The Residential Library

The sometimes demented, frequently irreverent, and occasionally stupid musings of Ron Hargrove

The Accidental Superpower

By Peter Zeihan [2014]

In this book the author describes how the US became a superpower.  It had a lot to do with geography.  His analysis of the role of geography in the world’s empires throughout history is really interesting.  He also discusses the changes in world economics, demographics and politics that we will soon see.  Note:  This book was published in 2014, well before Donald Trump had an impact on the US and the world.  Some of the things we now attribute to Trump were predicted in this book, and therefore, not only preceded Trump, but are bigger than Trump.

The world’s police force

For 70 years the US has been a stabilizing force in the world, protecting the world’s naval routes and constraining bad behavior by world leaders and terrorist groups.  That’s coming to an end.  In the near future, the country will decrease its commitments and withdraw from its massive involvement in world politics.  That’s partly because of their growing shale oil industry.  The US no longer depends on imported fuel and therefore no longer needs to maintain safe naval routes and a stable Middle East.

Demographic changes will destabilize many currently powerful economies

In most modern nations, the proportion of older citizens is growing very rapidly, meaning governments have to find a way to take care of them.  As Baby Boomers phase out of the workforce, the next generations will shoulder the responsibility of supporting their pensions and healthcare needs.  And because these generations are smaller, they won’t generate as much capital and therefore won’t be able to buy what the economy is producing.  That will lead to chronic economic slowdowns around the world.

Europe as we know it will cease to exist

Demographic changes (as described above) will cause financial stress for all European countries.  The European Union is falling apart as EU leaders increasingly quarrel about monetary policy and the UK prepares to leave the EU altogether.  Germany and France, historic rivals, have coexisted peacefully in the period since WW II because of the prosperity of the time and the influence of the US.  Without either of those factors, their old rivalry could re-emerge in a new war.

The US will continue to thrive

The US will remain strong because it depends very little on food, technology and energy resources from other parts of the world.  Also, immigration provides the US with additional workers, easing the problem of supporting the Baby Boomers.  Other countries will be desperate to align with the US, because it will be a robust and stable trade partner and the US Navy will protect trade routes that it has an interest in.

If the US stays out of future disputes between other countries, Iran could gain control of its neighbors’ oil supplies.  Iran could control the entire region, in which case it might become an ally of the US.

The withdrawal of US overseas power will transform migration and foster terrorism

Without the stabilizing force of the US and without the EU, migration will become much more difficult, dangerous and expensive.  Travel will become a privilege for the highly skilled or wealthy.  The US will be one of the few desirable destinations for the world’s elite to relocate to.  The brain drain of other countries’ elites to the US will make things even worse in those countries.

Without the US military and money maintaining a level of peace in places like Pakistan, militant groups will thrive and there will be an upsurge in terrorism.


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