Likewise, Venezuelans will probably be better off when they eventually get a new government. They could hardly be worse.