Still, uber-complex legislation is bad, mmmkay?
The point of the "Lessons from Grand Central Terminal" article was that the complexity introduced in new laws was bad because it only creates more points of failure. Personally I think the bad part of the complexity in legislation is that it hides the fundamental flaws in them (especially from the usually not so bright politicians).
Take the BP example of the article: "Even the government’s response to the tragically ongoing BP oil spill has been one of triangulation and determined-complexity. Get some supertankers to siphon off the leaking oil? Nope. Help Louisiana Gov. Jindal to build some temporary barrier islands along parts of the coastline? No sir. Keep a boot on the throat of BP — hey, that’s a killer sound bite! Let’s go with that!"
The solutions proposed by the article are overly simplistic. They will work and do well for this specific case, but they will not prevent a next oil spill… The harm here is that the solution is still flawed, even though it looks solid.
Corporations are invented with the sole purpose to parasitize off of the common wealth. If you designed the law this way, you should not put out the accidental fire it caused and then think you solved the structural problem. Corporations are by law not liable for the cost they impose to future generations and the public as a side effect of making a quick buck. No oil drilling company has to provide replacement energy reserves for future generations, and no oil company pays for cleaning up future oil spills. This lending upon the future is true for any kind of corporation.
BP was allowed to parasitize society. They are even required to do so by law!
The main problem of the article was again not analyzing the validity of the example used and misusing the example in such a way it has a killer sound bite...
Anyway I was more interested in the software design side of this discussion, since I do believe complexity is a problem when it grows exponentially (which it does almost automatically if you are not very strict in maintaining architecture).
Take building a house as an analogy.
Doghouse (or small software): You take a few timbers and nails; throw them together and voila a doghouse.
Let’s size it up 10 times.
Normal House (medium sized software): You take a few bricks and mortar; throw them together and voila a normal house. It might just work although having it architectured is usually a better solution.
Let’s size it up 10 times.
Cathedral (highly complex software): You take a few bricks and mortar; throw them together and voila a … uhmm ... pyramid?
Without design a cathedral cannot support its size. The amount of materials is too big and the whole thing will collapse under its own weight. The only way to get a lean structure with so much empty space in it is via architecture and design. Complexity is not the problem, complexity without architecture and design is.