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The End of the World Is Just the Beginning

During the summer of 2022 I read a book that colored my perspective on the changing times we’re living through. The End of the World is Just Beginning by Peter Zeihan forecasts the demise of globalization, signaling the close of an extraordinarily prolonged stretch of prosperity the United States has experienced since the Cold War’s conclusion.

Some topics Zeihan’s book touches on:

  • The rise of regionalism and decline of globalization. These are likely to have a significant impact on the global economy. As countries become more isolated, de-globalization will cause them to trade with each other less, which will lead to slower economic growth.
  • The decline of the United States as a hegemonic power. This is likely to have a significant impact on the global order. The US has played a major role in upholding the international order since the end of World War II. The decline of NATO and succession of US naval dominance to China could lead to a more chaotic and unstable world.
  • The United States will continue to be the most prosperous and powerful country in the 21st century due to: arable land, fresh water, lots of natural resources and relative isolation from threatening neighbors.
  • The aging and shrinking of populations in places like China will lead to a significant decline in economic growth and prosperity. This is certainly likely to be true in developed countries, where birth rates are below replacement levels. The aging population will also put a strain on social security systems and healthcare systems.
  • Automation is becoming more widespread, and is likely to lead to significant job loss. This could lead to social unrest and political instability.
  • Resource scarcity and climate change are causing the world to face increasing shortages of water, food, energy and minerals. This could lead to conflict between countries, as they compete for access to these resources.
  • Global instability is on the rise. The world is highly interconnected, and this makes it more vulnerable to shocks and disruptions. These shocks and disruptions could lead to conflict, economic instability, and even war.

Many of Zeihan’s assertions stir controversy. Regardless of their future accuracy, his book was a thought-provoking and provocative read that offered me alternate viewpoints on the current state of global affairs. I value these perspectives, as they enable me to forecast potential future scenarios. They also provide a richer understanding of what’s transpired so far this decade, particularly in the realms of COVID, AI, and politics.

I highly recommend reading the book, but be warned: it’s a demanding read, filled with sobering topics and an abundance of citations that are overwhelming to fact-check. If you’re curious and want a preview, the following interview with Ian Bremmer and Sam Harris serves as an excellent starting point.