Did world civilization peak in 2019? Is it all downhill from here as the world devolves into warring regional blocks? Will mass starvation stalk most of the globe in the coming years?
The answer to all these questions is yes, according to The End of the World is Just the Beginning: Mapping the Collapse of Globalization by Peter Zeihan.
His thesis is simple. While globalization has lifted billions of people around the world out of poverty, that progress was only possible due to a unique, post-war moment in which the US Navy protected the sea lanes. Now that America is withdrawing from the world, the benefits of trade will disappear as we slide into a new anarchy. The result will be a collapse in living standards, as world powers devolve into regional blocs.
It’s grim reading, with sections outlining the future of manufacturing, agriculture, transportation and other key sectors.
It’s also repetitive – over and over again, Zeihan repeats his thesis that the “Order” established by the United States after 1945 is ending.
I read the first few sections and skimmed the rest, as I imagined most readers do, for the book is far too long and filled with digressions and snarky asides.
Malthus Was Wrong
Zeihan is Malthusian, extrapolating from current trends to predict future history.
But predicting the future is risky business, as Thomas Robert Malthus discovered in the 19th century when England didn’t starve, despite a dramatic increase in population. That didn’t stop seers from predicting another global famine in the 1970s or that oil would be gone by 2000.
None of them anticipated the green revolution which increased crop yields or our ability to wring oil out of tar sands.
And no one saw the rise of the Internet which has revolutionized our politics.
Demography is destiny, according to Zeihan. China is destined to collapse because it will soon have too many old people and not enough young people to support them.
America has a more balanced demographic mix, despite the huge bulge of Baby Boomers, due to the counterbalance of their children, the Millennial Generation.
Millennials, Our Last Hope
And it’s this generation that may save the United States – and possibly the world.
Zeihan is assuming that all trends will remain the same. That Americans will want to get married, live in the suburbs and buy cheap crap from Target.
But what if that wasn’t true? Millennials have already shown a reluctance to purchase autos (possibly due to their high expense) and engage in the other “normal” markers of adulthood, like having sex. They are the most non-traditional generation in American history.
And I believe that they are poised to radically remake American society, which has become too expensive, stratified and dominated by retrograde conservatism. Why should they support a society that makes college expensive and guns cheap? That provides drugs but not homes?
This is a generation with a progressive spirit that knows how to organize and work collectively. No wonder that Baby Boomers have fought their children so fiercely, for they are the antithesis of the Me Generation, and their rise to power may prevent the grim future outlined in The End of the World is Just the Beginning.