From Glenn Harlan Reynolds in USA Today, How to make the U.S. collapse-proof
In Tainter’s characterization, as a society gets older, it accumulates more and more complexity — essentially, onion-like layers of institutions, rules and regulations that offer short term benefits at the expense of increasing the society’s overhead over time, even as they reduce its flexibility. Eventually, there’s no reserve left for dealing with new crises, and the society collapses — often in the face of problems it would have weathered easily in its more youthful days.
You also might want to limit the damage when things go bad by splitting things up. A huge empire ruled from a single city would seem much more likely to collapse than a collection of smaller states. (As Tainter notes, after Rome fell, Western Europe did not fall again). In the United States, that might mean maintaining the viability of state governments as independent entities. That way, if some go bankrupt (like, say, Illinois might or like Puerto Rico essentially has) the damage will be contained. And if the federal government were to collapse, the states could pick up some of the slack, limiting the damage.
Of course, in describing a limited federal government, ruling over a nation made up of semi-sovereign states, subject to the rule of law and judicial review I’m not describing anything shocking or new: That’s precisely the kind of government we in the United States are supposed to have under our Constitution.
So maybe we should keep it that way. Just in case.