I recently finished reading Peter Zeihan’s recent book The End of the World is Just the Beginning: Mapping the Collapse of Globalization, and I certainly found it thought-provoking. Mr. Zeihan is a senf-described Green, a “small-d” democrat, but primarily a researcher and geopolitical analyst, specializing in demographics – and regardless of Zeihan’s political leanings, demographics don’t lie. I recommend everyone read this work, and think on the conclusions presented therein. Selected excerpts, with my comments, follow.
Modern petrochemicals are responsible for the bulk of what we today consider “normal,” comprising the majority of the inputs in food packaging, medical equipment, detergents, coolants, footwear, tires, adhesives, sports equipment, luggage, diapers, paints, inks, chewing gum, lubricants, insulation, fertilizers, pesticides, and herbicides, and the second-largest component of material inputs in paper, pharmaceuticals, clothes, furniture, construction, glass, consumer electronics, automotive, home appliances, and furnishings. Oil-derived transport fuels do constitute the majority of oil use – nearly three-fifths, to be specific – but petrochemicals account for a full one-fifth. That’s about as much as the Persian Gulf exports in a typical year.
Peter Zeihan may describe himself as a “Green,” but he is not blind to the role petrochemicals pay in our modern society. And it is the end of our modern society that he writes of; he is predicting a major demographic crisis, one that will bring the existing global order to an end to be replaced by something… else.
But there’s a bright spot in Peter Zeihan’s reckoning. Sort of. The United States. Yep, us – with our 31 trillion in unfunded debt, with an entire generation (mine, the Baby Boomers) about to retire en masse, with our own dysfunctional government, with a deep state run amok – we are the bright spot.
So, yes, American Boomers aging into mass retirement will break the bank. But between their smaller relative size as compared to global norms and their offspring’s increasing contribution to the government’s bottom line, their financial hammer blows are nothing compared to the meteor swarm of challenges that will utterly destroy the governing systems of countries as diverse as China, Korea, Japan, Thailand, Brazil, Germany, Italy, Poland, Russia and Iran. Meanwhile, American Millennials’ very existence means the United States will at least in part recover from its financial crunch in the 2030s, and probably its labor crunch in the 2040s. But for the rest of the world, it will never get better than it was in the 2010s. Never.
In Zeihan’s view – a view I share – much of the world is about to succumb to a demographic crisis. But in this book he lays out all the implications of that demographic crisis, including the global collapse of markets, of supply chains, of transports, of the entire world marketplace; in other words, the end of globalization. The US is well-placed, as our demographic crisis is not as severe as most of the developing and developed world, as well as vast territory and ample resources, many of which we have left untapped.
Zeihan also sees the end of the Pax Americana, a world in which the United States largely withdraws from enforcing the global peace. Consider the implications of that; the United States Navy currently maintains safe travels for all shipping in the world’s oceans. Withdrawal of that guarantee, and global shipping will greatly decrease, in the face of hostile nations and even piracy.
I’m not so sure about the latter. Both major political parties seem willing to keep shoveling billions of taxpayer dollars into Ukraine, unfairly invaded by the dying giant Russia but also one of the most deeply and fundamentally corrupt governments in Europe.
But we also still maintain the world’s only Navy with global reach. We maintain ten Nimitz-class nuclear carriers, and one Gerald R. Ford-class ship in service and four more in construction.
The air wings of those ships alone pack more striking power than all the air forces of the rest of the world combined.
Granted much of our military is a woke mess right now, but that can be fixed; that must be fixed.
The demographic problems, though, are headed our way. China, in the next fifty years, may cease to exist as a nation. Ditto Russia. And while Zeihan writes of the demise of Europe as a discrete set of cultures, he does not discuss what is likely to replace it; a Muslim caliphate, courtesy of the EU’s unchecked immigration policies and generous social welfare programs.
I recommend reading this book. You may not agree with all of Peter Zeihan’s conclusions; I don’t. But it’s worth reading, and thinking about, nonetheless.