The End of the World Is Just the Beginning | Peter Zeihan

Summary of: The End of the World Is Just the Beginning: Mapping the Collapse of Globalization
By: Peter Zeihan

Introduction

Prepare to embark on a journey through Peter Zeihan’s ‘The End of the World Is Just the Beginning: Mapping the Collapse of Globalization’, as we explore the foundations and collapse of the world as we know it. This book delves into the fascinating history of international trade, globalization, and the role of America in underwriting global free trade. Discover how the intricate networks of interoceanic transportation shaped our global economy, and learn the looming threats posed to the entire system as America shifts towards isolationism. Get ready to understand the significance of oil and the emergence of energy independence in shaping America’s strategic focus. By the end, you will grasp the implications of the collapse of globalization and how it may change our world.

The End of Globalization

In his book, Zeihan predicts the end of the world as we know it. Globalization, which is defined by the diversity and abundance of goods, is what has defined our world for the past 70 years. Supermarkets offer an average of 40,000 products, ranging from Himalayan salt to Argentinian merlot. Goods, such as smartphones and single-malt whiskey, are produced globally and transported by giant freighters and container ships. However, Zeihan warns that these transportation networks did not emerge spontaneously, and the end of globalization may indeed be at hand.

The Birth of Global Trade

Before the Bretton Woods system was established in 1945, global trade did not exist. Goods were largely circulated within empires, and manufacturing and consumption were kept in-house. This made countries vulnerable to being cut off if relations soured or competitors decided to hurt them. Wars between empires were inevitable and got bigger and nastier over time. The Bretton Woods system was created to replace this all-against-all system with a level playing field through free trade. The United States guaranteed security for participants and held meetings to hash out the details of this new global order. This economic system was shaped by a strategic rationale, as the US needed it to win the Cold War. While policing the world was irksome and expensive, global security made everything more profitable. Maritime shipping, in particular, benefited greatly from the Bretton Woods system, leading to the supersized container ships we see today.

America’s Entanglement with Oil

The United States offered free trade to its allies in exchange for help containing the Soviets. However, after the Soviet Union’s fall, America continued to uphold the status quo by focusing on the global trade of oil. The importance of oil to our civilization is immeasurable, but burning it at scale is environmentally hazardous. Furthermore, getting oil to where it needs to be is a challenging logistical process that requires substantial upfront investment. Market volatility is also a major concern, as constant oil flow is necessary to maintain a stable global economy. When two countries fighting a war almost triggered a catastrophic financial meltdown, it became apparent that America had a responsibility to police the Middle East and its international shipping lanes to keep oil flowing. However, with energy independence, America has lost interest in supporting a system it no longer needs, prompting a shift in its strategic calculus.

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