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The End of the World Is Just the Beginning: Mapping the Collapse of Globalization

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2019 was the last great year for the world economy.

For generations, everything has been getting faster, better, and cheaper. Finally, we reached the point that almost anything you could ever want could be sent to your home within days - even hours - of when you decided you wanted it.

America made that happen, but now America has lost interest in keeping it going.

Globe-spanning supply chains are only possible with the protection of the U.S. Navy. The American dollar underpins internationalized energy and financial markets. Complex, innovative industries were created to satisfy American consumers. American security policy forced warring nations to lay down their arms. Billions of people have been fed and educated as the American-led trade system spread across the globe.

All of this was artificial. All this was temporary. All this is ending.

In The End of the World is Just the Beginning, author and geopolitical strategist Peter Zeihan maps out the next world: a world where countries or regions will have no choice but to make their own goods, grow their own food, secure their own energy, fight their own battles, and do it all with populations that are both shrinking and aging.

The list of countries that make it all work is smaller than you think. Which means everything about our interconnected world - from how we manufacture products, to how we grow food, to how we keep the lights on, to how we shuttle stuff about, to how we pay for it all - is about to change.

A world ending. A world beginning. Zeihan brings readers along for an illuminating (and a bit terrifying) ride packed with foresight, wit, and his trademark irreverence.

512 pages, Hardcover

First published June 1, 2022

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About the author

Peter Zeihan

5 books622 followers
Geopolitical Strategist Peter Zeihan is a global energy, demographic and security expert.

Zeihan’s worldview marries the realities of geography and populations to a deep understanding of how global politics impact markets and economic trends, helping industry leaders navigate today’s complex mix of geopolitical risks and opportunities. With a keen eye toward what will drive tomorrow’s headlines, his irreverent approach transforms topics that are normally dense and heavy into accessible, relevant takeaways for audiences of all types.

In his career, Zeihan has ranged from working for the US State Department in Australia, to the DC think tank community, to helping develop the analytical models for Stratfor, one of the world’s premier private intelligence companies. Mr. Zeihan founded his own firm -- Zeihan on Geopolitics -- in 2012 in order to provide a select group of clients with direct, custom analytical products. Today those clients represent a vast array of sectors including energy majors, financial institutions, business associations, agricultural interests, universities and the U.S. military.

His freshman book, The Accidental Superpower, debuted in 2014. His sophomore project, The Absent Superpower, published in December 2016.

Find out more about Peter -- and your world -- at www.zeihan.com

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Displaying 1 - 30 of 521 reviews
Profile Image for Eric Engle.
Author 58 books49 followers
December 27, 2022
As a person, I like and even admire Peter Zeihan. But I'm an analyst. "Dear is Plato. Dearer still is truth." Zeihan is (aside from yours truly lol) the best author of U.S. strategy, currently. He's better than Mearsheimer who is also quite good. But as the stakes (life or death, victory or defeat) are high I am compelled to focus on their flaws. Both ignore ideology: perhaps surprisingly, ideology is in fact a key driver of state relations, so much so that ideology, surprisingly, often drives states into sub-optimal strategies, usually due to factional capture. The irrational state power may be rational to the governing faction! This may be part of why authors like Zeihan and Mearsheimer discount ideology.

Zeihan's other flaws are varieities of determinism, principally demographic determinism. Demography does not in fact drive state actions, but the perception of demography does. Literal nazis believed Germany needed living space "Lebensraum" because of demographic pressure, when in fact Germany was facing demographic decline. I can name no instances where states foreign policies have collapsed or even been severely distorted by demographic constraints, but can name cases where the perceptions of such supposed constraints did lead state's governing factions into foolish policies!

Similarly, apparently Zeihan is now predicting famines. Sorry, that's just not going to happen.

Zeihan believes the collapse of globalization will result in reduced trade, even in foodstuffs, leading to famines. When in fact globalization will continue apace and even intensify due to technology and self-interest. Trade is more productive and, contra Mearsheimer, does in fact make war less likely. Fear (of war) desire (for riches) and technological facts (cheap transport, near cost-free communication) are why globalization will continue. China and the USA are too deeply entwined to "decouple" "in-source" or focus only on "internal circulation".

Basically the ideologues and jurists (hi) who recognized the flaws of the former Westphalian system have set up a system which, despite occasional terrorism or coups d'etat is sustainable and peace-prone, unlike its predecessors. I detail all that in "Ideas in Conflict" which is also available as articles for free on my SSRN page.

However, despite his flaws (ignoring ideology, erroneous demographic determinism) Zeihan appears right about most of the rest of his thinking and definitely has solid insightful ECONOMIC insights into markets, particularly energy markets. He's DEFINITELY worth reading!
1. Globalization s
Profile Image for Morgan Blackledge.
551 reviews1,851 followers
August 28, 2022
The End of the World Is Just the Beginning is geopolitical strategist Peter Zeihan’s FUH-KING-HELL-AIR-EYE-US apocalyptical decry. Zeihan utilizes his expertise in the areas of demography, geography and history, and very detailed systemic analyses of global supply chain involving global transport, finance, energy, materials, manufacturing, and agriculture to argue (quite convincingly) that the world we’re currently living in, the world of affordable goods and services, brought to you via globalism, is about to end, and as such, we are about to experience something akin to mad max.

Except in America (north, central and south included), because were have sick as fuck geography, with natural defenses and mega (not MAGA) resources, and a young enough population to survive the twilight of the boomer generation.

If this sounds bullish on the future of American prosperity, Zeihan is exponentially more bearish on the future of China, who according to Zeihan, are about to completely shit the bed due to decades of one child social engineering that have left them without enough young people, and WAY WAY WAY too many old people. Zeihan predicts that China’s situation is so dang bad, that we’re probably looking at mass starvation and TOTAL social collapse within the next decade or sooner.

Zeihan also predicts that the US will no longer provide global military support for the world order that has fostered safe transit and global economic exchange for the past 3/4 century, and will instead, withdrawal in to NAFTA land, with central and South America providing the industrial base and North America providing high skilled technical “value add”.

Zeihan further predicts that if the US is no longer keeping the world safe for globalism, the rest of the planet with devolve into George Milleresque piracy and cannibalism 😵.

Regarding the environment, Zeihan (a self declared green) is completely skeptical about green energy.

He makes a RIDICULOUSLY compelling argument that we are deluded if we think green tech will even come close to meeting our energy needs any time soon (if ever).

Taken in aggregate, Zeihan’s predictions amount to some extremely tough times (end of days style) beginning now, and worsening rapidly (unless you live in the US, then you’re OK).

If none of this sounds even remotely funny.

Somehow Zeihan makes it FUH-KING-HELL-AIR-EYE-US.

I laughed out loud while reading this thing again and again.

Zeihan reports having presented to LITERALLY EVERYONE in government, on over 600 (and counting) occasions, and seems to have developed a HIGHLY engaging delivery style, ostensibly due in part to the LITERALLY AWFUL content of his messaging.

In fact, I think this book is the most entertaining non-fiction account of the apocalypse, past present or future, that I am aware of.

This book is an oddly perfect companion to the extremely optimistic The Dawn of Everything: A New History of Humanity (DOE) by David Graeber. (Read my review of it here: https://www.goodreads.com/review/show...)

In DOE, Graeber asserts that we denizens of new ‘millennia late capitalism’ assume that neoliberal means of production and consumption are the natural order, and that no other way of being (e.g. humanistic socialism etc.) is sustainable due to the equally banal assumption that these ideologies “fail to account for human nature”.

Remember that ol’ chestnut?

Anyway…

Graeber asserts we humans have the ability to create and live productively in a wide diversity of social systems, and are able to create and inhabit ways of living that are humane and in accord with environmental imperatives of sustainability.

Smash these two books together, and something like a GEN-X zeitgeist emerges from the pulpy ectoplasm.

None (or all) of it may pan out (I guess we will have to wait and see).

But if nothing else.

Both of these books are funny, smart and FASCINATING.

Taken together, they read little like the book of revelations, only for big data, big think smart people.

So why 4/5 stars?

Zeihan seems to get a little over his snow skis on a few of his predictions.

If he’s right, then we are SO FUCKED.

And he might be right.

But something (can’t 100% identify what) seems a little off.

Taking Zeihan’s argument at face value, I’m not sure the US would (or even could) withdrawal from globalization quite as abruptly as Zeihan predicts, because everyone (including US) would go down with the ship.

Or at least it seems that way to me.

It seems like something between reciprocal altruism and mutually assured destruction would kick in at some point, and we will at least figure out how to work together, kinda sorta, while this ship of fools sinks (at least a little) slower than what Zeihan predicts.

I understand that I am COMPLETELY unqualified to weigh in on such matters. That being said, I think I need a little more convincing. Perhaps I am just in denial.

I suppose the immediate short-term will tell. As many of Zeihan’s predictions are set to occur starting now.

I’d say the most immediately useful, timely and worthwhile part of this book (at least for me anyway) is Zeihan’s analysis of the Russian invasion of the Ukraine.

If you’re like me, you find the popular explanation for the Ukrainian war (e.g. Vladimir Putin is a sociopathic megalomaniac) to be EXTREMELY unsatisfying.

Zeihan provides a WAY more plausible and WAY more realistic geopolitical and population demographic analysis of the situation. And (quite simply) it actually makes sense.

And (spoiler alert) according to Zeihan’s logic. The Ukraine is just the first of the former Soviet block countries that Russia will need to invade in order to secure their vulnerable European boarder. Think Belarus, Georgia and Lithuania and look at the map. And it will start to make sense strategically.

So…

Don’t let the 4/5 stars scare you away.

This book is FUH-KING great.
169 reviews6 followers
January 17, 2023
This is book #4 by Geopolitical consultant Peter Zeihan (pronounced "Zion"), and his Magnum Opus. And boy is there a lot to unpack here. What makes Zeihan indispensable is his knowledge and approach that integrates the effects on nations of their geography, resources, demographics, and economics to explain their history, understand the current situation, and forecast what may happen next. As an example of why people like me follow him, in his 2016 book "The Absent Superpower" Zeihan devoted a chapter to how Russia would invade Ukraine and he explained why and for what aims. (The explanation is SO Zeihan, based on geography and demographics. Mainstream publishers thought that was so ridiculous, he had to self-publish that book.)

The sparest summary I can give is this: The global political and trade order that has existed since the end of World War II is going to end -- it only existed because of the Americans, and Americans have lost interest in enforcing it. The result will be a huge decline in the ability of all nations to conduct international trade (ie, globalism), which will have all sorts of deleterious effects on most of the world -- from lack of energy resources, to hunger, to big economic declines. The best cases will be nations that can source most important things themselves, or enforce tight trade alliances that can withstand foreign interference. On top of this, most nations are facing demographic decline (ageing and shrinking populations, the retiring of the baby boomers) which will only make things worse, with the adjunct of greatly reducing availability of capital and finance. Meanwhile climate change, though in some spots actually beneficial, will add to the confusion and challenges.

Note: Zeihan has come to get a lot of attention on social media, and seems to me that people tend to fall into two camps. 1) They uncritically believe everything he says and every prediction he makes, or 2) they are driven to witless hatred and think he's full of lies and nonsense. I would like to suggest that one can read and appreciate Zeihan's work, while recognizing that predicting the future is hard and he's obviously not going to get everything right. He's not Nostradamus. Furthermore, an analysis is not true or false; it's merely good or bad. If you think Zeihan has done a poor job of analyzing something, or misunderstood something, that does not make him a liar. It would be interesting to track a Zeihan scorecard over time to see what comes true and what doesn't and what falls somewhere in-between.
....…

Underlying this and all of his books is his framework: the world as we know it is the result of what he calls The Order -- that is, the world order that emerged from the 1944 Bretton Woods conference and the end of World War II the next year. The US guaranteed freedom of trade on the seas and guaranteed security in Europe in exchange for disallowing military adventurism. The US would open its markets to its fellow nations -- unilaterally, they need not open to the US -- to help their economies recover from the war. In an historic plot twist, the partners included the former enemies Germany, Japan, and Italy, as well as the allies.

With an iron-clad rule that anyone could acquire anything from anywhere -- all they had to do was pay for it -- and that they could sell what they wanted into the US market, The Order ended a myriad of potential military rivalries and also ended the Age of Imperialism. With the benefits provided by the US guarantees and the ability to trade freely, there was no longer a need to maintain a militaristic empire and huge navy to access markets and resources and labor abroad. You could access those markets all you want, no need to bring the gunboats and set up a colonial government.

NOT included in the deal was the USSR and its reluctant satellites. US-friendly nations had to side with the US against the Soviet bloc. And that was the point: the US guaranteed benefits to all in order to maintain a free world to face off the Soviet threat (Zeihan often refers to this as a bribe).

But the point of all this was NOT to maximize the benefits to the US -- on the contrary, it all came at great expense to the US, which bore great costs and suffered a loss of economic growth and dynamism to maintain the order. Zeihan: "Recent decades have not been the American CENTURY, they've been the American SACRIFICE."

Per Zeihan, The Order has begun to unravel, starting with 1) the death of the USSR and reinforced by 2) the advent of petroleum fracking. The Order was created to defend the world from a threat that no longer existed. That the Order has still more or less been enforced up to now is really just a matter of inertia and the need to maintain world trade in oil. But Zeihan is convinced the US is well on the way to abandoning the order and no longer suffering the cost and hassle of maintaining it. Among the evidence, he points out that the last real Internationalist President was the first George Bush (Bush-41) -- and he got run out of office.

And so that brings us to the point of this: what will the world look like when The Order no longer is in force?

With that question in mind, there are some huge points to understand. It cannot be emphasized enough: the world as we know it today is an anomaly and the product of The Order. The peace and prosperity that so many nations have been enjoying for 70 years is an anomaly. That is not the normal course of events. The peace that has obtained in Europe since 1945 did not result from Europeans becoming enlightened and peaceful. The peace was imposed ON them, externally, by the US. The enormous growth in globalization -- anomaly. The hyper growth of East Asia and China -- could only have happened thanks to The Order. Germany can export factory machinery to China without that cargo ship being pirated by the British Navy -- anomaly!

The world as we know it today -- everything from the EU to the rise of China, the abundance of capital, the fact that even a cheap product like blue jeans can be shuttled back and forth as an intermediate good among a half dozen countries each doing the next step in manufacturing -- is only the way it is because of The Order. So what happens when the order inevitably collapses, as Zeihan insists it is about to do? What happens when the US -- the only country even remotely powerful enough to pull this off -- becomes uninterested in global stability and no longer will make the effort? That's what he explores in abundant detail in this book.

As he takes on one topic after another and describes how the collapse of The Order will cause a world of problems, there's a recurring theme to most topics: the Big Loser will be China, and the Big Winner (or at least, fittest survivor) will be the USA.

For China, it cannot be overemphasized just how negative Zeihan is about its future. Conventional wisdom and pseudo-intellectuals like Ray Dalio blather about China being the next great Superpower (and a great place to invest). Zeihan is having none of it. Not only is China NOT the next superpower, it's almost certain that the Chinese nation as exists today will break apart, and its economic demand and supply will collapse, and China will cease to be a power in the world. Even without the end of globalism, the most aggressive demographic projections suggest China's population could fall by HALF by only 2050, Zeihan says.

(That seems a bit extreme to me, but without doubt now as of mid-2022 China's population has already peaked and is already shrinking -- based on China's own latest official stats. And that is NOT a trend that reverses. Ever. But if you Google it, you'd find most links on China population overstate it quite a bit. UN chronically overestimates and cannot pull back projections fast enough to keep up. The Worldometer site is right now overstating China population by at least 40 million and unaccountably continues to forecast growth -- it simply ignores China's own official numbers and instead relies on continued "elaboration" of obsolete UN projections from years ago, without correction.)

** Update on Jan 16, 2023: per CNBC, China's official stats agency just announced population DECLINED by nearly 1 million people in 2022 **

The book is absolutely rife with such phrases as "after the fall of China" and "in a world without China".

Now, Zeihan is not a Jingoistic USA #1 cheerleader. He doesn't even LIKE the future he sees. His predictions of relatively good outcomes for the US are based on his analysis of the indisputable advantages the US has thanks to those subjects he weaves into his analyses -- geography, resources, and demographics especially. An example of how geography matters that I like: The Texas Gulf coast alone has more potential natural seaport capacity than the entirety of Asia. Energy? The USA is the #1 producer of oil AND natural gas AND it's the best-situated advanced nation to make use of wind and solar energy -- whose potential by the way is quite limited for most other countries no matter how much they talk about it and invest in it. [Don't believe him? At this moment in October 2022 -- after their many years of bragging and preaching about wind and solar -- the news is full of Europeans panicking as they desperately hope to get though winter by stockpiling burnable wood pellets, firewood, horse manure, and trash.]

Hunger? US is the #1 producer and exporter of food. Resources? If the ultra pure silicon used to make chips becomes an item of contention, 95% of it comes from a mine in North Carolina. Or Demographic decline? US Millennials are a baby boom generation, and there's an outside chance that they'll PRODUCE a baby boom generation for the future.

Zeihan's depressing view is that all THIS is the kind of thing that will really matter in the near future and most places will be a lot worse off than the US. Things will be tough all over but the US and its NAFTA allies will be in pretty good shape (along with the USA's own advantages, the Canada/USA/Mexico bloc makes for about the most perfectly complementary international resource, labor, and consumer markets imaginable).

To finish the quote above: "Recent decades have not been the American Century, they've been the American Sacrifice. The FUTURE will be the American Century". But there are also other countries in promising situations and these he outlines too.

Note: Zeihan states that the final edit of the book occurred in February just before Russia invaded Ukraine. He was able to insert a few final-final comments one week into the war. I would say that current war-induced issues of food security and fertilizer supply certainly fit into Zeihan's predictions. As of this writing, Germany has just declared a natural gas crisis because Russia has cut gas supplies to it. Germany also has seized three LNG ships from Russia. (Or take this recent quote from the UK Daily Telegraph: "Olaf Scholz’s government faces the unenviable task of dialling back Germany’s dependence on both countries [Russia & China] and finding an alternative to globalisation.")

Meanwhile the money/food/fuel-starved Sri Lanka is suffering from the disastrous mistake of banning chemical fertilizers because of some hippie delusion, even before the supply of those became a current wartime casualty, and so has seen food production plummet by 50% or more. These are all the kind of food and resource scarcity, trade disruption, and competition issues Zeihan spends this book warning about. He probably thought we had more time.

The audio book was capably read by Zeihan himself, and almost perfectly filled up a 1400-mile road trip to South Texas to see SpaceX and Starbase.
Profile Image for Supinder.
116 reviews4 followers
July 24, 2022
An interesting book that I found difficult to take seriously. I applaud the author for making a number of verifiable predictions, however, I found the writing style unserious and flippant. The author's arguments revolve around the primacy of both demographics and geography, as such political systems and ideology do not play significant roles in the author's thesis. The author presents his arguments with detail and repetitiveness, however, what disappoints me is that the author is so evidently confident in his predictions that no counterargument and antithesis is considered.

Of interest are those surprising countries that will do well in this changing world order such as Argentina, Columbia, and Mexico. Overall a fascinating but limited Book.
Profile Image for Wick Welker.
Author 5 books313 followers
August 17, 2022
The Order is collapsing.

My first Zeihan read and it was phenomenal, thought-provoking, sobering and also terrifying. The crux of this book is that the American hegemonic global order of peaceful and protected commerce is coming to an end as the Americans lose interest in maintaining the Order. If you couple that with the abject demographic collapse of global drop in fertility rates, we’ll find ourselves witnessing the utter collapse of a globalized economy over the next 10 to 20 years. For Zeihan, it’s a certainty. For me it’s not a foregone conclusion. I’ll explain.

Geography is everything. Zeihan makes a compelling argument that America has the unique terrain that has given it advantages right from the beginning. Two coasts with numerous and easily navigable ports and an enormous amount of land mass for farming make America uniquely able to thrive on its own land. The US easily implemented industrialization without it being so disruptive as it was for the rest of the world. You then pair this advantage with the conditions before and after WWII, and it’s very clear why the US became the de facto world power. America entered WWII late in the game and had already supplied a ton of stuff to the allies and sucked up all their gold. By the end of WWII, the US was uniquely positioned to set up an economic order that made the dollar the receiving currency, backed by the majority of gold reserves. Incentivized to limit the Soviets, the US set up a global order where, rather than imperializing itself, it ensured peaceful global commerce at the cost of hegemonic and almost monolithic US power.

The ensuing Order ushered in more global growth, industrialization and mass urbanization than has ever occurred on the planet. The unprecedented peaceful commerce lifted billions from starvation and abject poverty (although the definition of poverty is highlyunderstated and still leaves swathes of people everywhere with terrible living conditions, a topic for another time.) This isn’t a value judgment about ideology. I don’t care if someone is a capitalist, a socialist, a communist, a corporate fascist—the fact is that a capitalized global order clearly took control which resulted in mass industrialization. To argue that a different ideology is superior in theory is really immaterial. Neoliberal capitalism IS the global order and it has resulted in relatively increased global prosperity over other attempted constructs that have fizzled like Soviet Communism. Those are the facts.

But flash forward to the 2020s and we now have two problems: unraveling of peaceful commerce and dropping fertility rates. Countries like China have accelerated industrialization at neck-breaking speeds. It’s the rate of change that is so remarkable. The thing is, most countries like China simply caught up with globalized economies and did it remarkably fast but they’ve done it using the same model that all other economically successful countries have used. China currently uses hyperfinance, flooding everything with capital and then suppressing their labor class to create tremendous surplus which it sinks into literally everything, including the US corporatocracy and bond market. The problem is you need young people everywhere to bolster your work force and to keep consumerism and loan markets humming along. But this is collapsing, literally everywhere. As consumerism collapses, all the rich Boomers are taking their money with them. I agree with Zeihan that it is for this very reason that the unprecedented growth since WWII is very likely over. It is something that we need to accept.

Global commerce is dependent on American strategic and tactical overwatch. Remove the American policing and long haul shipping collapses as well as every global trade market, which is like ALL of them. If you remove mass consumption due to demographic collapse, this entire system is over. The issue I take with Zeihan here, and where his entire argument rests, is that American withdrawal is inevitable. It’s not. All it would take is a policy change of a single American President, and half of Zeihan’s argument and predictions disintegrates. For Zeihan it is all a certainty, but it’s really not. I agree that globalized prosperity is on the decline and so is the United States and I do believe a new fractured world order is approaching but it may not be exactly as this book predicts. For Zeihan it is a fact that China will collapse over the next 10-20 years followed by massive global famine all while the US will be able to live off its own land while asserting only regional, not global, hegemonic control.

Two things bothered me about this book. First is Zeihan’s ridiculous claim that rather than the US asserting global dominance, the US has sacrificed itself to maintain this global order as some sort of altruism. This is the same distortion and misrepresentation you see when people try to valorize philanthropic billionaires. Billionaires, like the US, are playing the long game of appearing to sacrifice time and money as long as they stay at the head of the table. That’s not altruism, it’s just rebranded tyranny. The other thing that was a HUGE oversight is Zeihan literally never discusses the possible stabilizing forces of automation. I found this omission to be really weird. The guy is incredibly informed yet left out a crucial discussion that could upend the premise of the entire book? That’s deliberate. Also this book is very heavy on cultural and geographic determinism, which has its flaws.

Don’t get me wrong: I really liked this book and I think everyone should read it. Zeihan is smart, informed and is an amazing critical thinker. There is so much more in this book that I haven’t mentioned: climate change, the feasibility of green energy, specific supply chains, the future of agriculture and mining.

Overall, I highly, highly recommend that you read this book. Like, right now.
Profile Image for Nilesh Jasani.
955 reviews119 followers
September 19, 2022
The End of the World reads like a political manifesto. Most of the book will resonate well if the reader is an American nationalist, particularly a MAGA-believing Trump supporter. Otherwise, a lot in the book would be so deeply offensive that most readers are unlikely to retain their objectivity enough to pick the good points in between.

It must be recorded that the author declares himself a democrat as well as an internationalist in the passing. He is definitely not a climate-damage denier. Some sections support the climate claims, although they too are used more to prove that those the author likes will gain and the others will perish, rather than for any other genuine purposes.

In summary, the author strongly believes that almost all non-Americans are people without resources, industry, innovativeness, and any good institutional structures. These folks - variously called lazy, without creativity, fractious, herd-like, but thankfully not identified as having wrong religions or skin colors - have benefited from America-sponsored, America-created globalization of the last few decades. American sacrifices - something he explicitly mentions - made it possible for the rest of the world to have decent economic existence. The rest of the world has grown as the US, as per the author, sacrificed some of its. The book's first conclusion is that this is coming to an end (although it often reads like he desires rather than predicts it).

To be clear, the author has a concise list of nations that he favors. Many are preferred because their populations are not falling, while others are because of positive relationships with the United States. His preference order starts with the favorites as France and Argentina, followed by Sweden, Japan, UK, Colombia, Canada, Mexico, Singapore, Germany, New Zealand, South Korea, India, and SE Asia/Australia as a region (I might have missed a couple). However, almost none of these are seen as able to survive independently but could be worthy protectorate candidates for America. The rest are so doomed that at a certain point, the author even predicts a billion or more (of course, from the places he dislikes, with the most intense dislike reserved for China) to perish.

The author can and does offend anyone who does not belong to his echo chamber (effectively people who believe in perpetual population growth, fossil fuels, Southern American values/beliefs/lifestyles, apart from the belief that no one except the US can truly innovate and grow). His tone on American Exceptionalism is designed to denigrate everyone else. The basic idea is to close the US economy because the US can not only survive easily without others but also do far better relying on its own resources and workers (particularly from the South, including Texas) with occasional help from Mexico and a handful of others. Such closing of the US will almost send the rest to doom because of their inherent inadequacies.

In terms of the content, the book is littered with errors, not just while demeaning every other economy's ability or promoting American supremacy/isolationism but also while making points on topics like demographics or the impracticality of green energy. There are multiple good observations on how little green energy has contributed, agricultural challenges, and changing demographics. Still, most points fail to make a good impression because of the quickly drawn and often-disconnected, extreme, biased conclusions.

With this book, Mr. Zeihan may have significantly boosted the chances of being invited for a senior government position when a nationalistic leader becomes the US president in the future. This work should not be ignored for its potential impact on policymaking despite all the flaws.
Profile Image for Jeff.
1,187 reviews100 followers
June 13, 2022
A Realist Looks To The Future. I've read several books in the last few years covering the general real-world end of the world scenarios and/ or projections for the next few decades, and this text is refreshing in just how grounded and real Zeihan's approach is. There may in fact be squabbles about a particular point here or there, or even Zeihan's entire general premise, as the only other review on Goodreads at the time I write this points out, but for me the analysis was close enough to be at least one plausible scenario among many that *could* play out - unlike most others I've read in this field. Add in the fact that this isn't a dry academic look, but instead a somewhat humorous and even crass at times real, straightforward analysis... and you've got my attention. Note: If you're a reader that absolutely WILL NOT tolerate f-bombs, even the occasional one... eh, you're probably gonna wanna skip this one. ;) Instead, this reads more like you're sitting at the bar with a few drinks with an absolute expert in his field, and he is going over a very detailed look at what he thinks is coming over the next 10 - 30 years. As a text, it is thus quite remarkable. The *singular* weakness I found in the text that was star deduction worthy was a complete absence of a bibliography, and the frequent use of footnotes without actually noting even when they were happening was a touch irritating, but not additional star deduction worthy. Very much recommended.
Profile Image for Antigone.
489 reviews723 followers
August 11, 2022
Peter Zeihan has become a popular man in recent months. He has taken up the profession of prediction, calculating through geography and demographics where the wider world will turn in the next thirty or forty years. Seen in private consultation, podcasts, roundtables and more, he has an engaging personality and an effective style of communicating information that would, under normal circumstances, put an audience to sleep in roughly six minutes flat. He is, of course, banking on the premise that these are not normal circumstances. I'd say that's a safe bet. In fact, this is precisely the stage of historic event when the oracle becomes our darling. And he has. And this is his thing.

Zeihan's been right about a couple of important matters. The Ukraine War. The American pull-out of troops, embassies, and leadership in global concerns. (This superpower isn't superpowering very much of anything anymore.) The rise of famine as a crisis. Germany's current energy woes. And, if these Build Back Better economic plans are any indication, he's also on-track with his forecast of North America's intent to become increasingly self-sufficient through investments in infrastructure and manufacturing - which means it's not going to need quite as much from overseas (aka: No more lingering under Damocles' Sword).

His most startling prediction is the implosion of China. At a time when most in positions of power are convinced this country is poised to take over the world, Zeihan grabs us by the shoulders and points us the other way. His demographic studies illustrate the evolving cost of the One Child Policy - which he asserts has decimated their workforce - and adds to this the failure of the ruling party to invest in the sort of self-sustaining practices and mutually-beneficial relationships it is shortly going to need. There is no saving China, he insists; the fall is a foregone conclusion. (And possibly the reason Taiwan is getting a little tense these days.)

Zeihan paints a fairly dire picture for nations who've come to take foreign investment and market accessibility for granted. In a world he foresees as fracturing, they are the ones most likely to take it on the chin. And while I agree with some of his critics who point out his lack of factoring in technological solutions and human ingenuity, the truth is he doesn't have to. The world as we know it may be running out of time, but Peter's got more than enough to spend watching, learning, deducing, and publishing book after book after bestselling book. As an oracle? It certainly doesn't suck to be him.

Profile Image for Bartosz Majewski.
278 reviews216 followers
June 20, 2022
This guy.

I have read his 3 books in a month since I've heard the recommendation from David Sacks in The All In Podcast. A year later i found myself waiting for a premiere of his new book, he published ~100 days after Russia invaded Ukraine, at the beginning of Polish long weekend. Talk about timing.

Everything that constitutes modern life relies on what we know as globalisation with roots in Bretton Woods. Globalisation is made of cheap and reliable inputs like oil, natgas, wheat, avocado, wine and bourbon, soy, cotton and corn. If you start to fuck around with reliability or price of those - you get shortages, inflation, breaking supply chains and in more persistent cases deindustrialisation, political breakdown and famine Venezuela and Zimwabwe style.

Rulesare enforced by US aircraft carriers. If the US decides to not enforce them anymore (by choosing more and more isolationist and populist politicians) shit gets tough real fast for almost everyone besides americans. Zeihan paints the picture on how tough exackly.

Not a fun book to read.
Profile Image for Bernard.
404 reviews3 followers
June 16, 2022
Whether you agree with his thoughts or not, this book is a MUST READ!

I have read his prior three books. I enjoyed them more. This one has a little too much of Peter's political views.

Peter Zeihan is brilliant. His interesting way of exploring why things happen in the world is fascinating. Maybe I am naïve, but while I believe his writing to be, in many ways brilliant, he is wrong in some areas. He believes that ideology is a minor insignificant factor. He believes that all politicians are the same and are not all that relevant. He also has a habit of making dismissive comments about people in a certain political party but not so much in the other party...

Bottom line, he is a brilliant geopolitical researcher but a political dummy.

His description explaining the American Rust Belt going for Trump was as solid as his COVID section, in other words garbage. Trump was never anti-immigrant, he was anti illegal. That is not a minor point. Peter is a lefty green and it shows. While his writing is interesting, you have to understand that he is far from perfect.

I believe that Individuals CAN make a difference and DO make a difference.

His COVID section was putrid. While I do not disagree with his conclusions, his lack of intellectual vigor was obvious. I will admit that the subject is a political hot potato and he may just be avoiding what he perceives as unnecessary political arguments.

While I agree that time would have been useful, and COVID did cost world leaders time, does ANYONE believe that the current world leaders would have done a damned thing that was useful? COVID policy caused many problems, but a lack of preparation time for the world community really isn't one of them. Note that he is the one who basically says that no politicians really make a difference then later complains that they were robbed of planning time? Might want to put a little more thought into that one...

He mentions that Americans are not from America... I was born here and have NO loyalties to any other countries. Yes, I am from here. If you want to say that this land was once held by others, I would ask how far back you want to go? I would ask if this land really belongs to the dinosaurs? If you want to just go back to the "native Americans", which tribe or tribes are you going to pick? By the way, how do you think they got the land originally?

During his lecture on the fact that current "isms" are not covering the future, I realized that one could logically argue that his model is no longer valid. Changes in how the world works WILL change the values of various inputs. If that is the case, and I believe it is, this should be his last book...

Peter is a bit negative. Will things get ugly? Yes. Will that same ugliness create opportunities for advancements and a wondrous future? Maybe, maybe not. I believe his conclusions tend towards being correct but he is missing the dynamic creativity that sometimes happens when the chips are down. There is a LOT of room in the world for innovation, creativity, and experimentation.

Maybe an all new incredible weapons system may come online. Maybe, instead of an expensive navy, one only needs a high-tech satellite network to guard most merchant shipping? If that one thing happened, it would be a game changer.

Maybe some billionaire will form a high tech mercenary group to escort shipments? A great way to make money and make a difference.

Whatever happens, I am pretty sure humanity will survive. Peter is a big fan of globalism, I am not. The juice isn't worth the squeeze. Globalism has offered the world exposure to education, diversity, and exposed many injustices as well as cultural triumphs. It has also entangled the United States in a no-win monetary scheme and forced us to fight wars that are not our own. Let the world take care of itself for a while.

While he is a Green, he covered green energy fairly and in detail. His descriptions of comparative cost and performance were right on target. His section on global warming could easily have been skipped.

While my review may sound critical, that does NOT mean that the book is bad. It just means that Peter forced me to think and I went in different directions than he did.

Buy the book. Read the book. Form your own opinion.
Profile Image for Brahm.
453 reviews48 followers
September 18, 2022
Zeihan's thesis is baked into the subtitle: globalization is falling apart. Bringing it home for anyone with retirement savings, the inside jacket claims that "2019 was the last great year for the economy." The book chronicles why the last ~30 years were basically the best ever and how we got to that state, and the subsequent world of pain that will be felt on global transport, finance, energy, energy, industrial minerals, manufacturing, and agriculture.

This is the third Zeihan book I've read (The Accidental Superpower / my review, and Disunited Nations / my review) and there's a very similar feel to the previous ones:

1. Fawn over navigable waterways and how much sweet, sweet capital they generate.
2. Speedrun through WWII, the Bretton Woods agreement, and how the US Navy is literally Team America: World Police for the oceans, enabling globalization.
3. Primer on demography charts (example)
4. Talk about how demographic collapse in basically all but a new nations will cause modern globalization to fall apart.
5. Peer into the hazy crystal ball of the future and make predictions (this is most of the book).

I'm being a bit tongue-in-cheek. This might be Zeihan's most comprehensive book yet and his most persuasive (certainly COVID-19 disruptions, Russia's war in Ukraine, and the Euro energy crisis help his arguments). There's a ton of interesting information and random facts (which will blow up the length of this review), insight into geopolitics (something I'm still learning about), and some highly logical conclusions: if this fails, then that fails.

I need to talk about a couple challenges readers will face, which also make reviewing and summarizing the book difficult.

1. Zeihan writes in a tone that's snarky or goofy, depending on your ambient level of cynicism. Lots of jokey footnotes. This may or may not drive you bananas.
2. This book is LONG: 481 pages...
3. ... and that's not including references. Which is my next complaint: there are no references. Charts are labelled with data sources, but nothing in the text can be looked up.
4. There's a lot of bulleted lists that disrupt the flow of the "narrative". Don't think grocery-list bullets, think each bullet is a half-page paragraph.

I find Zeihan's overall thesis of a global collapse in trade and cooperation very difficult to swallow. Maybe it's just me as a sheltered Millennial growing up in a time of ultimate global prosperity, but I find global state-sponsored piracy unlikely. Maybe it's true we've been living in a sheltered bubble for the last ~80 years and all good things have to end. But part of me doesn't understand why nation-states wouldn't come to a collective realization that continued cooperation is largely in everyone's best interests. Call me naive.

Zeihan's perspective on energy is interesting: reducing fossil fuel consumption (for much of the world) not by environmentally-driven choice, but my lack of supply in a deglobalized and chaotic world. Like Smil (who he recognizes in the Acknowledgements section) and Epstein and Schellenberger, Zeihan recognizes the value and irreplaceability of many qualities of fossil fuels, but in my opinion lacks imagination (and/or is inconsistent, and/or it's an editing problem) around some of the alternatives. Solar and wind are decried for their lack of dispatchability, then a few pages later wind and solar are suggested as an oil substitute in the US. Hmm.

Zeihan actually responded to a tweet of mine (which was cool!) saying that nuclear should be part of the solution, but that they "take too long to build in most places, making them broadly infeasible". This seems to contradict a narrative in the book about how humans will invest 10s or 100s of billions of dollars chasing massive fossil fuel deposits that take a decade or more from planning to first exploitation. One of the more interesting rebuttals I've heard to the "too long to build" arguments for nuclear is the "too short of a lifetime" for wind/solar. Given that most wind/solar plants have a 25-year service life, all of the wind and solar that currently exists today, and all that will be built in the next three years, won't exist in 2050 when we're "supposed to" reach net zero. Furthermore: Zeihan doesn't mention that wind/solar manufacturing is almost totally dependent on offshore East Asian economies which he clearly believes will collapse. Given all of that: what's the best type of electrical energy for regions to invest in?

Overall: Fascinating as always, but all my past criticisms/challenges around prediction books hold.






Interesting bits and random facts... I used a record 4 stacks of page tabs on this one:



Check out the author's maps from the book: zeihan.com/end-of-the-world-maps/

p1: "Instead of cheap and faster and better, we're rapidly transitioning to a world that is pricier and worse and slower."

p22: Great point about how electricity and energy "granted women the possibility of a life not utterly committed to garden-, house-, and child-care."

p60: On the inevitability of demographic collapse: "The world's demographic structure passed the point of no return twenty to forty years ago. The 2020s are when it all breaks apart."

p66: On the impacts of demographic collapse and de-globalization: fewer interactions --> reduced access (materials/markets) --> reduced income --> fewer economies of scale --> less labour specialization --> reduced interaction (viscous cycle). Shortages mean everyone looks after themselves. Everyone becomes less efficient, productive. Compounding problem. Specialization declines (impacts on food, technology, energy?)

p81: Russia's decline as a nation-state is a best-case outcome for countries in a deglobalizing world, because at least they have ample land, food capacity, resources, plus a nuclear arsenal of course...

p88: "The globalization game is not simply ending. It is already over. Most countries will never return to the degree of stability of growth they experienced in 2019."

p93: The huge Boomer retiring basically right now means the world is going to be starved of their huge amount of capital (retirement savings invested). Bonus: skilled labour shortage, labour inflation for years to come.

p98: "Most countries are nation-states: their governments exist to serve the interests of a specific ethnicity (the nation) in a specific territory (the state)." New idea to me. Consider France, Japan, China vs. Canada, Brazil, Switzerland, United States. Unitary governments vs. confederal/federal governments. The ability for new immigrants to define and integrate themselves into a national identity will be a useful feature in the future. E.g. Anyone can be "Canadian".

p104: America not facing the same demographic collapse as the rest of the world. Yay America!

p131: "Between 2000 and 2020, moving a container across the Atlantic or Pacific averaged out to about $700 per container... transport has become so rote that in 2019 the Chinese recycling industry had to place restrictions on the import of low-quality recycled trash."

p139: On impact of supply chain disruptions: "It takes 30,000 pieces of build a car. If you only have 29,999 pieces, you have an ambitiously sized paperweight."

p149: "The defining characteristic of the new era is that we will no longer all be on the same side." - and if the US is no longer policing the oceans, will large shipping containers and haulage become fair targets? Could countries start seizing energy or food shipments? Hmm...

p175: During and after WWII, Americans were happy to supply Allies with whatever they needed, so long as they were paid in gold... vacuumed up all of Europe's gold wealth in the process. Result was that Europe could never back a currency to compete with the US dollar.

p185: "China regularly prints currency at more than double the rate of the United States, sometimes at five times the U.S. rate."

p188: "For reasons that only made sense at the time, in the 1990s and early 2000s it became Europe's conventional wisdom that everyone in Europe should be able to borrow at terms that previously had only been offered to the most scrupulous of Europeans." Great section about how Spain, Italy, Greece, and more borrowed like high school kids who don't understand credit cards, and somehow this was a good idea. "Greece hosted an Olympics entirely on credit."

p189: "The entire European system is now doing little more than going through the motions until the common currency inevitably shatters."

p210: this graph of % increases in total private credit, by country. Seems bad.

p212: "Expect to hear a lot about capital flight and capital controls."

p231: Globalization and the fall of the USSR meant that all of a sudden, there was a single global price for oil, compared to historical in-country markets. "With the Cold War's end, the Americans may have wanted to take a less active role in global affairs, they may have wanted to disengage, but a single global oil price meant that doing so would risk instability, supply shortages, and oil prices so high as to wreck the American economy. The Americans had become economically trapped in their own outdated security policy."

p241: A great explanation on how hydraulic fracturing actually works. Plus, "at the dawn of the shale era in 2005, these horizontal wells were only 600 feet long per drilling platform and only prduced a few dozen barrels of oil per day. As of 2022, many of the newer laterals are in eccess of two miles, with many of the wells sporting a veritable tree of brances of sub-laterials in excess of a mile long each, all connected to the same vertical pipe... common to have individual wells kick out in excess of 5,000 barrels of oil a day - a figure that puts individual American shale wells on par with some of the most prolific oil wells in Iraq and Saudi Arabia."

p260: Fascinating insight about how Russia is the world's largest natural gas exporter because of legacy infrastructure that distributed gas to all of the now-former Soviet states. Helps frame and understand current EU dependence on Russian gas.

p262: Natural gas is insanely cheap in the US because it's a by-product of shale oil wells. (similar to Western Canada, a good chunk of gas in AB/SK is a byproduct of oil production)

p264: This powerful chart illustrates our dependence on oil. 58% of total consumption is for transport. Just 4.1% goes to electricity. For me this chart is key in understanding future challenges of electricty supply due to increased demand for electrification. If cars consume 21% of the world's oil and we electrify them all, that's a huge amount of energy that needs to be supplied from (ideally) non-fossil sources. Nuclear anyone?

p268: "Fossil fules are so concentrated that they're literally 'energy' in physical form. In contrast, all greentechs require space/.

p269: Zeihan is not a nuke bro. Says that nuclear is infeasible due to its image. "If only solar and wind are doing the lifting, they would need a ninefold buildout to fully displace fossil fuels." Later this page, talking about electrifying the transportation sector: "Again, hydro and nuclear couldn't help, so that ninefold increase in wind and solar is now a twenty-fold increase." And later: "We need to green the grid before we expand it... pace is painfully slow... solar has only increased to 1.5 perfecnt of total energy use."

p271: "Greentech today is so unreliable in most locations that those localities that do attempt greentech have no choice but to maintain a full conventional system for their total peak demand - at full cost."

p273: On battery storage: "The state as a whole has but enough total storage - not battery storage, but total [energy] storage - but one minute of power."

p274: On risks of expensive renewables (due to required redundancy): "There is nothing wrong with financing twenty-five years of [greentech] power bills up front when cpaital is cheap. But in the capital-poor world... all such up-front investments degreade from an easy carry to unsatisfactorily risky and expensive. In that world, the far lower installation costs of convential systems make a great deal more sense."

p286: The EU is the descendent of the post-WWII European Coal and Steel Community.

p289: On available critical minerals in a de-globalized world: "One product that does exist in most places is low-quality coal."

p291: China imports more iron ore than the rest of the world combined, times three.

p294: China absorbs two-thirds of all internationally traded bauxite, and smelts three-fifths of all aluminum. This chapter on minerals is interesting for understanding China's role as a middle player: take raw materials, dump labour and energy into making refined products like steel and aluminum, and dump those onto the global markets. Capital constraints, demographic collapse, and de-globalization put China's role as a middle-level refiner at big risk (says Zeihan).

p297: "As of 2022, cobalt is the only sufficiently energy-dense metal that even hints we might be able to use rechargable batteries to tech out way out of our climate challenges... annual cobalt metal demand [I think he means supply] between 2022 and 2025 alone needs to double to 220,000 tons simply to keep pace with Green aspirations. That won't happen." Because cobalt refining is buried in China's hyperfinanced economy. Nearly all cobalt refining happens in the PRC, with Canada a distant second.

p300: 80% of lithium processing also happens in China.

p300: Carbon "break-even" point of a Tesla is 55,000 miles driven (given increased refining, mining, metals, etc. inputs, vs. an internal combusion engine car). Zeihan: this may over-state their green-friendliness because EVs typically charge at night when there's no solar on the grid.

p307: 3/4 of the world's platinum group metalS (PGMs) come from South Africa, where the majority comes from a single rock formation called the Bushveld Igneous Complex.

p314: 80% of the world's high-quality quartz (input to electronics-grade semiconductors) comes from a single mine in North Carolina.

p315: "In a post-Order world, uranium is likely to become more popular as a power fuel". Finally, Zeihan! "Uranium is the only electricity input that could be theorhetically flown to its end user" (because of that sweet, sweet energy density).

p323: "The supply chain agony of 2021 was primarily about whiplashing demand. Deglobalization will instead beqat us about the head and shoulders with instability in supply."

p324: While I'm not in love with Zeihan's goofy/snarky writing tone, I ABSOLUTELY LOVE his use of "phbbbbt" on p324 as a horse-lips noise paired with an ellipsis to denote thinking out loud. Lol.

p352: China's birth rate is now one of the lowest in the world, but Shanghai and Beijing have the lowest birth rates in the world.

p358: "Germany cannot maintain its position as a wealthy and free nation without the Americans, but Germany also cannot maintain its position as a modern industrialized nation without Russia" (for minerals, resources, manufacturing, exports, etc.) Ukraine war adding to complexity.

p362: "The United States and Mexico have among the world's best greentech [energy] options. Wind on the Great Plains, solar in the Southwest."

p367: "Only North America sports a demographic profile that doesn't have to immediately adapt to a fundamentally new - and fundamentally unknown - financial reality. And so massive manufacturing reshoring to the American system is already in progress" Yay us!

p374: Prediction that most refining and manufacturing capability in China and much of East Asia will become stranded assets due to deglobalization.

p375: "Reducing economies of scale reduces the opportunities for automation. Applying new technology to any manufacturing system adds cost, and automation is no exception. It will still happen, but only in targeted applications such as textiles and advanced semiconductors. Such automated applications are already cheaper than human labour". Super interesting as an automation guy!

p378: Automotive is the single biggest piece of international trade. In China, vehicle sales peaked in 2018. In Europe they peaked decades ago. As someone who hates driving cars except when absolutely required, I would love to see people adopt bikes and mass transit, however further decline in automotive would obviously have big impacts on a global manufacturing workforce and supply chain.

p381: In 2019, burning wood accounted for 2.3% of the EU's electricity supply. Also: "If people cannot source golbally traded energy products like natural gas and diesel, they will have a choice between not having heat for cooking or staying warm... or burning wood. The scale of the devastation - in terms of carbon emissions, land cover, biodiversity, smog, water quality, and safety - caused by half the woreld's population reverting to wood burning is difficult to wrap the mind around." Hence the case for massive increases in cheap, long-term, zero-carbon energy... but Zeihan thinks nuclear's PR is too bad.

p393: Ancient (now hipster) grains like farro, imllet, amaranth, teff are less common because they typically require more land, water, or labour (or all three) than ubiquitous wheat.

p398: An apple can last more than a year in a blacked-out, near-freezing industrial warehouse with all the oxygen sucked out.

p406: On fertilizer and crop inputs: "While 'only' 20-25 percent of grains and soy are transported internationally, some 80 percent of the inputs are."

p409: Chinese soil and water quality is so low that Chinese farmers generally use more fertilizer per calorie produced than anoy other country, 5x in the case of nitrogen.

p411: Most plants are 0.5-2% potassium by weight at harvest, hence the need for potassium fertilizer. Yay potash!

p415, footnote: "You can have organic foods or environmentally friendly foods. You cannot have both."

(continued in comment)
Profile Image for Logan Streondj.
Author 2 books11 followers
June 19, 2022
This book is heavily biased pro-america can do no wrong, and with massive blind spots ignoring even the possiblity of resource shortages in America.
The premise of the book is that the "World Order" created by America's Military Industrial Complex is the only thing that makes it possible for nations to be kind to one another. And than if USA leaves an area then the whole world will fall into ruin and disrepair as they will all tear each other to shreds and leave America alone.

The author is under the delusion that American oil supply is forever, and is completely unaware that American shale has pretty much dried up, and conventional passed peak decades ago. He was making projections saying things like "when they enter the workforce in the 2040's" the workforce? What workforce? What the f"ck is he talking about? Can he really be so utterly blind as to believe the current state of masn wage slavery will continue after the oil supply runs out? I donno, it just seems all rather ludicrous to me.

Anyways, this dude is some kind of pie in the sky dreamer super optimist.

I do admit it was a pretty well researched book for the parts it covered. Mostly just demographic collapse, difficult supply chain geography and some effects of climate change.

But he utterly ignored the energy crises, the soil crises, the resource shortages ad naseaum. Like his fantasy world has infinite resources -- othen than young people, so it's really rather worthless as a projection in the real world.

In does have some gems, but the amount of bias and blindness in this book is only worth archiving as an exomple of the extreme hubris that some Americans can fall prey to.
So I'm probably not gonna waste the paper.
Profile Image for Rossdavidh.
505 reviews135 followers
Read
November 25, 2022
No rating because DNF. The basic thesis, that recent decades have been, economically, the way they are because of America's willingness to spend $$$ on a navy big enough to make international shipping safe to use on a major scale, is probably true. The initial 30 pages were full of too much vague assertion, not enough data-backed proof, of the points in question. I may circle back some day; maybe the later chapters get better, but for now I'm moving on to other books.
Profile Image for Baal Of.
1,182 reviews39 followers
October 23, 2022
Zeihan has a couple annoying verbal tics:
Our globalized world is, well, global.

no one really wanted to gather and inventory and distribute and ... apply the stuff.

After I got past the excessive use of 'well' and ellipsis, I found a lot substance to this book. Zeihan is clearly an expert in his subject area, far beyond my meager knowledge. The factual basis of the book is well documented and sourced. I'm already a pessimist at heart so it's easy for me to nod head in despair with the dire warnings in this book. However doomsayers have been ubiquitous and often they are wrong. Zeihan doesn't give an entirely horrible picture, it is in fact quite nuanced. He makes pretty persuasive arguments. However, actually predicting the specific trajectory of human civilization is a tall order, and at the end of the book, I'm left with the feeling that he might end up being correct about some of the details, but I doubt all of them will be true. There is the potential for disruptive technologies, the possiblity of massive wars, and thousands of other factors. Time will tell.
1 review1 follower
July 8, 2022
Where to begin? Full of American hubris and triumphalism; utterly silent on the multiple, complex social (mental health, opioids, social isolation and atomization, income inequality, faltering democracy, etc.) and ecosystem (soil and freshwater loss, the sixth mass extinction, microplastics, all exacerbated by climate change) crises; dismissive of any approach that doesn't align with market fundamentalism; takes an amoral /chillingly pragmatic view of the role of slavery and genocide and their imoacts on Black and Indigenous Americans (not so much as an "oh well"); operates from a view of the economy (the only important thing) being utterly disconnected from the ecosystem upon which it owes its existence; fails to acknowledge that the economic gains of the last 200 years came at the cost of plundering our natural capital and treating the earth like an infinite waste dump. This is what passes as wisdom? Jesus f###ing Christ.
63 reviews1 follower
June 23, 2022
Even though I love Peter Zeihan (The Accidental Superpower is one of my favorite books of all time), this book is basically an extension of his previous writings, without any new "big" ideas...but it does have a lot of interesting points...and his witty writing style is always enjoyable.

In a nutshell, his main thesis is we are living in an artificial environment of unbelievable economic global growth and prosperity...and that this has been primarily driven by the United States hegemonic power and safety (for most countries). From 1945 to 1989, the US had a vital interest in providing global security...primarily as a way to curb the growth of the USSR and communist allies (commonly known as the Bretton-Woods agreement). Since the fall of the USSR, there just isn't motivation by the US to provide global security anymore (we are essentially energy independent after the shale revolution and have Canada as a backup, we are food independent, and our economy is large and diverse enough to not be completely dependent on trade...especially outside of NAFTA). The rest of the globe isn't so lucky, and the majority of their economic gains have been derived from focusing on their competitive advantage (specialty agriculture, low end manufacturing, tourism, exports, etc.)...and they were able to do this because for the first time in human history they could depend on safe oceans and zero threat of invasion by a neighboring power. Remove the American security blanket, and the house of cards crashes down for most countries.

While I don't necessarily agree with all of Zeihan's claims (he gets very specific on a country by country basis, with a lil too much confidence), his underlying thesis is interesting and compelling. Modern economies are incredibly intricate, and as we've seen with Covid and Russia/Ukraine, small disturbances create massive ripple effects to all corners of the globe. I personally have taken steady progress as a given, but if Zeihan is only partially correct, we are going to be in for a wild ride the next few decades.
Profile Image for Rick Wilson.
604 reviews206 followers
August 20, 2022
Best science fiction I've read since "The Three Body Problem."

This seems like an intelligent guess at where the world is headed. I don’t think Peter has a crystal ball any more than the rest of us, but he’s well read, thinks through his work while pulling together a lot of different themes and threads. What results is a pretty thoughtful mosaic of what might happen over the next few decades.

Definitely worth a read. I think the biggest challenge is calibrating how much to believe different parts based upon your own knowledge and experiences. But that’s always the challenge with these books.
Profile Image for Justus.
595 reviews67 followers
August 24, 2022
This is a terrible book that feels like not only was no editor involved but I'm not sure the author himself ever reread and rewrote any of it. It feels more like a continuous flow of consciousness brain dump than, you know, a book.

First the small stuff: for some reason the book decides to start at the beginning of human history, through the sedentary farming revolution, irrigation, wind power, the industrial revolution, British importing cotton from India in the 1700s....it all honestly has nothing to do with anything. At least not whatever this book is about. You can easily skip the first 15-20% of the book while he's blathering on about this stuff.

Also the whole thing is somewhat bizarrely breezy and lightweight. In a passage on the fall of the Berlin Wall there's an endnote helpfully telling the reader that some of the parades celebrating the fall of the wall were good parades. Literally, this is the section: "Across the American alliance network, there were celebrations. Parties. Parades.*" And the endnote for parades reads: "Good ones!".

Or the section on how waterwheels freed up surplus labor:


That too freed up a bit of labor, and we had inadvertently come up with something for them to do: manage the food surpluses. Bam! Now we have pottery and numbers. Now we need some way to store our urns and keep track of the math. Bam! Now we have basic engineering and writing. Now we need a way to distribute our stored food. Bam! Roads. All our stuff needed to be kept, managed, and guarded in a centralized location, while all our skills needed to be passed on to future generations. Bam! Urbanization and education.*


What's the endnote say? "Yes, this is all very Civilization by Sid Meier. Dude did his research."

Also note that this entire section has nothing concrete. No references, no dates, no figures. It is just endless riffing.

It is a very strange and off putting start to a book.

Meanwhile, the reader is trying to figure out what this book is actually about. The author doesn't bother telling you his thesis. I mean, sure, I read the back of the book so I know what it is supposed to be about. But you definitely don't get that from the book itself. You're reading this lightweight version of Sapiens wondering WTF this book is even about.

Later on, Zeihan gets better but not much. In the section "The Last Bits of More" it feels like Zeihan gave up actually writing a book and just dumped his notes in bullet point format, with bullet points like "America has nukes. Thousands of them. In a rock-paper-scissors-lizard-Spock-nuke contest, nukes win every single time."

And, again, not sources or references for anything. "In terms of usable land per person, the United States could probably support a population double its current 330 million before feeling crowded" Oh yeah? "the United States has lower internal transport costs than anyone else" Proof? I mean, it's not that I even disbelieve him. I just don't care for books that throw out claim after claim after claim like this and give the reader nothing except to take the author's word for....everything.

Zeihan is obviously smart and well-read. I assume he's not just making up all these things and really does have references that he just can't be bothered to put in. I would say this book needs a better editor but I think even that wouldn't be enough. I think Zeihan needs a co-author who could take this meandering braindump and craft it into something readable.
Profile Image for Maria.
3,893 reviews99 followers
August 23, 2022
Zeihan uses his skills in geography and demographics to predict the next couple of decades. He shows how the aging populations will interact with current constraints and problems.

Why I started reading this book: Received my library hold, and the list was so long that I started immediately even if this is lot more than a causal beach read.

Why I finished it: Fascinating. I really like Zeihan’s work, and would love to read this for a book club so that I could talk about it. I like the approach of looking at what limitations are baked into a country’s future prospects. What past choices, and physical resources will affect their future decisions. And the population aging will be a big one.
28 reviews24 followers
July 28, 2022
The author raises a lot of great points on specific risks and specific areas of fragility but then makes equally fragile assumptions about how those risks will play out. The author then levers those brittle assumptions up to macroscopic behavior of the overall system.

I doubt the author is as confident/naive as his writing suggests making me wonder if this is all a cash grab (ie. "the apocalypse narrative sells well").

If readers are willing to ask the question "how else might this play out?" throughout, then the inventory of fragilities still makes it worth a very fast read...
Profile Image for Bill Powers.
Author 2 books85 followers
August 9, 2022
This is my third Peter Zeihan book that I have read, each better than the previous one. The author does a good job describing how he sees the long-term global impact of the coming end of the American-led “Order” and sizable, long-term demographic shifts in the future.
While I think the book is good and raises many serious questions, it raises additional questions for me, such as 1) Why do we not hear more (or any) discussion of the end of the American-led “Order”; 2) Why do we not hear more discussion of long-term demographic shifts? Instead, we seem to hear incessantly about “climate change” and juvenile proposals from politicians on how to address it, e.g., let’s raise taxes and all drive EVs!
To me, it seems that first, we need to find some competent leaders in government (all, not just ours), and then we need people like Peter to advise those leaders.
Our current path under our current leadership does not leave me with much hope.
I look forward to Peter's next book and plan to look for a venue where I can hear him speak.
Profile Image for Stephanie Weisgerber.
98 reviews6 followers
October 4, 2022
I can't even begin to write a review worthy of this book. You have to just read it for yourself. I listened to it on Audible and it was utterly fascinating and thorough. The basic gist of the book is how America will soon stop patrolling the shipping lanes of the Oceans of the world leading to severe breakdowns of many countries...but putting America back on top again if we are smart. He covers every subject, and I mean EVERY subject, from the history of how we came out of WWII as a superpower and how we can gain back that status through careful strategy. He compares every major country and their GDP against America and thoughtfully weighs them all in light of current events. Reading this book is like peeking inside the brain of an economic genius.
Profile Image for Qirat.
4 reviews44 followers
November 4, 2022
It was an interesting read but the author's approach to the future world order seemed rather shallow and lacking in imagination. Especially regarding the possibilities for the future of energy.
The book takes a realist approach for analysis of the world but is navie about how the current domestic polices of USA would be affecting its future. The author is rather preoccupied with American expectionalism (and takes it a little too seriously). Apparently, America has ONLY PLAYED A POSITIVE ROLE IN THE WORLD ORDER SO FAR (I can't even).
Profile Image for Christopher.
Author 1 book46 followers
June 25, 2022
Pretty brilliant explanation of how globalism works and what happens when it ends. Bold but reasonable unconventional predictions that go against the predominant narrative, particularly regarding China's future role/survival.
Profile Image for Mike.
246 reviews7 followers
July 15, 2022
This book was a page turner and not because it is the end-of-the-world story but a compilation of data and a connection of the dots of our global economy. The trend lines are already beginning to be evident.
Profile Image for Keenan.
301 reviews9 followers
November 20, 2022
Super interesting book and undoubtedly one of the more depressing things you’ll read in a given calendar year! Zeihan tells the tale of a world on the edge of de-globalization, a departure from the 75 years of peace and prosperity the world has had since WWII, a time period that he makes a strong case for being an aberration. Given how integrated the world economy is in everything from food to finance, manufacturing to minerals, energy to EV, this unwinding of the global order will lead to mass famines, deindustrialization, and a return to the dark ages for the parts of the world that aren’t naturally blessed with resources and climate-resistant topographies and healthy demographics. China especially gets singled out in Icarus-like fashion as a country that has been consuming far beyond its means for too long and is at the precipice of societal and economic collapse. Wooooo.

Zeihan certainly knows his stuff, and between the humorous interjections and seemingly wild speculations, he outlines in clear detail just how fragile the current global order is and just how quickly things can go wrong, and there are few facets of human civilisation that he doesn’t cover as part of future great disorder. I believe his predictions are a bit on the crazy side at times, and his worldview appears frozen in amber sometimes to the time of empires (namely he fails to touch on the loss of power of world governments to massive corporations and oligarchs, which certainly undermines his “France will do this, Turkey will do that” rhetoric), but this remains a comprehensive tome of geopolitical analysis of the current global world. I would strongly recommend this book, with the caveat that it not be the only thing you ever read on global economics, climate change, or geopolitics.
Profile Image for Brian.
Author 10 books94 followers
September 26, 2022
Basically, this book covers Zeihan's more recent prophecies about the collapse of the world due to energy crises, food shortages, and of course demographic crises. It's probably solid, though if you watch enough YouTube from Zeihan, you will get the picture: China is done for, and probably Russia, though they do have some invaluable resources. Much of the world is going to revert to the centuries of war and darkness that up until the 1800s or even 1900s they experienced.

The interesting thing about a book like this is that it really makes you want globalism (!) at a time when globalism is absolutely appalling. This is simply because it seems that violence is the default in the world. Obviously that does not justify the sins of injustice and imperialism, and certainly not statism or totalitarianism. But man, the world is about to experience a rough awakening. The other thing that makes me sad is that America basically set up an immensely fragile system which was going to collapse almost immediately, and which we might not suffer for. (I wonder though how things would have gone had the birth rate not dropped.) It makes you hope that both America as a nation and the rest of the world can think of nations as seeking self-sufficiency instead of a tightly interlocked system.

All in all, stimulating and fun, despite the dark subject material. The next few decades are going to be pretty bleak for the rest of the world, and "meh" for America. We'll see what happens.
Profile Image for Abhi Yerra.
229 reviews3 followers
September 28, 2022
One of the best books that I have read recently that gets to the breakdown of the world order post WW2 and why it is finally breaking down. Zeihan does a great job going through the details of how the breakdown will happen, and from what has been happening after Ukraine war a lot of his predictions in the book (written before the war) are starting to come to fruition. Highly, recommend reading to understand where the world will be going in the next couple decades.
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