Nomi’s Note: We’re doing something a little different this week… We’re dedicating Inside Wall Street to the insights of Peter Zeihan.
Peter is a geopolitical strategist and New York Times bestseller. His fourth book, The End of the World Is Just the Beginning, hit shelves this summer. And it’s a must-read.
I’ve been investigating our world and our markets for more than two decades. And it’s rare to come across an explanation that not only makes sense – but opens your eyes to what’s really going on in our changing world.
Peter’s book does just that. And the moment I read it, I knew I had to share it with you.
So, to kick off the week, I’m sharing an extract from The End of the World Is Just the Beginning. In it, Peter shows us how we got here – to a world of advanced transport and finance, of ever-present food, and until recently, ever-present energy.
And he shows us how this world is now giving way to a new world order.
I hope you’ll find it as fascinating as I did…
The past century or so has been a bit of a blitzkrieg of progress.
From horse-and-buggy to passenger trains to the family car to everyday air travel.
From the abacus to adding machines to desktop calculators to smartphones. From iron to stainless steel to silicon-laced aluminum to touch-sensitive glass.
From waiting for wheat to reaching for citrus to being handed chocolate to on-demand guacamole.
Our world has gotten cheaper. And certainly better. And most definitely faster. And in recent decades, the paces of change and achievement have accelerated further.
We’ve witnessed the release of more than 30 ever-more-sophisticated versions of the iPhone in just 15 years.
We’re attempting to shift wholesale to electronic vehicles at 10 times the pace we adopted traditional combustion engines.
The laptop I’m tapping this down on has more memory than the combined total of all computers globally in the late 1960s.
Not long ago I was able to refinance my home at a rate of 2.5%. (It was stupidly awesome.)
It isn’t simply about stuff and speed and money. The human condition has similarly improved.
Consider the past seven decades.
As a percent of the population, fewer people have died in fewer wars and fewer occupations and fewer famines and fewer disease outbreaks than since the dawn of recorded history.
Historically speaking, we live in an embarrassment of riches and peace. All of these evolutions and more are tightly interwoven. Inseparable.
But there is a simple fact that is often overlooked.
They are artificial.
We have been living in a perfect moment. And it is passing.
The world of the past few decades has been the best it will ever be in our lifetime.
Instead of cheap and better and faster, we’re rapidly transitioning into a world that’s pricier and worse and slower. Because the world – our world – is breaking apart.
Shifting the Rules of the Game
At the end of World War II, the Americans created history’s greatest military alliance to arrest, contain, and beat back the Soviet Union.
That we know. What is often forgotten, however, is that this alliance was only half the plan.
In order to cement their new coalition, the Americans also fostered an environment of global security…
So that any partner could go anywhere, anytime, interface with anyone, in any economic manner, participate in any supply chain and access any material input…
All without needing a military escort.
This “butter” side of the Americans’ “guns and butter” deal created what we today recognize as free trade. Globalization.
Globalization brought development and industrialization to a wide swath of the planet for the first time.
It generated the mass consumption societies and the blizzard of trade and the juggernaut of technological progress we all find so familiar.
And that reshaped global demographics.
Mass development and industrialization extended life spans, while simultaneously encouraging urbanization.
For decades, that meant more and more workers and consumers, the people who give economies some serious go.
One outcome among many was the fastest economic growth humanity has ever seen. Decades of it.
The Americans’ postwar Order triggered a change in condition. By shifting the rules of the game, economics transformed on a global basis. A national basis. A local basis. Every local basis.
That change of condition generated the world we know. The world of advanced transport and finance, of ever-present food and energy, of never-ending improvements and mind-bending speed.
But all things must pass. We now face a new change in condition.
Giving Way to Disorder
Thirty years on from the Cold War’s end, the Americans have gone home. No one else has the military capacity to support global security, and from that, global trade.
The American-led Order is giving way to Disorder.
Global aging didn’t stop once we reached that perfect moment of growth. Aging continued. It’s still continuing.
The global worker and consumer base is aging into mass retirement. In our rush to urbanize, no replacement generation was ever born.
Since 1945 the world has been the best it has ever been. The best it will ever be. Which is a poetic way of saying this era, this world – our world – is doomed.
The 2020s will see a collapse of consumption and production and investment and trade almost everywhere.
Globalization will shatter into pieces. Some regional. Some national. Some smaller.
It will be costly. It will make life slower. And above all, worse. No economic system yet imagined can function in the sort of future we face.
This devolution will be jarring, to say the least. It’s taken us decades of peace to suss out this world of ours.
To think that we will adapt easily or quickly to such titanic unravelings is to showcase more optimism than I’m capable of generating.
But that’s not the same as saying I don’t have a few guideposts.
Tomorrow, I’ll tell you what those guideposts are. Stay tuned…
Author, The End of the World Is Just the Beginning
Adapted from The End of the World Is Just the Beginning.
Copyright © 2022 by Peter Zeihan with permission from Harper Business, an imprint of HarperCollins Publishers.
Nomi’s Note: Nomi here again. If you want to know what happens next in Peter’s story – our world’s story – you’ll want to pick up a copy of Peter’s new book, The End of the World Is Just Beginning.
In it, he maps out what everything looks like on the other side of this massive change. Because, as Peter puts it in the book, “the end of the world really is just the beginning.”
To order your own copy of Peter’s book today – at a discount over the major retailers – simply click here.