The law of diminishing returns and why complex societies are more vulnerable to collapse: An interview with Joseph Tainter

Saturday, July 15, 2017
By Paul Martin

by: Ethan Huff
Saturday, July 15, 2017

A sustainable society is only as secure as the strength and success of its problem-solving institutions. If and when these fail, society is toast, suggests Dr. Joseph Tainter, a professor at Utah State University and author of a riveting book on this subject, The Collapse of Complex Societies (which can be downloaded for free in e-book format by clicking this link).

During a recent interview with, Dr. Tainter told a listening audience how successful societies rely on healthy investments in the areas of social complexity and energy subsidies. Once these begin to see diminishing marginal returns, however, these societies are said to have reached a tipping point from which they will eventually reach a point of collapse – the inevitable consequence of declining net energy per capita, ever-depleting key resources, and an over-leveraged economy.

All of these things are becoming true for the United States, as well as many other developed societies around the world that haven’t kept up with preparing for the future. (RELATED: There are some problems that can be solved, and others that can’t. To stay informed for whatever the future might bring, stay tuned to

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