Hello. This post is a collection of 24 quotes from the book - The End of the World is Just the Beginning by Peter Zeihan. I hope you enjoy reading these quotes.
The End of the World is Just the Beginning Quotes
During 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.
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.
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.
United States is at the very top of a very short list of countries that face no near- or mid-range threats from other oceanic powers. What islands that exist in the Pacific or Atlantic basins that theoretically could be used to launch an attack on North America—Guam, Hawaii, or the Aleutians in the Pacific, or Bermuda, Newfoundland, or Iceland in the Atlantic—are held either by close allies or the Americans themselves. The Americans—and the Americans alone—have the capacity to interact with any power on either ocean on their own terms, whether those terms be economic or military.
Deglobalization doesn’t simply mean a darker, poorer world, it means something far worse. An unraveling.
By most measures—most notably in education, wealth, and health—globalization has been great, but it was never going to last. What you and your parents (and in some cases, grandparents) assumed as the normal, good, and right way of living—that is, the past seven decades or so—is a historic anomaly for the human condition both in strategic and demographic terms. The period of 1980–2015 in particular has simply been a unique, isolated, blessed moment in time. A moment that has ended. A moment that will certainly not come again in our lifetimes. And that isn’t even the bad news.
The only countries in a post-2022 world that might be able to maintain an overseas empire are those that can have three things going for them: a serious cultural superiority complex, a military capable of reliably projecting power onto locations that cannot effectively resist, and lots and lots and lots and LOTS of disposable young people. The last country that boasted that combination of factors was the United States in the World War II aftermath.
Demographics tells us that the number and collective volume of mass-consumption-driven economies has already peaked. In 2019 the Earth for the first time in history had more people aged sixty-five and over than five and under. By 2030 there will be twice as many retirees, in relative terms.
Capitalism without growth generates massive inequality, as those who already have political connections and wealth manipulate the system to control ever-bigger pieces of an ever-shrinking pie. The result tends in the direction of social explosions.
The coronavirus pandemic didn’t simply rob us of lives. It robbed us of what we needed more than anything else to prepare for the coming demographic devastation. It robbed us of the one thing no one on Earth can make more of. It robbed us of time.
The world we know is eminently fragile. And that’s when it is working to design. Today’s economic landscape isn’t so much dependent upon as it is eminently addicted to American strategic and tactical overwatch. Remove the Americans, and long-haul shipping degrades from being the norm to being the exception. Remove mass consumption due to demographic collapses and the entire economic argument for mass integration collapses. One way or another, our “normal” is going to end, and end soon.
Everything about modern China—from its industrial structure to its food sourcing to its income streams—is a direct outcome of the American-led Order. Remove the Americans and China loses energy access, income from manufactures sales, the ability to import the raw materials to make those manufactures in the first place, and the ability to either import or grow its own food. China absolutely faces deindustrialization and deurbanization on a scale that is nothing less than mythic. It almost certainly faces political disintegration and even de-civilization. And it does so against a backdrop of an already disintegrating demography.
Europe faces hordes of problems, but if they hadn’t mucked up their financial world, the Europeans would have at least had some powerful tools to cope. No more. The entire European system is now doing little more than going through the motions until the common currency inevitably shatters.
The last American president to even pretend to care about fiscal prudence was Bill Clinton, a dude not known for … prudence. On his watch, the U.S. government did indeed balance the federal budget. Then along came George W. Bush, who ran some of the largest budget deficits since World War II. His successor, Barack Obama, doubled those deficits. The next guy, Donald Trump, doubled them again. At the time of this writing, in early 2022, the next dude in line, Joe Biden, has bet his political life on multiple spending plans that if enacted would double those deficits again.
Cheap credit grants people and firms who normally couldn’t be in the game the illusion of undefeatability. But what feels natural and heady and sustainable during good times does not—cannot—last forever. When the money stops flowing and financing costs increase, the whole thing comes crashing down.
China has generated the largest and most unsustainable credit boom in human history both in absolute and relative measures. The Chinese will exit the modern world just as they entered it: with a big splash. The only question is when.
Modern energy in general and oil in specific is what separates our contemporary world from the preindustrial. It separates what we define as “civilization” from what came before.
There are only so many ways to advance the human condition. One is to conquer a big chunk of land and make it your own. Another is to give as many people as you can within your society a stake in the system, so their collective actions support all aspects of the government and economy. A third idea is to drive back the night, and in doing so manufacture that rarest of commodities: time.
The end of globalization may herald the end of the world we know, but the end of global energy heralds the end of the lives we know.
If you lack iron in the Iron Age, then history tends to forget about you. I think you see where I’m going with this. Whether oil or copper, either you have it, you can get it, or you don’t. And if you don’t, you do not get to play.
Never let anyone tell you the Chinese are good at the long game. In 3,500 years of Chinese history, the longest stint one of their empires has gone without massive territorial losses is seventy years. That’s. Right. Now.
Europe suffers from one of those weird geographies where just enough of it is flat and well rivered and easy to walk across that portions of the Continent are convinced that they can and should lead a major consolidated power, while there are just enough bits that are peninsular or mountainous or island to play host to dissident powers that will always dash such dreams.
If you can’t get a widget, sure, you might not be able to manufacture a car. If the gas station runs out of fuel, sure, your life is going to be thrown into a tailspin. But if there isn’t enough to eat, you die. Your neighbors die. Everyone in your town dies. Your country dies. Far more governments have fallen due to food failures than war or disease or political infighting combined. And it almost seems like a sick joke, but food is perishable. The one thing we absolutely must have is the one thing that can rot away in a matter of months, even if we are careful. Days if we are not.
Our particular point in history—the unwinding of globalization—is little more than a momentary transition period. An interregnum, as it were. Such historical periods are (in)famous for their instability as the old gives way to the new. The interregnum between the British-German competition and the Cold War included the world wars and the Great Depression. The interregnum between the French-German competition and the British-German competition included Napoleon. When old structures fall, or “merely” persevere in the face of extreme challenge, stuff breaks. Lots of stuff.
Hello, I am Deepak Kundu, an avid book reader and quotes collector. I hope you enjoyed reading the above quotes from The End of the World is Just the Beginning book by Peter Zeihan.