The End of the World Is Just the Beginning
The End of the World Is Just the Beginning

The End of the World Is Just the Beginning

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. (Location 76)

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. (Location 96)

The 2020s will see a collapse of consumption and production and investment and trade almost everywhere. (Location 112)

First comes something I call the “Geography of Success.” Place matters. Hugely. The Egyptian cities are where they are because they had the perfect mix of water and desert buffer for the preindustrial (Location 118)

But the Americans have more than anyone in the world—than everyone else in the world—making the German fall just as inevitable. (Location 123)

Geographies of Success are not immutable. As technologies evolve, the lists of winners and losers shift with them. (Location 125)

coming global Disorder and demographic collapse will do more than condemn a multitude of countries to the past; it will herald the rise of others. (Location 127)

Fourth, not only despite the global churn and degradation, but also in many cases because of it, the United States will largely escape the carnage to come. (Location 134)

find it galling that issues such as “safe spaces” in colleges devoid of divergent viewpoints, transgender bathroom policy, and vaccine benefits have even crossed into the proverbial town square, much less all but crowded-out issues such as nuclear proliferation or America’s place in the world. (Location 138)

The 2020s are not the first time the United States has gone through a complete restructuring of its political system. This is round seven for those of you with minds of historical bents. Americans survived and thrived before because their geography is insulated from, while their demographic profile is starkly younger than, the bulk of the world. They will survive and thrive now and into the future for similar reasons. America’s strengths allow her debates to be petty, while those debates barely affect her strengths. (Location 143)

Lights will flicker and go dark. Famine’s leathery claws will dig deep and hold tight. Access to the inputs—financial and material and labor—that define the modern world will cease existing in sufficient quantity to make modernity possible. (Location 149)

Human poo is an odd thing. Since humans are omnivores, their poo boasts among the densest concentrations of nutrients in the natural world. Since humans know where their poo gets, er, deposited . . . let’s call it “inventorying” and “securing fresh supplies” was a simple process.* (Location 175)

It is part of why India’s Untouchables were/are so . . . untouchable—they did the messy work of collecting and distributing “night soil.”* (Location 180)

Bottom line? Clearing land, digging irrigation trenches, planting seed, tending crops, and harvesting and threshing grain are the easy parts of early agriculture. (Location 235)

goldilocks geographies were those with solid, crunchy outsides and gooey centers: England, Japan, the Ottoman Empire, Sweden. (Location 286)

The new Geographies of Success weren’t places that excelled at building ships or training sailors, but instead were those that weren’t overworried about land invasions and had the strategic space to think over the horizon. (Location 333)

Such a massive concentration of wealth and technical skills in one place quickly reached critical mass. All by themselves, the English generated sufficient new technologies to launch their own civilizational transformation. (Location 352)

As “recently” as 1700, all energy used by humans fell into one of three buckets: muscle, water, or wind. (Location 356)

The biggest restriction of this new industrial era was no longer muscle, water, or wind—or even energy in general—but instead capital. Everything about this new era—whether it be railroads or highways or assembly lines or skyscrapers or battleships—was, well, new. It replaced the infrastructure of the previous millennia with something lighter, stronger, faster, better . . . and that had to be built up from scratch. That required money, and lots of it. The demands of industrialized infrastructure necessitated new methods of mobilizing capital: capitalism, communism, and fascism all emerged. (Location 371)

Deepwater navigation made these empires global in reach, while the industrialization of warfare made that reach deadlier with the addition of machine guns, aircraft, and mustard gas. (Location 387)

Combatants would target opposing civilian infrastructure because it was that infrastructure that enabled warfighting. (Location 395)

The American story is the story of the perfect Geography of Success. That geography determines not only American power, but also America’s role in the world. (Location 409)

Non-standard employment models such as indentured servitude and slavery (Location 420)

colonial Americans went hungry for six long years. The American Revolution may have been successful in the end, but the economics of the new nation was, in a word, questionable. (Location 433)

America’s territory is the very definition of “safe.” To the north, deep, rugged forests and giant lakes separate most American and Canadian population centers. Only once, in the War of 1812, have the Americans fought their northern neighbors. (Location 472)

America’s southern frontier is actually more secure against conventional military attack. The fact that illegal immigration across America’s southern border is an issue in American politics underlines just how hostile that border is to formal state power. (Location 478)

Those vast distances also mean the 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. (Location 502)

Industrializing isn’t cheap or easy. It requires a wholesale tearing up of what occurred before and replacing wood and stone with more productive—and more expensive—steel and concrete. (Location 508)

The Americans were only starting to hit their stride when the industrial wave crashed upon American shores at the end of the 1800s. America’s vast size kept land costs low. (Location 534)

Instead of hitting everywhere all at once, the new technologies first went where they could get the biggest bang for the buck: places where inputs of land and labor were already more expensive, typically in the line of cities from Washington, D.C., north to Boston. (Location 539)

Industrialization could and did happen in the United States, but the transformation was slower and less jarring, giving Americans generations to adapt to change. (Location 549)

The ability of local community banks to finance local developments prevented the sort of centralized authorities that so devastated the Russians and Chinese, or that so radicalized the Japanese and Germans. (Location 553)

Economic stress did not automatically translate into political stress—or vice versa. (Location 561)

The Americans were only truly hitting their stride when World War II began. After three years of frenetic mobilization they emerged not simply as the most powerful expeditionary power in history—carrying out major integrated military actions in multiple theaters of operation simultaneously—but (Location 565)

If there was a moment in history that a power could have made a bid for global domination—for a new Rome to arise—this was (Location 571)

Instead, the Americans offered their wartime allies a deal. The Americans would use their navy—the only navy of size to survive the war—to patrol the global ocean and protect the commerce of all. (Location 574)

Partly it was a numbers game. In 1945 the American population was roughly equal to that of the combined Western European population, which was roughly equal to that of the Soviet population. (Location 584)

Partly it was a map thing. The Soviet Union was a massive land-based empire that fought with huge, slow-moving armies. (Location 593)

For the first three generations of U.S. history, all the federal government was perennially responsible for was building a few roads, regulating immigration, and collecting tariffs. (Location 601)

Managing foreign territories twice the size of the United States would have been, like, really hard. And the Americans are, like, really bad at government. (Location 603)

But most of all, the Americans didn’t want an empire because they already had an empire. The useful lands of the United States’ portion of North America were greater in potential than that of any empire that had come before. (Location 610)

They transformed regional geopolitics by putting nearly all the warring empires of the previous age—in many cases countries that had been in a shifting, cutthroat competition with one another for centuries—on the same team. (Location 618)

Instead of having to fight for food or oil, everyone gained trade access global in scope. Instead of having to fight off empires, everyone gained local autonomy and safety. Compared to the thirteen millennia of history to this point, it was a pretty good deal. (Location 622)

Bretton Woods was not a traditional military alliance. In order to combat the Soviets, the Americans had used their dominance of the oceans and superior economic geography to purchase an alliance. (Location 631)

Why expect the Americans to continue paying for an alliance when the war was over? It would be like continuing to make mortgage payments even after your house is paid for. (Location 633)

The post–Cold War era is possible only because of a lingering American commitment to a security paradigm that suspends geopolitical competition and subsidizes the global Order. With the Cold War security environment changed, it is a policy that no longer matches needs. What we all think of as normal is actually the most distorted moment in human history. That makes it incredibly fragile. (Location 647)

Modern population structures—the technical term is “demographics”—are a direct outcome of the Industrial Revolution. (Location 656)

This urbanization process occurred in diverse ways at distinct rates in various eras. In large part the differentiator is time. Not everything in the Industrial Revolution happened at once. The generally accepted first step of the Industrial Revolution occurred in the sleepy world of textiles. (Location 659)

The new industrial conditions were urban-based and coal-driven. The countryside drained as people chased the money. Towns became cities. (Location 683)

Governments started facilitating or providing mass services—everything from electricity to health care—and those services are easier to provide in dense urban footprints than across the scattered countryside. (Location 687)

A second aspect of the Industrial Revolution proved equality adept at changing people-versus-geography relationships: the development of chemical fertilizers, pesticides, and herbicides. Once they were introduced in the mid-1800s it was fairly common to see agricultural output per acre triple (or more) while simultaneously reducing labor inputs. (Location 689)

The extended family formed a tribe that consistently supported one another. This cultural-economic dynamic has held true since the dawn of recorded history, even to and through the consolidation of the world into empires and nation-states. (Location 697)

And yet, populations grew throughout the industrialization process. Part of the reason for this is obvious: vastly improved distribution systems, combined (Location 707)

with the development and application of synthetic pesticides and herbicides and especially fertilizers, generated more and more reliable food production, removing the famine cap. (Location 708)

Town living reduced accidents and improved access to medical care, reducing mortality—especially infant mortality. Better medicines reduced deaths from already-less-common disease and injury. All expanded life spans. Double the average life span and in a generation you have doubled the population, independent of people having more kids, because they have more child-bearing years to live through. (Location 710)

The German population, like the British population before it, aged due to lower mortality rates. (Location 733)

Throughout the British and German experiences, three additional—and completely unrelated—issues intensified the urbanization trends that industrialization launched. First was the rise of the women’s rights movement. (Location 737)

The new technologies all had one thing in common: they required people, and lots of them. (Location 741)

Even women desiring large families quickly discovered that careers tend to crowd out other items on their to-do lists, in part because—regardless of intent—spending a few dozen hours a week at factory job reduces the opportunities for pregnancy. (Location 750)

The second factor encouraging a collapsing birth rate sits at the intersection of women’s rights and industrial technologies: birth control. (Location 753)

The urbanization trend was already going full steam before the world wars blasted the old system apart, but with the onset of the free trade (Location 760)

The Order turned this system inside out. By enforcing global security, shattering the empires, opening the world to trade, and enabling the spread of the agricultural technologies of the Industrial Revolution, the Americans inadvertently introduced the world to “global” agriculture. (Location 773)

Suddenly a factory could be put anywhere. History sped up. The British may have blazed the path to development, but it was the Germans who paved it for the rest of (Location 810)

What was truly spectacular, even magical, about the post–Cold War moment wasn’t simply that war and famine had largely vanished from the world, but instead that all these countries’ populations, aging and expanding at different rates, created the perfect foundation for breakneck, historically unprecedented economic growth. (Location 826)

Most of the spending a person does occurs between the ages of fifteen and forty-five—that’s the life window when people are buying cars and homes and raising children and seeking higher education. (Location 832)

Older populations had accrued more capital, enabling more money to be saved and invested. These aging societies did not become less dynamic, but instead more so because they were able to develop and implement technologies at a more rapid pace. (Location 838)

But there is nothing about it that was normal. Globalization was always dependent upon the Americans’ commitment to the global Order and that Order hasn’t served Americans’ strategic interests since the Berlin Wall fell in 1989. (Location 845)

halcyon days of 1980–2015 are over. The collapse in birth rates that began across the developed world in the 1960s and across the developing world in the 1990s now has decades of steam behind it. (Location 850)

In 1700 the average British woman bore 4.6 children. That’s almost identical to that of the average German woman in 1800 or the average Italian woman in 1900 or the average Korean woman in 1960 or the average Chinese woman in the early 1970s. (Location 853)

A central factor in every growth story that accompanies industrialization is that much of the economic growth comes from a swelling population. (Location 857)

In the 2020s, birth rates are no longer simply dropping; they have been so low for so long that even the countries with the younger age structures are now running low of young adults—the demographic that produces the children. (Location 862)

And once a country has more older folks than children, the next, horrible step is utterly unavoidable: a population crash. And because any country that begins this process is one that has already run out of young adults, these countries will never recover.* (Location 865)

No matter how you crunch the numbers, China in 2022 is the fastest-aging society in human history. In China the population growth story is over and has been over since China’s birth rate slipped below replacement levels in the 1990s. A full replacement birth rate is 2.1 children per woman. As of early-2022, China’s only partly released 2011–2020 census indicates China’s rate is at most 1.3, among the lowest of any people throughout human history. (Location 881)

The time-staggered nature of the industrialization process—from Britain to Germany to Russia and northwestern Europe and Japan to Korea to Canada and Spain—combined with the steadily accelerating nature of that process, means that much of the world’s population faces mass retirements followed by population crashes at roughly the same time. (Location 888)

For countries as varied as China, Russia, Japan, Germany, Italy, South Korea, Ukraine, Canada, Malaysia, Taiwan, Romania, the Netherlands, Belgium, and Austria, the question isn’t when these countries will age into demographic obsolescence. (Location 892)

All suffer from terminal demographics. The real questions are how and how soon do their societies crack apart? And do they deflate in silence or lash out against the dying of the light? (Location 895)

Coming up behind them—rapidly—is another cadre of countries whose birth rates have dropped even faster, and so who will face a similar demographic disintegration in the 2030s and 2040s: Brazil, Spain, Thailand, Poland, Australia, Cuba, Greece, Portugal, Hungary, and Switzerland. (Location 896)

The industrial technologies that reduce mortality and raise standards of living cannot be uninvented, but if trade collapses, these technologies can be denied. Should anything impact these countries’ commodity outflows or the income or product inflows, the entire place will break (Location 911)

down while experiencing deep-rooted famine on a biblical scale. (Location 913)

Remove the technologies required to construct and maintain this water management system, and the maximum sustainable population of the Front Range cities would plummet from the roughly four and a half million it is (Location 940)

today to something roughly one-tenth that. (Location 941)

In a post-globalized world, large, diversely resource-rich countries like the United States can shuffle products around internally to make everything work. (Location 944)

The world currently has two reasonably disturbing and disturbingly reasonable examples as to what this unraveling might look like: Zimbabwe and Venezuela. (Location 952)

I don’t use these examples lightly. The word you are looking for to describe this outcome isn’t “deglobalize” or even “deindustrialize,” but instead “decivilize.” (Location 959)

This specialization makes us more productive in our chosen fields—be it farming or milling or blacksmithing. This society gets richer and expands. More land, more people, more specialization, more interaction, more internal trade, greater economies of scale. (Location 964)

This pattern developed bit by bit since the dawn of civilization, but there were often not merely setbacks but collapses. Empires rose and fell, and when they fell, much of their progress fell with them. (Location 966)

Under the Order and this magical demographic moment, we have become so specialized and our technology has advanced so much that we have become totally incompetent at tasks that used to be essential. (Location 971)

Labor hyperspecialization is now the norm, and trade has become so complex that entire economic subsectors (loan officers, aluminum extruders, warehouse planning consultancies, sand polishers) now exist to facilitate it. (Location 976)

The civilizational process has been reaching for its ultimate, optimal peak. (Location 980)

There are a number of ways down for countries looking down the maw of demographic oblivion and globalization’s collapse, but they all share something in common: reduced interaction means reduced access means reduced income means fewer economies of scale means less labor specialization means reduced interaction. Shortage forces people—forces countries—to look after their own needs. (Location 982)

That is what “decivilization” means: a cascade of reinforcing breakdowns that do not simply damage, but destroy, the bedrock of what makes the modern world function. (Location 989)

Not every location will be able to maintain civilization after Order’s end. (Location 990)

Worst of all, many less advanced countries are wholly dependent upon civilization holding together in other places. Zimbabwe and Venezuela are examples of countries that chose the path to a sort of decivilization. (Location 994)

A precious few countries have managed a high degree of development (Location 1000)

while simultaneously avoiding a collapse in birth rates. It is . . . a painfully short list: the United States, France, Argentina, Sweden, and New Zealand. (Location 1001)

In the bad ol’ days before deepwater navigation, the height of the human experience wasn’t very high at all. Most governing systems were a mix of imperial and feudal. (Location 1011)

But for every successful imperial expansion there was an imperial collapse as well as ten thousand territories that never managed to eke out a moment in the sun. (Location 1022)

Most people were serfs, a fancy term for grueling, near-subsistence farming. What security the serfs had was wholly due to their relationship to their local lords. These lords controlled a fortified town or keep, and when raiders or small armies came a-lootin’, the serfs would rush in panic into the fortification, and hunker down until the threat passed. In “exchange” for this security, the feudal lords collected taxes and food and labor from the serfs.* (Location 1025)

The economics of these two systems were depressingly similar. Feudalism was simply a trade of securities: the lords provide protection to the serfs, while the serfs pledge their lives to their lords. Finis. Imperial systems weren’t much different: any large-scale “trade” had to exist within the borders of the empire. The only way to secure access to new goods was to venture out and conquer. And since any advantage would be temporary, it all came down to the security-for-loyalty trade of the Imperial Center to its provinces, as guaranteed by imperial armies. (Location 1030)

Humanity did battle with itself over who controlled what slices of a stagnant and fractured pie. (Location 1036)

Fascist corporatism is one we don’t often think about; it fuses business leadership with state leadership. The government ultimately calls the shots and it obviously coordinates firms to work toward government goals, but the key word is “coordinate.” (Location 1068)

But what all these -isms we have developed in recent centuries and fine-tuned in recent decades have in common is something our world is about to lack: more. (Location 1081)

Demographics tells us that the number and collective volume of mass-consumption-driven economies has already peaked. (Location 1084)

Nearly all countries that boast sufficiently friendly geographies to enable development without American security sponsorship have already developed. (Location 1086)

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. (Location 1102)

Fascist corporatism might provide an option by outsourcing much of the clinical management of the economy to large corporations. But ultimately it will face the same problems as capitalism and socialism—inequality (Location 1109)

That just leaves command-driven communism. Sadly, it just might be the most viable of the four. But only if it crushes the population’s souls to the degree that having an opinion is suppressed by an overarching, 1984-style propagandaesque dictatorship. (Location 1113)

The first is plain ol’ imperialism. For this to work, the country in question must have a military, especially one with a powerful navy capable of large-scale amphibious assault. That military ventures forth to conquer territories and peoples, and then exploits said territories and peoples in whatever way it wishes: (Location 1120)

If this sounds like mass slavery with some geographic and legal displacement between master and slave, you’re thinking in the right general direction. (Location 1124)

The second is something called mercantilism, an economic system in which you heavily restrict the ability of anyone to export anything to your consumer base, but in which you also ram whatever of your production you can down the throats of anyone else. (Location 1125)

In essence, both possible models would be implemented with an eye toward sucking other peoples dry, and transferring the pain of general economic dislocation from the invaders to the invaded. (Location 1132)

In the old imperial (and mercantile) days, when the Brits (or Germans, or French, or Dutch, or Belgians, or Japanese, or Portuguese, or Spanish, or Argentines, etc.) showed up, they’d bring guns and artillery to regions whose peak military technologies were decidedly spear- and knife-driven. (Location 1135)

Today there are certainly parts of the world that are more industrialized (and better armed) than others, but there no longer is a nineteenth-century-style yawning chasm between an industrialized world and a preindustrial world. (Location 1146)

It doesn’t take excellence in guns and railroads and asphalt and electricity and computers and phones to still have guns and railroads and asphalt and electricity and computers and phones. (Location 1149)

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. (Location 1150)

Today we live in a world of accelerating demographic collapse. There are no countries who boast the mix of youth and reach necessary to project power out of their own neighborhood on a cost-effective, sustained basis. (Location 1157)

First, everything is going to change. Whatever new economic system or systems the world develops will be something we’re unlikely to recognize as being viable today. We will probably need far higher volumes of capital (retirees absorb it like sponges), but we’ll have far less of it (fewer workers means fewer taxpayers). (Location 1165)

We are entering a period of extreme transformation, with our strategic, political, economic, technological, demographic, and cultural norms all in flux at the same time. Of course we will shift to a different management system. (Location 1170)

Second, the process will be the very definition of traumatic. The concept of more has been our guiding light as a species for centuries. (Location 1172)

Between the collapse of the global Order and the inversion of global demographics, the old rules clearly don’t work, and it will take us decades to figure out what might. (Location 1177)

The last time humanity struggled with changing factors that necessitated new economic models, the causes were the Industrial Revolution paired with the first globalization wave. We argued—vigorously—over which system might be best. We had fights. We had wars. We had big wars. Most were not Cold. Living through history is messy. (Location 1183)

While everything in Russia is and always has been done in its own . . . peculiar way, it is undeniable that Russia was part of the first big batch of countries to industrialize: after the Brits and on a similar time frame to the Germans. (Location 1193)

To believe the Soviet Union would continue to function over the long haul, you had to believe that the Soviet population would continue growing, and that just wasn’t in the cards. (Location 1202)

Russia today is deindustrializing at the same time its population is collapsing. Dark? Yes, but Russia is probably one of the best-case scenarios for much of the industrialized world. (Location 1207)

In a world of constrained trade and capital, one could be in significantly more dire straits than still having strategic depth plus reasonably reliable food, fuel, and electricity. (Location 1210)

The aging process is so deeply entrenched that some thirty thousand Japanese die in their apartments every year without anyone noticing until there’s a . . . smell. Necessitating fumigation. Japan passed the point of no return in its demographic structure back in the 1990s, but rather than crawl into a hole and (Location 1215)

die, the Japanese government and corporate world have long since branched out in ways that reflect the country’s underlying demographic weaknesses—and strengths. (Location 1217)

American help or perhaps a partnership with a more demographically stable France. As to the Asian states, they might be able to throw themselves at none other than Japan’s mercy for their security overwatch. (Location 1255)

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. (Location 1267)

Specifically, the Trump administration was prosecuting a trade war with China, while China was descending into narcissistic nationalism. Both nudged all consumption-led systems—the United States included—to bring as much of their manufacturing needs in-house as possible. (Location 1304)

The globalization game is not simply ending. It is already over. Most countries will never return to the degree of stability or growth they experienced in 2019. And now most have lost the chance to even try to shift onto a newer, more appropriate footing. (Location 1313)

Life for them will change, too, but not nearly as quickly or drastically or negatively. The one that matters more than all others combined is the United States. (Location 1318)

Bottom line: in a world without more, the United States not only still has plenty, it has the capacity to keep it. But even better than that, to this point the Americans largely have managed to escape much of the global development and demographic trap. (Location 1343)

Most of the rest of the world had a Boomer generation as well, and for similar formulative reasons. War’s end plus the dawning of the new (mostly war-free) age under American sponsorship enabled most governments to busy themselves with their people’s lives without needing to burden themselves with the task of national defense. (Location 1364)

The Baby Boomers are the largest-ever generation, so their absence is hugely impactful in numerical terms. They are also the oldest economically active generation, meaning that their numbers comprise the bulk of all available skilled labor. Remove so many high-skilled workers in a short period of time and labor shortages and labor inflation are a foregone conclusion for years to come. (Location 1376)

At the bottom of the scale are the Zoomers. They are eager workers, but very few exist. The Zoomers are the children of Gen X. A small generation generates a small generation. (Location 1388)

To this point—Boomers, Gen Xers, and Zoomers—the picture holds globally, but now it diverges, because America’s Boomers did one thing their global peers did not. They had kids. A lot of them. Say what you will about America’s Millennial generation—and yes, there is a lot we can say—they have something going for them that nearly no other Millennial cadre globally does. They exist. (Location 1392)

Regardless of bucket, the Millennials lost years of meaningful work experience, and today are the least skilled of any equivalent age cohort in modern American history. (Location 1398)

That’s great. That’s essential. But the real hope is with their children. The American Millennials’ numbers raise the possibility that they will have enough children to someday fill the labor gap. (Location 1400)

but the Millennials’ very existence is both a plus now and a source of hope for later. (Location 1406)

The United States is one of the world’s four settler states, which is a pseudo-technical term indicating that most Americans can trace their lineage to folks who aren’t from what is currently American territory. (Location 1429)

As a settler state, the United States tends to be far more confident in its political identity as well as friendly to immigration than other countries. (Location 1436)

In large part it has to do with the nature of national identities. Most countries are nation-states: their governments exist to serve the interests of a specific ethnicity (the nation) in a specific territory (the state). (Location 1443)

Expect a lot of the world’s remaining labor—especially its high-skilled labor—to soon be knocking on America’s door. With every such relocation, America’s position vis-à-vis everyone else improves. (Location 1464)

Part of the Mexico factor is a less-than-obvious reason: manufacturing integration. The Mexican system isn’t as capable at providing electricity, education, and infrastructure to its people. (Location 1471)

In Mexican eyes, that isn’t all that different. Mexicans of Spanish descent somewhat look down on Mexicans of indigenous descent, and they feel more or less the same way about Central American migrants as Americans do. (Location 1480)

Mexican-Americans have redefined “white” from an exclusive term that refers to “them” and especially “those gringos” to an inclusive term meaning not simply “us” but “all of us.” (Location 1483)

Net migration of Mexicans to the United States peaked in the early 2000s and it has been negative for twelve of the thirteen years since 2008. Just as industrialization and urbanization pushed down birth rates in the developed world, the same process has begun in Mexico, just a few decades later. (Location 1503)

Most of the big migrant flows into the United States since 2014 have instead been from the near-failed Central American states of Honduras, El Salvador, and Guatemala.* (Location 1506)

Not to the United States specifically, but to any signatory of the accords. Team Trump added those clauses with Mexico expressly in mind. (Location 1512)

They want family reunification, but only for their own families. Never forget that anti-migrant, build-the-wall Donald Trump carried nearly every county on the southern (Location 1514)

border when running for reelection in 2020. (Location 1516)

There are some clouds on the horizon. While it is aging slowly, the American population is still aging. And while Mexicans are young, they are aging faster than Americans. At some point in the mid-2050s, the average Mexican is highly likely to be older than the average American. (Location 1518)

the United States has something hardly anyone else has in the world of Disorder we’re all falling into: time. (Location 1520)

There is something to be said for being a late bloomer: Americans and their Mexican partners will be able to look across the world and learn from what everyone else tried. (Location 1522)

The math is pretty simple: America’s population is more than young enough that even without Mexico or inward migration, its population can keep growing for at least a few decades. (Location 1526)

China’s labor force and overall population peaked in the 2010s. In the best-case scenario, the Chinese population in the year 2070 will be less than half of what it was in 2020. More recent data that’s leaked out of the Chinese census authority suggests that date may need to be pulled forward to 2050. China’s collapse has already begun. (Location 1530)

Most of the world (China included) imports the vast majority of its energy as well as the inputs used to grow its food. (Location 1534)

And America will retain control of the global oceans. And the Americans will have time to adapt their system. And the rest of the world is likely to brawl over the shattered remnants of a collapsed economic system. (Location 1539)

The average grocery store today has about forty thousand individual items, up from about two hundred (Location 1570)

The inputs are hardly ever out of stock, and are almost always available at prices that are not prohibitive. It isn’t simply availability and low cost; it’s reliable availability and reliably low cost. (Location 1573)

The ingredients of today’s industrial and consumer goods are only available because they can be moved from—literally—halfway around the world at low costs and high speeds and in perfect security. Phones, fertilizers, oil, cherries, propylene, single-malt whiskey . . . you name it, it is in motion. All. The. Time. Transportation is the ultimate enabler. (Location 1576)

your back. That kept towns small. Before industrial techs remade the world, “urban” areas required nearly a half an acre of farmland per resident to prevent starvation—over seven times the land we use today, plus another one hundred times as much area in forestland to produce charcoal to cook and see the population through the winter. (Location 1596)

Rome’s roads stretched from Glasgow to Marrakech to Baghdad to Odessa, and were roughly equivalent in total length to the roads of modern-day . . . Maine. (Location 1602)

Even breadbaskets could not reliably feed themselves. Between 1500 and 1778, France suffered several national famines (and dozens of regional famines). Yes, that France—the country that has been Europe’s largest and most reliable food producer stretching back a millennium, the country that has three SEPARATE agricultural regions, the country that had, bar none, the best internal transport system of the preindustrial world. (Location 1610)

Even if Anglo-Dutch disputes didn’t cut into deliveries, even if the Swedes didn’t go all Viking on your ships, even if the Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth was having a rare good day, half of the end-product cost typically still came from transport, with another quarter being racked up as storage fees. (Location 1629)

Geopolitics demanded that no empire buy food from any other. Even in the rare cases when shipping was thought reliable, the moods and appetites of opposing monarchs were most assuredly not. (Location 1635)

The “civilized” world* existed in a state of near-permanent competition. Bringing order to such chaos was simply impossible. (Location 1644)

At the close of the preindustrial era, most economies were still either self-contained or subjugated in one way or another, with the cities that enjoyed navigable rivers or safe coasts largely dominating. (Location 1664)

Faced with the cost of ever-deeper shafts and ever-more-expensive steam engines, some suppliers ventured farther afield to source coal from seams that were not directly adjacent to London. (Location 1683)

Railroads were energy made animate. Getting man to the moon was cool and all, but humanity’s greatest trick to date is building machines to get grain from more than fifty miles inland to the water. (Location 1688)

Much of southern Russian territory is a climate zone known as steppe: hot summers, cold winters, and so very demoralizingly flat and boring. (Location 1696)

First, the steam engine was invented well before steel became available in large quantities. The early steamships were still made of wood. Steam engines ran on coal. Coal burns at over 3,000 degrees. It doesn’t take a doctorate in chemistry to understand the complication. (Location 1720)

Technological requirements shaped the empire as much as the other way around. (Location 1727)

Between 1880 and 1910, the cost component of transport for wheat being shipped from the United States to Europe fell from 18 percent to 8 percent. (Location 1740)

Whereas preindustrial cities often relied on a constant influx of people to replace those who died of starvation or disease, industrialized cities were not synonymous with death. (Location 1750)

We went from the earliest days of steam, dying of dysentery and Dr. Quinn, Medicine Woman, to get-off-my-side-car-vacation-culture on the outside edge of a single human life span. (Location 1761)

The East India Company traded about 50 tons of tea a year at the start of the nineteenth century and 15,000 toward the end of it. (Location 1766)

Colonization, great power wars, the Industrial Revolution, and the slave trade are all among the consequences of that “rounding error.” (Location 1768)

The Americans emerged from World War II financially strong and with the only remaining navy of any substance. (Location 1772)

The Americans would ensure that all countries on all continents would enjoy full access to the global ocean. What had once been a highly contested strategic environment transformed into a single, global, safe, functionally internal waterway filled and supplied by diesel-powered steel behemoths. (Location 1776)

Economies of scale in transport come from four factors: size, crew, fuel, and packaging. The first three are pretty straightforward. (Location 1792)

Transport costs may have come down dramatically, but jagged, wild frictions existed across the entire system. (Location 1814)

By far the worst part—from a logistical and cost point of view—was the ports themselves. (Location 1823)

Global security, global commerce, global capital, global scale, and an overpowering willingness to provide reliability so the world could build its entire . . . world around a unified standard for size, weight, shape, and locks, enabling the ubiquitous container to move seamlessly through the supply chain. (Location 1850)

Instead of needing a rare—and therefore expensive—geographic alignment, ports can now be located outside cities, wherever the mix of land, labor, and electricity costs allow. Think Tianjin, Savannah, or St. John. (Location 1860)

Between 2000 and 2020, moving a container across the Atlantic or Pacific averaged out to about $700 per container. Or put another way, 11 cents per pair of shoes. (Location 1875)

Combined with bigger, slower ships, containerization has reduced the total cost of transporting goods to less than 1 percent of said goods’ overall cost. Before industrialization, the figure was typically more than three-quarters. Pre-deepwater, the figure was often north of 99 percent. (Location 1879)

Before the Industrial Revolution, wind, water, and muscle were the only power sources enabling a city to gather inputs. That put a hard cap on city size. The technologies of the Industrial Age expanded a city’s reach by orders of magnitude and enabled concentrations of resources in ways previously unheard-of. (Location 1887)

The Europeans harvested their empires. The very nature of the new technologies ensured both imperial expansion and the conflicts over access that would contribute to the competition and mutual loathing that culminated in the world wars. (Location 1894)

A central feature of the preindustrial world was the Imperial Centers. All enjoyed some magic mix of mild climate and flattish terrain and maritime and/or riverine access, which granted not simply a leg up on the local competition, but enough strength and stability to reach out and conquer lands beyond. (Location 1901)

The Americans didn’t simply outlaw conflict among their allies; the Americans guarded all global shipping as if it were their own internal commerce, ushering transport into an age of utterly inexpensive sanctity. (Location 1908)

First, industrial techs became ever easier to apply. Forging steel is more difficult than fashioning it into rail lines, which is more difficult than laying the rail lines, which is more difficult than operating a train, which is more difficult than filling a railcar. (Location 1934)

much of the Industrial Age—and especially the Digital Age—has proven to be plug-and-play. (Location 1938)

Second, industrial techs have become ever more difficult to maintain. The ability to diversify supply systems over any distance means it is economically advantageous to break up manufacturing into dozens, even thousands of individual steps. (Location 1939)

This combination of reach and specialization takes us to a very clear, and foreboding, conclusion: no longer do the goods consumed in a place by a people reflect the goods produced in a place by a people. (Location 1942)

Industrialization plus globalization has not only generated the fastest economic growth in history; collectively they have dramatically increased the standard of living of billions of people the world over. Unlike the shockingly unequal preindustrial world, the industrialization/globalization combo has achieved the seemingly impossible duology of enabling the utterly unskilled to live at something above an abused subsistence (Location 1946)

The central defining trait in all this work is safe, cheap transport. Inhibit that and the rest of . . . everything simply falls apart. (Location 1962)

After all, there is very little skill capacity within the population that might enable it to maintain the contemporary world’s flavor of industrialization should today’s omnipresent transport links break apart for any reason. (Location 1964)

Put simply, regions can deindustrialize far more quickly than they industrialized, and the critical factor is what happens to transport. (Location 1968)

The American security guarantee for shipping was considered ironclad. (Location 1974)

(a) physically escort non-Iranian shipping in the Persian Gulf, (b) reflag all such shipping as American vessels, and (c) provide a blanket sovereign indemnity to all such shipping. (Location 1982)

Absent the United States, there are only a handful of powers—France, the United Kingdom, Japan, and China—who could even reach the Persian Gulf with military assets. (Location 1989)

Even brief delays at only a handful of ports would be sufficient to force a rationalization of entire industries, to say nothing of actually losing ships. (Location 2000)

Back-of-the-envelope math using data from throughout the past quarter millennia suggests that reducing transport costs by 1 percent results in an increase of trade volumes by about 5 percent. One doesn’t need to run that in reverse for long before the trade-empowered modern world fades into a treasured memory. (Location 2004)

The Order made geography matter less. The Americans would now protect your borders as well as your external commerce. Such a structure enabled geographies that had never developed before, or that had been crushed under the boot of this or that empire, to rise up as independent players. (Location 2014)

Intermediate goods everywhere, with all of them being shipped by water. (Location 2023)

Even worse, with the notable exception of Japan, none of the local powers has the ability to secure its own supply or trade lines. (Location 2028)

Japan would seem set to inherit the region, but the future isn’t going to be nearly that tidy. (Location 2036)

The second region of concern is the Persian Gulf. Explaining why isn’t particularly difficult. Local climates range from arid to . . . desert. Normally this would keep populations not so much small, but minute. But there’s oil and that has changed everything. (Location 2043)

The region exports oil and natural gas and . . . almost nothing else. It imports food. Technology. Electronics. White goods. Clothing. Cellular goods. Computer goods. Machinery. Planes. (Location 2052)

The third region to watch out for is Europe. We think of modern Europe as a region of culture, democracy, and peace. As having escaped history. (Location 2065)

What lies under the historical veneer of calm is the most war-torn and strategically unstable patch of land on the planet. (Location 2066)

The Europeans are more dependent upon energy imports than the Asians, and no two major European countries think that problem can be solved the same way. (Location 2069)

The European countries long ago aged past the point of even theoretical repopulation, meaning that the European Union is now functionally an export union. (Location 2072)

Perhaps it is mostly subconscious these days, but the Europeans are aware of their bloody history. A large number of conscious decisions were made by European leaders to remodel their systems with a socialist bent so their populations would be vested within their collective systems. (Location 2075)

Some countries are secure or rich or have a tradition of power projection. Others are vulnerable or poor or are little more than historical doormats. Perhaps worst of all, the biggest economic player (Germany) is the one with no options but to be the center weight of everything, while the two countries with the greatest capacity to go solo (France and the (Location 2082)

United Kingdom) hedged their bets and never really integrated with the rest of Europe. (Location 2084)

As the reliability of long-haul maritime transport evaporates and the United States—by far Europe’s largest market—goes its own way, the Europeans will put a premium on protecting what they have and know: their own supply chains and their own markets. (Location 2087)

The end result will be the creation of several mini-Europes as various major powers attempt to throw economic, cultural, and (in some cases) military nets (Location 2090)

over wider regions. (Location 2091)

Turkey is absolutely certain to take over the Straits and no one has the capacity to challenge the Turks in their own front yard. (Location 2099)

To believe that globalization will continue without an overarching enforcer and referee, you must believe three things: (Location 2102)

Second, you must believe that certain tools of statecraft will remain firmly off the table, most notably military tools. (Location 2111)

Third, you must believe that the dominant regional powers will not come into conflict. (Location 2116)

Such long-haul disruption describes three-quarters of all shipments in energy, manufacturing, and agriculture. (Location 2121)

First, a regional superpower establishes a regional pax to impose its preferred definition of security upon its desired geography. Japan will do this in Northeast Asia, with the probably not very hidden goal of keeping the Chinese broken. (Location 2126)

The United States will update the Monroe Doctrine and turn the Western Hemisphere into an invitation-only American playground. (Location 2129)

The United Kingdom is likely to partner with the Scandinavians to craft a regional order. Germany will do the same with the Central European states. The Southeast Asians will pool economic strength and military forces with the Australians and New Zealanders. (Location 2132)

Conflict among the regional superpowers and blocs is a foregone conclusion, but that isn’t the same as saying such conflicts will be chronic or kinetic. (Location 2134)

Everybody loves the Australians . . . but the Australians will merrily act as a spotter for the American hammer. (Location 2138)

The defining characteristic of the new era is that we will no longer all be on the same side. (Location 2139)

The days of long-haul transport are largely over. With the notable exceptions of Japan and the United States, no country can consistently project naval forces a continent away, and even for the world’s top two naval powers, patrolling sufficiently wide swaths of ocean to enable escort-free cargo trade is beyond them. The Order worked because only the United States had a global navy and everyone agreed to not target ships. That world is gone. (Location 2143)

Breaking the economies of scale and supply lines that an interlinked world makes possible will impact everyone, but the unravelling will also impact everyone differently. (Location 2150)

It’s a bad thing that most of China’s navy can’t make it past Vietnam, even in an era of peace. (Location 2155)

Complex manufacturing systems are most efficient when they have more players, both for a larger consumer pool and a more differentiated—and from that, more efficient—supply chain system. (Location 2157)

The Russians are certain to leverage a fractured world against their oil and natural gas customers, a feature that will prompt the Germans and Turks and Brits and Japanese and Chinese to source energy from elsewhere (Location 2159)

Somewhat ironically, in a fractured world the slowest ships—those boring bulkers—are likely to end up being the most important. (Location 2161)

But should bulk shipping—which transports food and fuel—break down, many of the world’s people will starve. Alone. In the dark. (Location 2163)

That suggests the real excitement in shipping will occur in the no-man’s-lands where no bloc holds reliable sway—and where no vessel can reliably call for assistance. (Location 2165)

We’re moving into a world where the ability to import anything—whether it be iron ore or diesel fuel or fertilizer or wire or mufflers—will be sharply circumscribed. (Location 2173)

Expect state piracy to come back into vogue with particular verve in the Turkish bloc, (Location 2176)

America’s post-Order foreign policy will be erratic, but just because the Americans have precious few global interests does not mean they have any intention of giving up their global reach. (Location 2190)

The next generation of vessels will have far more in common with their far smaller, pre-1945 ancestors. (Location 2198)

Modern ports—and especially modern megaports—can only function as transit and distribution hubs for megaships that will no longer be sailing. (Location 2204)

Between the changes to ships and ports, expect what transport remains to cost at least quadruple what we’ve become used (Location 2206)

Those locations that entered the Industrial Age in force because they had internal geographies brimming with navigable waterways as well as a degree of stand-off distance from threats: the United States, the (Location 2207)

United Kingdom, Japan, France, Turkey, and Argentina, in that order. (Location 2209)

The biggest losers? Those countries at the very end of very exposed shipping routes, which lack the naval capacity to convoy their own merchant vessels: Korea, Poland, China, Germany, Taiwan, Iran, and Iraq, also in that order. (Location 2213)

A return to the days of militarized merchant marines is not far off. You think folks the world over are nervous about some countries having no restrictions on their military exports now? (Location 2218)

Modern cities—and especially East Asia’s modern megacities—are particularly screwed. All only exist because the Order has made it easy for them both to source the building blocks of industrialized systems as well as to access end markets for their exports. Remove the global system, remove global transport, and cities will be responsible for their own food and energy and industrial inputs. (Location 2236)

The Americas are broadly okay. In part it is geographic. The two American continents have more food and energy than they have people to consume them. So, you know, solid start. (Location 2244)

The Western Hemisphere’s (the world’s) most demographically stable developing country—Mexico—is already heavily integrated with the hemisphere’s (the world’s) largest economy and most demographically stable developed power—the United States. The two buttress one another in ways unparalleled in the modern world. (Location 2245)

The United States is a continental economy with robust internal commercial activity, as opposed to a global economy with robust external trade. (Location 2251)

Unlike the Asian and European ports, which are first and foremost transshipment centers, Los Angeles/Long Beach is a destination port. (Location 2256)

The Middle East is packed with energy but imports more than two-thirds of its food needs. Expect massive and rapid-fire population . . . adjustments as global commodities trade craters along (Location 2281)

France and Turkey will feast on the region’s bounty to fuel their own needs and ambitions, perhaps with the Japanese making the odd guest appearance. (Location 2283)

Sub-Saharan Africa remains the world’s last frontier for trade. In many ways it faces similar constraints as the Middle East. It has partially industrialized—up to and including expansions in food production—and it cannot maintain its level of development without ongoing global engagement. (Location 2285)

By far the biggest loser in this new dis-structure is China. (Location 2294)

The outstanding question for all things Chinese is simple: Will it collapse completely? Or will portions of China be able to hold on by its fingernails so that outside powers might treat it in the same way that they will treat . . . sub-Saharan Africa? If the latter holds true, expect a few coastal cities such as Shanghai to collaborate. (Location 2299)

Supplying oil to the world requires the stability of the Order. Think oil shipments are going to happen with the same volume and reliability in a post-Order world? (Location 2306)

When it was time to trade, you had to hope against hope that your partners wanted whatever it was you had extra of, and vice versa. But even if desires matched, there was the nagging question of worth. (Location 2326)

Unlike the Nile and Indus systems, Mesopotamia needed to trade because it only had food. Lumber, granite, and metals all required import. (Location 2342)

The circa 2000 BCE solution was the shekel. Three one-hundredths of a shekel could be traded for one quart of barley. (Location 2356)

First, when a civilization falls, it’s rare to follow the example of the Indus and have every person, product, and idea utterly vanish from the Earth. (Location 2378)

Second, this post-collapse merging naturally led both to technical booms from the skill mixing of the various overlapping diasporas and the desire to reconnect with others in their fallen cultures.* (Location 2381)

Gold, silver, electrum, and copper are all good choices, but really, anything a culture deems valuable can be used. (Location 2399)

This brings us to the second option: make your publicly circulating currency exchangeable for something of value. (Location 2405)

Financial collapses triggered by countries doing things unwell and unproperly and unwisely are as common as the stars in the sky. (Location 2410)

As soon as word leaks out that you are lying about how much gold (or Parmesan) you have in that government vault, folks stop accepting payment in the official currency, or refuse services altogether if crap cash is all on offer. (Location 2414)

Once that trust is damaged, the volume of your currency in circulation soars as people dump it. (Location 2418)

The empire was by far the most stable political entity humanity had yet to invent. That stability encouraged development and technological evolution and trade within the Roman system. That required more currency, and more precious metals to back the currency. That need forced the Romans to expand beyond territories within easy reach and beyond territories that could generate wealth into ever-farther-removed lands simply in order to secure mines. (Location 2429)

Nor does “venturing forth” need to occur with legions assaulting geography. It can occur with bureaucrats assaulting economics. Rather than gobbling up someone else’s resources, some governments choose to gobble up their own from an adjacent sector. (Location 2439)

Silver is often co-produced with lead, making extraction toxic. Purification methods of the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries used mercury, so there’s some more toxicity for you. Mining techniques of the time were not what we would call OSHA-approved. (Location 2452)

The Imperial Spanish weren’t very good accountants, but the best guess is that somewhere between four million and twelve million people died during the course of the Potosi silver operations. (For a point of reference, the entire population of Old Spain in 1600 was only 8.2 million.) (Location 2460)

By the time World War I had stretched into its third year, all the continental European countries were debasing their currencies to pay for the conflict, triggering currency collapses and runaway inflation . . . which only accelerated the pound’s de facto adoption as Europe’s only desirable currency. (Location 2491)

United States had already displaced the entirety of the British Empire as the world’s single-largest economy. Furthermore, the Americans didn’t even join World War I until three years in, and so were able to serve as creditor to the Europeans rather than needing to debase their currency to keep fighting. The British pound wasn’t as debased as the franc or deutschmark or ruble, but the dollar wasn’t debased at all.* (Location 2497)

By war’s end the U.S. economy wasn’t only far larger and that of Europe far smaller. The U.S. dollar wasn’t just the only reasonable medium of exchange in the entire Western Hemisphere: it had sucked the very metal out of Europe that would have enabled a long-term currency competitor anywhere in the Eastern Hemisphere. (Location 2503)

Between continental Europe’s woes and insufficient supplies of the British pound, pretty much everyone in Europe abandoned their precious-metals pegs and shifted to a system where their own currencies were backed by none other than the U. S. dollar (which was in turn backed by gold . . . that had until recently been European). (Location 2507)

The commencement of the Order meant that peoples who had been at each other’s throats for the entirety of their histories were not only at peace but were forced to be on the same side. All at once, local economies once hardwired to support a distant imperial sovereign could reinvent themselves on the basis of local development and expansion. (Location 2517)

The numbers not only didn’t add up, they couldn’t add up. Throughout human history, humanity has probably produced no more than 6 billion troy ounces of gold (about 420 million pounds). Assuming every scrap of gold ever mined was available to the U.S. government, that would only be enough to “back” a total global currency supply of $210 billion.* (Location 2526)

The peace and economic growth that the Order encouraged also increased the global population from 2.5 billion to 3.8 billion, suggesting much stronger demand for U.S.-dollar-enabled trade to come.* Even if the politics had been perfect, the gold standard was doomed to fail. (Location 2531)

For the first time, a major government didn’t even pretend to have anything in the vault. The only “asset” backing the dollar was the “full faith and credit” of the U.S. government. The very nature of America’s post-1971 globalization-fueled alliance gambit was quite literally based upon none other than Tricky Dick Nixon saying, “Trust me.” (Location 2546)

Currency value was directly linked to some sort of asset, while currency volume was determined by the capacity and reach of the sovereign power in question. Both characteristics generated extreme limitations, both for the governments issuing the currencies and for the people and firms (and other governments) who used them. (Location 2552)

In Japan capital exists not to serve economic needs, but instead to serve political needs. (Location 2564)

Japan was the trendsetter in making finance a tool of the state. Once that particular seal was broken, it became pretty common for the Japanese government to shove embarrassingly large amounts of cash at whatever project needed doing. (Location 2574)

China is worried about idle hands, not bottom lines. China is by far the world’s largest exporter of steel and aluminum and cement because it produces more of all three than even hyper-ravenous China can use. (Location 2664)

With capital no longer being the restrictive factor it once was, credit terms gradually got easier. Long gone were the days when a would-be homebuyer would have to put half down. (Location 2761)

Developing new technologies isn’t cheap. Drilling down a vertical mile isn’t cheap. Turning that vertical drill shaft and then drilling two horizontal miles isn’t cheap. (Location 2778)

All in, as recently as 2012 producing a barrel of oil from shale formations cost around $90 a barrel. (Location 2782)

But combine the overwhelming American strategic and economic need for more domestic oil production in a high-price environment with the financial possibilities of the fiat currency era and this issue simply melted away. (Location 2785)

but because they could be made in the world of fiat currencies, the United States experienced the greatest expansion in oil output in absolute terms of any oil patch, ever. (Location 2794)

None of this—Enron, subprime, shale, or the federal fiscal deficit, to say nothing of the European common currency or modern China as a country—would have been possible without the near-limitless capital of the fiat age. (Location 2801)

First, the fiat age has enabled economies large and small, countries near and far, to paper over their problems with cash. The factors that enable this or that place to do well in any given age—the Geography of Success—pale in comparison to a bottomless supply of low-cost capital. (Location 2805)

Under fiat, everyone everywhere can be successful. So long as the money keeps coming. (Location 2808)

Third, no one—and I mean no one—is printing currency at the same rate. (Location 2812)

Yes, the Americans have probably expanded their money supply more than is entirely reasonable, but try to maintain some perspective: (Location 2813)

By 2021 the number of homes available had plunged to below 700,000, a record low. I’m not attempting to wave away poor capital allocation decisions from the 2000s, but without the subprime pulse, (Location 2818)

Compare that to Europe, where monetary expansion since 2006 has occurred as a matter of course in order to keep alive a banking sector that is among the world’s least stable and healthy. (Location 2827)

And it isn’t just about crisis mitigation. The Europeans and Japanese regularly expand their money supply whenever they have a political goal to meet, a decision-making process that encourages most people who are not European and Japanese from holding or transacting in their currencies at all. (Location 2829)

Since 2007—the year everyone started talking about the Chinese taking over the planet—the supply of yuan has increased by more than eight hundred percent. (Location 2833)

Outside the mainland, the Chinese yuan is only popular in Hong Kong, and only because Hong Kong serves as the financial intersection between China proper and the rest of the world. (Location 2835)

Capital flight out of China to the U.S. dollar network regularly tops $1 trillion annually. (Location 2838)

That makes China vulnerable to any development anywhere in the world that might impinge raw material supply, energy supply, or export routes—developments Beijing cannot influence, much less control. (Location 2840)

So, have the Americans played a bit fast and loose with their monetary policy? Perhaps. Will that have consequences down the line? Probably. Will those consequences be comfortable? Probably not. But it is the Europeans and Japanese who have gone off the deep end, while the Chinese have swum out to sea during a hurricane and dived headfirst into the Texas-sized whirlpool that serves as Godzilla’s front door. Scale matters. (Location 2844)

Industrialization changed the game. The early industrializers experienced longer life spans and lower child mortality, leading to a rough tripling of their populations. (Location 2860)

Every country started down the path toward industrialization and urbanization. (Location 2864)

The later a country began the urbanization process, the faster that urbanization process unfolded and the faster that birth rates crashed. (Location 2867)

In the world of 1990 through 2020, this has been just peachy because it meant all the richest and most upwardly mobile countries of the world were in the capital-rich stage of their aging process more or less at the same time. (Location 2869)

Collectively, their savings has pushed the supply of capital up while pushing the cost of capital down. For everything. Everywhere. (Location 2873)

Mortgage rates have been the lowest in history and advanced governments have on occasion been able to borrow at negative rates, while the major stock markets continue to explore higher and higher ground. (Location 2876)

The explosion in industrial output and technological advances of the past decade or so are largely due to the combination of the lingering Bretton Woods system and this demographic moment of a huge oversupply of mature workers. And their money. (Location 2878)

Cyptocurrencies like Bitcoin are not backed by a government, are not readily exchangeable, are not useful in making payments, have no intrinsic value, and are primarily generated by Chinese magnates seeking an end run around sanctions, yet the combined value of all cryptos is in excess of $2 trillion. (Location 2883)

of the advanced developing world all converge on mass retirement in the 2020s and 2030s. And when they retire—when all of them retire at once—they will stop providing the capital that has fueled our world. At about the same time the United States stops holding up the ceiling. (Location 2889)

First, much of this new development generates greater production and higher consumption regardless of the underpinning realities of an economy. (Location 2891)

Second, it is so coming crashing down. There’s no geopolitical forecast here. It is basic math. The majority of the men and women in the world’s mature worker bulge—those all-important Baby Boomers—will hit retirement in the first half of the 2020s. Retirees no longer have new income to invest. (Location 2898)

Out with the Chinese tech start-up fund, Rwandan infrastructure bonds, and Bolivian lithium projects, and in with T-bills, money markets, and cash. (Location 2902)

This is smart and logical for the individual, but not so hot for the broader system, for two reasons. (Location 2904)

Raise the costs of that credit and everything slows down, assuming it doesn’t simply grind to a stop. (Location 2909)

Raise the interest rate on a standard mortgage loan by 2.5 percent—which would make mortgage rates still well below the half-century average—and your monthly payment increases by half. (Location 2912)

The second is less obvious, but equally as noticeable. Mature workers don’t only generate a lot of income and capital; they pay a lot of taxes. (Location 2915)

That’s great! It pays for things like education and law enforcement and health care and infrastructure and disaster relief. (Location 2917)

of pensions and health care costs. Replace a tax-heavy, mature-worker-heavy demographic of the 2000s and 2010s with the tax-poor, retiree-heavy demographic of the 2020s and 2030s and the governing models of the post–World War II era do not simply (Location 2919)

go broke, they become societal suicide pacts. (Location 2920)

Once again, recent decades have been the best time in human history, and we are never going back. (Location 2921)

For much of the world, we’re looking down the maw of 1850s-style government services before most governments even offered services, but without the attendant economic growth that would allow populations a chance to take care of themselves. (Location 2923)

Add the extravagances and exaggerations of the fiat era to the excesses and eruptions of the demographic moment and we have experienced the largest credit surges in human history. (Location 2927)

Indonesia is a country I tend to be bullish about for a mix of reasons: a large, young, upwardly mobile population; a government that by design focuses on the densely (over)populated island of Java, enabling it to concentrate its efforts on a fairly specific and politically unified geography; (Location 2978)

The credit picture of Brazil is a reasonable echo of Greece: a sixfold increase, peaking in 2014. In that year investor sentiment and the Brazilian political system broke at the same time, triggering a political crisis and deep recession that at the time of this writing shows no sign of abating. (Location 2988)

Luckily for the Saudi leadership, the country’s internal security services are among the world’s most effective . . . at quelling dissent. (Location 3000)

Credit in India is up by a cool factor of ten since 2000, with barely a dip along the (Location 3001)

When the correction inevitably arrives, it will be epic. I’m perfectly capable of being bullish on India for reasons geopolitical and demographic, while simultaneously warning of a helluva financial crisis. (Location 3003)

By the time you read this, the world will have a fascinating, horrific case study of true financial disintegration. Nor is Russia done. Beset with a population aging into decrepitude and a system that has given up educating the next generation, Russia’s credit collapse is but one of a phalanx of factors capable of ending the Russian state. (Location 3013)

If I had the answer to that you wouldn’t be reading this book, because instead of struggling through edits I’d be idling away my days on the Peter Virgin Islands. (Location 3019)

All three of these broad categories face evaporation. Deglobalization will shrink the global whole and shatter what remains into segregated markets. Global aging is collapsing the skilled labor supply. And financial shrinkage will make everything more expensive and more difficult. (Location 3036)

“Normally” the world is a bit of a rat race, and capital is something to be hoarded. (Location 3048)

Add in a dozen or so fat dollops of insecurity and instability and you can expect people in much of the world to attempt to relocate their money—and in many cases, themselves—to greener and safer pastures. (Location 3049)

Outcomes manifest quickly. When firms don’t think they will be able to get their profits out of a foreign country, they are far less likely to have any interest in operations in that country in the first place. (Location 3061)

Inflation occurs when costs rise, and can be caused by any sort of disconnect in supply and demand: supply chain disruptions when someone hijacks a container ship, a young and/or hungry population that needs more housing and food, fads where everyone must have a Cabbage Patch doll, or when a monetary authority expands the money (Location 3064)

supply to deliberately increase demand. (Location 3067)

Disinflation is a very specific sort of price drop. When your smartphone or computer gets an update that enables you to do something better and quicker, that’s disinflationary. (Location 3068)

Prices drop, but the relationships that make up the market are not unduly tweaked. Most folks love a bit of disinflation. I know I sure do. Then there is deflation. Prices drop, but it’s because something is very, very wrong. (Location 3070)

Cratering demand generates an oversupply in something basic, like electricity or condos or electronics. (Location 3073)

Some version of deflation has been plaguing Japan ever since its economic crash in the 1990s, and the European Union ever since the 2007–09 financial crisis, and it is probably already endemic in China, where increasing-production-at-all-costs is the state mantra. (Location 3074)

Monetary expansion is inflationary. Endemic capital shortages inject inflation directly into finance. (Location 3077)

Building new industrial plant to replace international supply chains is inflationary while the process is under way, and disinflationary once the work is completed. (Location 3078)

Currency collapses are inflationary in the countries that suffer them as everyone shifts from cash to goods they can hoard, but such collapses are disinflationary in the countries where fleeing capital seeks succor. (Location 3081)

My bottom line here is a total cop-out: the future of the . . . -flations* will be different in every region, every country, every sector, every product, and will change wildly, based on a wide variety of factors that can barely be influenced, much less predicted. I would hate to be a bond trader. (Location 3085)

For many (most?) countries, a depression lasting a decade or two is pretty much baked in at this point. (Location 3092)

One outcome is governments that increasingly cater to populist demands, walling themselves off from others economically and taking more aggressive stances on military matters. (Location 3095)

There will be American exceptions. The world’s best geography will keep development costs low. The rich world’s best demography will make America’s capital cost increases less onerous. The rise of the American Millennials suggests that by the 2040s—when the Millennials finally age into that capital-rich age bracket—capital supply will once again rise, taking the heat out of capital costs. (Location 3097)

And, oddity of oddities, America’s ongoing inequality issues might actually provide some help. (Location 3102)

First, the ultra-rich only need to preserve a fraction of their holdings to maintain their lifestyle. (Location 3107)

In most countries these differences do not move the needle very much, but in the United States the top 1 percent controls upwards of half of all financial assets. (Location 3111)

But this only holds true in advanced countries with large capital markets and screaming inequality. That is a list of exactly one. A large volume of mobile capital cannot fix everything, but in a world of constrained capital? Solid start. (Location 3114)

Tapping Kashagan required that the best minds in the industry develop fundamentally new technologies to deal with the field’s unique challenges. The consortium of companies developing it spent over $150 billion—considerably more than the entire annual GDP of Kazakhstan at the time—and fourteen years before even getting to first commercial production. (Location 3135)

The Order has made everything so peaceable and stable and wealthy for so long that production and transport systems that would have been considered several steps beyond asinine in any other age are well within reach. (Location 3153)

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. (Location 3157)

For the first time in history, we could do anything and go anywhere at anytime. Even better, for the first time “we” didn’t mean the most powerful empire of the era, but instead every individual person. (Location 3161)

Without oil, the American-led global Order would have never had a chance. Nor would have passenger cars. Or global food distribution. Or global manufacturing. Or modern health care. (Location 3165)

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 (Location 3172)

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. (Location 3173)

Humanity had known about crude oil “seeps” since ancient times. The Byzantines used such oil sources to make a party favor known as “Greek fire” for their enemies, while the Zoroastrians preferred to light the seeps on fire to ensure the party never ended. (Location 3204)

The commonality of these early decades of the oil era were simple: either you had oil and so could field modern military gear, complete with the insane speed and range and striking power it granted, or you were . . . on horseback. (Location 3221)

Empires fought over oil because they couldn’t fight a war without (Location 3231)

On the flip side, America’s crude oil came from the Lower 48, not some far-off land dangling at the end of a vulnerable supply line. (Location 3234)

But a bigger piece of it was the same economics-for-security trade that drove most of the American strategic calculus. (Location 3243)

All of a sudden, instead of British oil and Dutch oil and French oil there was only global oil . . . as guaranteed by the U.S. Navy. Any crude could now reach any buyer. (Location 3245)

As those allied economies grew, they used more and more crude from places farther and farther away. As the United States drew more and more countries into the alliance, the Americans used more and more crude from places farther and farther away, too. (Location 3259)

When events transpired that threatened oil access, the Americans responded as if the end was nigh because, well, it was. Without sufficient volumes of affordable oil, the entire Order would collapse. (Location 3264)

American actions included supporting of a borderline-genocidal purge in Indonesia of communist elements in 1965–66. (Location 3267)

What had begun as an effort to subsidize a military alliance with American crude had devolved into a bloated, unsustainable, and above all expensive mess that the Americans themselves were now economically dependent upon. (Location 3286)

The bulk of all internationally traded crude oil in 2022 comes from three regions: The first is the most important, the most obvious, and the most problematic: the Persian Gulf. Unlike the various major regions of the past half millennia, the Persian Gulf region has aggressively not mattered. (Location 3293)

These eight countries have two things in common. First, they are technologically incompetent or, at the very best, criminally lazy. Their educational systems are sad jokes, and local citizens lucky enough to gain technical degrees out-of-region tend not to return. (Location 3307)

All eight countries rely on outside workers—primarily from the United States, the United Kingdom, France, Russia, Turkey, Algeria, and Egypt—to keep the crude flowing. (Location 3311)

Second, as technically incompetent as these states are, they are even less competent when it comes to naval action. (Location 3314)

In implementing wave two, the Russians discovered that ports like Gdansk in Poland, Ventspils in Latvia, and Constanta in Romania could serve as offloading facilities for Russian crude, enabling it to sail on to customers far and wide. (Location 3330)

Now divorced from their former imperial master, all needed to establish their own income streams—preferably ones that were not beholden to Moscow. (Location 3334)

And since Europe was peaking demographically, there was little reason to expect European oil demand to increase ever again. (Location 3340)

About half the flows terminate in end users like Germany, while the other half must be loaded on tankers for sail. That’s where things get extra dicey. In the Pacific, the Nakhodka port sits smack in the middle of Japanese, Chinese, and Korean spheres of influence. (Location 3364)

Siberia, despite getting cold enough to literally freeze your nose off in October, doesn’t get cold enough. (Location 3371)

Shut it all down. Turning production back on would require manually checking everything, all the way from the well to the border. The last time this happened was the Soviet collapse in 1989. (Location 3376)

Thirty-three years on at the time of this writing, Russia still hasn’t gotten back to its Cold War production levels. Only during the oil-ravenous stability of the post–Cold War period of the American-led Order is the current iteration of Russia’s internationalized oil complex even possible. And with the Ukraine War, it is already over. (Location 3378)

The third and final major source of global crude is within North America. A lot of oil output on the continent falls into the general category of legacy: in regions that have been producing for upwards of a century. The first Mexican production dates all the way back to the 1920s and has been supplying Mexico with everything it needs and more ever since. (Location 3380)

No matter how it is measured, Canada produces far more than it could ever use. It consumes a similar amount to Mexico, but exports that much again. Almost all of Alberta’s “oil sands” production is shipped south to the United States, mostly for processing in Texas. (Location 3396)

The details vary from place to place and time to time, but a good rule of thumb is that a change in demand of about 10 percent results in a price shift around 75 percent. (Location 3493)

Similarly, when the American subprime bubble burst in the context of a global financial crisis, the subsequent drop in demand quickly made oil give back some four-fifths of those price gains. (Location 3495)

Oil is different. Since everyone has to have it, and since only a few places produce it in exportable volumes, the transport routes are far more concentrated. (Location 3500)

With few exceptions, products can flow from areas of high supply to high demand. For most products, this mellows any price shocks because there is typically extra stuff somewhere that can be used to pour fresh supply oil on troubled demand waters. (Location 3513)

This locks much of the world into a bit of a suicide pact. Any disruptions that occur in any production zone or along any transport route will reverberate through the entire world. (Location 3517)

First are those proto-empires that are able to militarily command shipments out of specific nearby production areas. Such interjections will not typically be clean, easy, or welcomed by the oil producers, but they will happen nonetheless. (Location 3519)

The second set of exceptions involves the major powers who produce the crude they need internally and so can block exports with a few pen flicks or switch flips. (Location 3521)

While Russian civilian technological acumen has all but collapsed since the Cold War’s end, so too has Russian industrial capacity. (Location 3528)

The Russians have never been slaves to modern capitalistic norms, and the future will be no exception. (Location 3530)

Under any scenario that doesn’t involve mushroom clouds or extreme civil breakdown, the Russians will have more than sufficient energy for their own needs at least until the early 2040s. (Location 3532)

Argentina is likely to experience an oil system not all that different from the United States. Despite some wildly (Location 3534)

France and Turkey also look fairly good. Both are proximate to regional energy producers—Algeria and Libya for France, Azerbaijan and Iraq for Turkey—as well as sporting the local technical skills required to make those oil patches work. (Location 3536)

Two-plus decades of horrific, deliberate, and increasingly creative and violent mismanagement all but destroyed the country’s energy complex. Output is down by more than 90 percent from peak, extraction and transport infrastructure is crumbling, and internal government leaks suggest irreparable damage to the country’s petroleum reservoirs. (Location 3568)

Unless the Italians choose to give up on their country’s existence, they will have no choice but to venture forth to secure (Location 3610)

No one simply puts raw oil in their tank. It must first be processed at a refinery. The supply chains of oil may not be nearly as complicated as they are for, say, computers, but the outcomes can be far more dramatic. (Location 3618)

In a safe world, there was nothing stopping crude from any particular source from reaching any particular processor. (Location 3625)

Oil is primarily used for transport fuel, so shortages slow human interaction to a crawl. Natural gas is primarily used for electricity generation, so shortages mean the lights literally go out. (Location 3665)

One more fun fact. Natural gas is vital to places that . . . lack it: Northeast Asia and Western Europe most notably. They regularly pay $10 per thousand cubic feet for the stuff, and must navigate tetchy producers and tetchier transit states and outright hostility from neighbors. In the Ukraine War’s opening act, prices quickly topped $40. (Location 3670)

Modern petrochemicals are responsible for the bulk of what we today consider “normal,” comprising the majority of the inputs in food packaging, medical equipment, detergents, coolants, footwear, tires, adhesives, sports equipment, luggage, diapers, paints, inks, chewing gum, lubricants, insulation, fertilizers, pesticides, and herbicides, and the second-largest component of material inputs in paper, pharmaceuticals, clothes, furniture, construction, glass, consumer electronics, automotive, (Location 3698)

Third, greentech does not make a country immune to geopolitics. It just shifts the view. Climate, temperature, land cover, resource location, distance, and maritime choke points are hardly the only geopolitical factors. (Location 3707)

The unfortunate fact is that greentech in its current form simply isn’t useful for most people in most places—either to reduce carbon emissions or to provide a substitute for energy inputs in a more chaotic, post-Order world. (Location 3724)

Fossil fuels are so concentrated that they are literally “energy” in physical form. In contrast, all greentechs require space. (Location 3732)

Fifth, even if solar and wind were equivalent technologies to oil, natural gas, and coal in terms of reliability, decarbonizing the grid would remain a mammoth task. (Location 3745)

Hydropower has already used all available appropriate geographies globally. Nuclear would first need a helluva PR campaign to sufficiently improve its image. (Location 3748)

Sixth, even in the geographies where greentech works well, it is at best only a partial patch. Greentech only generates electricity. Wind and solar might theoretically be able to replace coal in some specific locations, but electricity of any type is not compatible with existing infrastructure and vehicles that use oil-derived liquid fuels. (Location 3750)

Today’s lithium supply chains require unimpeded access to Australia, Chile, China, and Japan. That’s a bit simpler than oil, but not by all that much. Should anything happen to East Asia writ large—and all of East Asia is due for a great deal of happening—the bulk of the value-added system for batteries will need to be rebuilt elsewhere. That will take time. And money. A lot of it. Especially if the goal is to apply lithium battery tech at scale. (Location 3793)

Eighth, there is a little-discussed financial issue that might soon make this entire discussion moot. (Location 3817)

In places with good solar or wind resources, most current price assessments suggest that the combined lifetime cost of fuel, maintenance, and installation for greentech versus conventional is more or less equal. (Location 3819)

Nearly all other locations will remain dependent upon more traditional fuels for the vast majority of their energy needs. This is far worse than it sounds from the point of view of greenhouse gas emissions because the vast majority of these locations will not be able to retain access to internationally traded oil and natural gas, either. (Location 3832)

Option A is to do without the products that have enabled humanity to advance for the past two centuries, to suffer catastrophic reductions in product access and food production, triggering massive downward revisions in standards of living and population. To go without electricity. To deindustrialize. To decivilize. (Location 3835)

Germany already today uses lignite as its primary power input fuel because greentech is so woefully unapplicable to the German geography, and yet the Germans—for environmental reasons—have shut down most of their other power-generation options.* (Location 3840)

Many electricity systems will fail due to lack of fuel. The physical concentrations of urbanization—what (Location 3854)

enables us to live relatively low-carbon-impact, high-value-added lives—are simply not possible without ample energy. 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. (Location 3855)

It’s already happened. As China struggled in late 2021 with the dual impacts of COVID and the stricter environmental rules, regions responsible for one-third of the country’s GDP faced rolling blackouts and electricity rationing. (Location 3863)

Add in a relatively stable and robust capital structure and secure access to lithium deposits in Australia and Chile, and the Americans can even attempt battery systems and EV rollouts with current technologies, should they so choose. (Location 3875)

Many of the world’s past empires launched specific military campaigns to secure this or that material, while others leveraged their control of this or that material to achieve breakthrough and become something more than their geographies would normally allow. (Location 3945)

Does my obsession with state piracy make more sense now? Does piracy in general make more sense? To think we are all going to just sit in our little bubbles and make do and not venture out to at least try to get what we don’t have is to take a very creative read of human history. We’re entering a world that Jack Sparrow would find very familiar. This is not a game for the weak. (Location 3974)

Not only does greentech fail to generate sufficient electricity in most locations to contribute meaningfully to addressing our climate concerns but also it’s laughable to think that most locations could manufacture the necessary components in the first place, simply due to the lack of inputs. (Location 3993)

Many parts of the world are on the verge of deindustrializing, which, among other things, means their access to the industrial materials is not long for this world. Perhaps more than anything else it is this looming inadequacy and incompleteness of access that will rive the world apart. (Location 4016)

History tells us we may—may—be on the verge of a series of massive breakthroughs in materials science. The in-progress demographic bust threatens to reduce the human population writ large over the next few decades by as much in relative terms as the Black Death effect. (Location 4018)

This lining is dependent upon the parts of the planet that do not deindustrialize post-globalization, and we are unlikely to perceive that lining until it is far too late for me to play any personal role in a Second Renaissance, but you never know. This world surprises me. All the time. (Location 4025)

China sits squarely in the intersection of two quintessential trends of the modern age: rapid industrialization and urbanization on one hand, and China’s trademark hyperfinancing on the other. (Location 4034)

The world is going to have massive shortages of steel, at the same time that the supplies of the raw material to make that steel will overflow. (Location 4054)

The winner on all three counts will be the United States, with America’s Gulf Coast looking the most promising, for the triple reasons of having great electricity prices, plenty of greenfield industrial space—particularly at potential (Location 4066)

port locations—and proximity to both large local and regional markets (think Texas, the East Coast, and Mexico). Add in ample coal supplies and the Americans could get into virgin steel production, too. (Location 4068)

China has long since mined itself out of its high-quality bauxite reserves, and is now left with a dwindling supply of low-quality mines whose output requires much more filtering and much more power to produce much less end product per ton of (Location 4085)

When China cracks, the world will face global shortages of aluminum, as there simply are not sufficient smelting facilities elsewhere to cover more than a few percentage points of the pending shortfall. (Location 4091)

Courtesy of the shale revolution, the United States already has the world’s cheapest electricity. Add in some of the world’s best greentech potential and power prices in large portions of the country are likely to go down in the years to come. (Location 4098)

Like with the iron ore/steel nexus, the refining of cobalt ore into finished metal is utterly wrapped up in China’s hyperfinance model. Eight of the world’s fourteen largest cobalt sources are China-owned, (Location 4133)

owned, and nearly all cobalt refining occurs in the PRC (with Canada a very distant second). (Location 4135)

Cobalt is one of those tricky things formed at similar times and under similar conditions as other materials. Some 98 percent of global cobalt production is generated as a by-product of nickel and copper output. (Location 4136)

More than half of commercially usable cobalt comes from a single country: the Democratic Republic of the Congo (a near-dictatorial place that is neither democratic nor a republic nor all that far from being outright failed). (Location 4138)

But for now, lithium and cobalt are all we have. To date they are the only materials we have sufficiently decoded to make rechargeable batteries out of at scale. We know that the “green” path we are on is unsustainable. We just don’t have a better one to consider until our materials science improves. (Location 4186)

But people go to China for mass production and counterfeiting, not for exclusivity and authenticity. Barring a series of extremely unfortunate schmelting accidents that kill most of the aforementioned cool dudes, China will not enter this stage of the industry. (Location 4223)

simultaneously very complicated and very simple. Complicated in that there isn’t just one “rare earth.” As the word “elements” suggests, rare earths are a category of materials that include lanthanum, neodymium, promethium, europium, dysprosium, yttrium, and scandium, among others. (Location 4288)

But the real problem will be the semiconductors. Some 80 percent of the world’s high-quality quartz that ultimately makes up electronic-grade silicon comes from a single mine in North Freakin’ Carolina. (Location 4377)

In a post-Order world, uranium is likely to become more popular as a power fuel. While running a 1-gigawatt coal power plant for a year requires 3.2 million metric tons of coal, a 1-gigawatt nuclear power plant requires only 25 metric tons of power-fuel-enriched-uranium metal, making uranium the only electricity input that could theoretically be flown to its end user. (Location 4396)

For the duration of the Order—that unprecedented, brief, but above all vital moment in human history—all these materials and so many, many more have been made available in a largely free-and-fair global market. (Location 4431)

One of the fickle things about economic development is that the process isn’t the same for everyone. Britain was first, France and the Low Countries mushed together in second place, Germany was third, America roughly fourth, followed by Japan. (Location 4545)

Just-in-time is the logical conclusion of humanity producing sufficient surplus foodstuffs to support people who could specialize, like that once-all-important blacksmith. And like intermediate manufactures trade in general, it is possible only because the global transport system has become so reliable. So that’s the how and the why. Let’s talk about the where. (Location 4634)

By many measures, China is going backward. The country’s manufacturing output as a percent of GDP has been falling since 2006, which, judging by corporate profitability figures, was probably China’s peak year in terms of production efficiency. (Location 4672)

Instead the coast imported at least 300 million—likely as many as 400 million—workers from the interior.* That bought the Chinese economy another fifteen years, but at the cost of hardwiring, both within the coast and between the coast and the interior, massive inequality in income and levels of industrial development. (Location 4675)

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. In a geopolitical era created by an outside force that the Chinese cannot shape. (Location 4688)

Having a billion workers to throw at things and heavily subsidizing everything makes China the King of the Low End and the Emperor of Assembly. If you want an Internet of Things meat thermometer that can tell your smartphone how hot your roast is, a cheap chip from China will do just fine. (Location 4694)

Since 1995, China’s major cities have added some 500 million people, mostly migrants from the country’s ultra-poor interior, absolutely swamping every urban center with ultra-low-cost labor. Multiple, varied cost structures and labor quality abound not just within the country, but within each city. No wonder China has become the workshop of the world. (Location 4717)

The world’s third major manufacturing bloc is under the North American Free Trade Agreement, an economic alliance of Canada, Mexico, and the United States. The NAFTA system is utterly unlike its competitors. (Location 4765)

End result: the Texas–Mexico axis boasts the technological sophistication of Japan, the wage variation of China, and the integration of Germany with its neighbors, all within the footprint of the world’s largest consumption market. (Location 4869)

In calendar year 2019, China suffered the greatest decline in its birth rate on record. Sad to say, it was expected. (Location 4882)

The Uighirs of Xinjiang saw their birth rate drop by half just between 2018 and 2020. (Location 4894)

There simply isn’t enough local consumption to even hope to gobble up everything the Asians produce. And if the Americans no longer empower (Location 4905)

The secret sauce of the Asian manufacturing model is the region’s highly variant labor markets, combined with the American-provided and -subsidized security environment and global trade network. (Location 4921)

China’s failure to advance has simplified the country’s industrial model somewhat: China uses its hyperfinanced model to drive down the costs of the components that it can produce; it imports the parts it cannot produce, plugs them in, and sends the final product off. (Location 4941)

Somewhat similarly, the European system will falter for any number of reasons. The first rationale is both the most obvious and the least manageable: Europe’s baby bust started before Asia’s, with the Europeans passing the point of demographic no return even before the new millennium. Belgium, Germany, Italy, and Austria will all age into mass retirement in the first half of the 2020s, while nearly every country in a Central European line from Estonia to Bulgaria is aging even faster and will age out in the second half. (Location 4957)

Europe has aged to the point that it cannot absorb its own products. Europe must maintain a high level of exports to maintain its system. (Location 4968)

And of course, even all this assumes nothing goes wrong within Europe. 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, (Location 4998)

The American-Mexican market is second to none, while the British market remains the healthiest one (demographically speaking) in Europe outside of France. (Location 5019)

When it comes to the fate of the NAFTA system, most indicators look wildly positive. (Location 5022)

The core precept of the Order is that the United States would sacrifice economic dynamism in order to achieve security control. The American market was supposed to be sacrificed. (Location 5023)

Furthermore, the deliberate sacrifice means that most American manufactured products are not for export, but instead for consumption within North America. (Location 5026)

Most Chinese firms simply cannot function without active American participation. (Location 5036)

Canada and Mexico are far more integrated, getting roughly two-thirds and three-quarters of their economic heft from trade, but roughly three-quarters of that trade is with the United States. (Location 5040)

most insulated system in the world. Beyond that, the Americans have already ratified, operationalized, and implemented trade deals with Japan and South Korea, another two of the country’s six largest trading partners. (Location 5042)

Most studies in the past half decade have indicated that by 2021, most manufacturing processes were already cheaper to operate in North America than in either Asia or Europe. (Location 5054)

The North American system sports high labor variation, low energy costs, low transport costs to end consumers, nearly unlimited greenfield siting options, stable industrial input supplies, and high and stable capital supplies. (Location 5056)

The United States and Mexico have among the world’s best greentech options. Wind on the Great Plains, solar in the Southwest. Mexico is pretty good on both as well, particularly in the north, where the greatest integration with the American system occurs. (Location 5062)

Their consumption is driving the North American system now, just as in twenty years their investment will drive it. Because of them, North America faces nothing like the consumption and capital crunches that will soon define Asia and Europe. (Location 5067)

The problem is infrastructure. Running a road and rail network the entire length of Mexico’s mountainous terrain in order to connect Central America’s low-cost and low-skilled workforce to the American market seems like a stretch. (Location 5090)

A more viable option is Colombia. Like the Central Americans, the Colombians already have a trade deal with the United States. Unlike the Central Americans, the Colombians have a far more skilled labor force at a wage level that’s roughly two-thirds that of today’s Mexico. (Location 5097)

The entire concept of the Order is that the United States disadvantages itself economically in order to purchase the loyalty of a global alliance. That is what globalization is. The past several decades haven’t been an American Century. They’ve been an American sacrifice. (Location 5117)

A common problem for both Southeast Asia and India will be capital supply. Since both players sport relatively young demographics, local capital generation is somewhat thin. (Location 5189)

The longer and more complex the supply chain, the more likely it is to face catastrophic, irrecoverable breakdown. That single statement contains a lot of angst and disruption. (Location 5223)

Applying new technology to any manufacturing system adds cost, and automation is no exception. It will still happen, but only in targeted applications such as textiles and advanced semiconductors. Such automated applications are already cheaper than human labor. (Location 5246)

It is one thing if your country loses a manufacturing system because someone else has a better (Location 5281)

Moving forward, the German system will be absolutely hosed. Germany’s demographics are too terminal to maintain production, it is too integrated with other terminally demographic countries to maintain its supply chains, it is too hooked upon industrial commodities imports to even attempt large-scale manufacturing, and it is too dependent upon extra-continental exports to maintain revenue flows. (Location 5308)

The lumber industry* straddles the world of agriculture and manufacturing in complex and shifting ways. The value-add process from tree to lumber to pulp—or boards or aromatics or planks—adds up to a cool quarter of a trillion dollars of goods, and even that is before the real work begins that transforms the wood into furniture or veneer or cologne or house guts or charcoal. As you might guess, mapping the lumber industry’s future—hell, mapping the lumber industry’s present—is a snarly process. (Location 5323)

Human hands will still be needed for finishing work in textiles and the fabrication of wiring harnesses for follow-on manufacturing, but what used to be a foot-in-the-door industry has irrevocably changed. (Location 5424)

If anything, the long term is even more crushing. If the food supply system breaks down for any reason, you cannot simply manufacture more. (Location 5451)

Want to go organic and free-range? You’re now talking twenty-four months. Minimum. Orchards typically don’t produce for the first three years. Some take eight. (Location 5453)

Deindustrialization doesn’t simply mean an end to industry; it means an end to large-scale food production and the return of large-scale famine. (Location 5459)

We need to understand who will be fortunate enough to be able to eat in our disorderly future. (Location 5462)

As such, wheat has long been the grain of choice for most of humanity. As the years ticked by into millennia, nearly every culture, everywhere, grew wheat in significant volume, with most placing it at the center of the food experience. (Location 5470)

All that free time meant greater labor differentiation and from that, faster technological progress. (Location 5483)

The secret is in the often-glossed-over concept of irrigation. We all understand that plants need water and sun, but most of us do not internalize the sort of miracles that can come from not simply water management, but water control. (Location 5485)

And so history unfolded: the rise of empires for the next 2,500 years revolved around the securing of lands that could feed expansion. Spain for the Romans, Ukraine for the Russians, Poland for the Germans, South Africa for the British, Egypt for pretty much everyone at some point. (Location 5522)

The Order, combined with the dissemination of industrial technologies, has shifted 3 billion people from living on the razor’s edge to being food-secure. Better modern inputs, fewer imperial-era restrictions, more farms on more acreage, larger yields of a greater variety of products. (Location 5549)

In the advanced world, where the industrial technologies were more established, wheat was steadily pushed to the margins while more productive lands were used for everything else. Anything else. (Location 5566)

With basic food security taken care of, “agriculture” today means much more than just staples, and in many cases doesn’t even mean food. (Location 5579)

New Zealand and Egypt. New Zealand is a very wet country, while densely populated Egypt has lots of extra labor to tend to plants. (Location 5585)

That’s roughly 10 percent of global GDP, the largest value of any economic sector. More of those foods, over one-third by value, are internationally traded than at any other time in human history. (Location 5605)

Manufacturing and energy and finance are cool and all. They have collectively brought the entirety of humanity into the modern age. But agriculture? It is the first step along the path from the misty terrors of yesteryear to the world we know. Should contemporary agriculture unwind, it will mean a massive contraction in volumes and varieties and availabilities and reliabilities of foodstuffs. (Location 5609)

The Order’s emphasis on efficiencies, economies of scale, and expanding the reach of industrial technologies shapes not simply where certain crops are grown, but how they are grown. (Location 5617)

The average size of a Chinese wheat or corn field is typically about one acre, less than 1/350 the size of its American equivalents. (Location 5631)

The pain will not stay bottled up. In the late-Order period, these countries are the origin of some 40 percent of the world’s wheat exports. (Location 5653)

The picture darkens considerably once one starts looking at the world of transport. (Location 5655)

Southern Hemispheric temperate zones—regions highly resistant to the coming geopolitical storm—are very lightly populated compared to the Northern Hemisphere. (Location 5666)

Any Northern Hemispheric disruptions to either food production directly, or supporting industries indirectly, immediately turn into food shortages on a scale humanity has never before experienced. (Location 5669)

Part of this is painfully obvious. Oil and oil-derived products are critical to all things agricultural. (Location 5682)

Leaving aside the minor details that, come harvest time, farmers are out in the fields eighteen hours a day (or more) and that there is no battery system in the world that can handle that sort of out-charge with only six (or fewer) hours of in-charge, as well as the less minor detail that an EV ship could not recharge in the middle of the freakin’ ocean, (Location 5685)

good luck maintaining not simply an industrial lifestyle, but a post-waterwheel lifestyle. (Location 5693)

You think there’s enough of them to grind flour for 8 billion people??? (Location 5694)

collective adoption of such chemical inputs in the late 1800s in the advanced world increased grain output by roughly a factor of four, with the developing world participating in such bounty in the decades after World War II and especially after the Cold War. Without such inputs, the reverse will be true. (Location 5698)

The country that will certainly face the biggest declines in agriculture output will be China. (Location 5707)

five times the global average in the case of nitrogen fertilizers. (Location 5709)

Phosphate-based fertilizers experienced an eightfold increase in production and application since 1960. (Location 5720)

In the pre-Order days, the two would have been more or less colocated. In that pre-Order system, the farmers would use cattle manure to provide phosphorus for their fields. (Location 5733)

On the outcome side, most plants at harvest are between 0.5 percent and 2.0 percent potassium by weight, (Location 5738)

On the sourcing side, nearly all the world’s potassium comes from a mineral known as potash, and internationally traded potash comes from just six places: Jordan, Israel, Germany, Russia, Belarus, and Canada. (Location 5739)

South America and Australia—the continents that produce and export the greatest volumes of foodstuffs relative to their populations—have (Location 5744)

There is one itty-bitty ray of hope in the coming global fertilizer—and from that, food—shortage: most studies by most agricultural scientists suggest that most farmers have been overfertilizing for decades, especially when it comes to potassium fertilizers. (Location 5746)

Most data suggest up to a decade. That might seem insufficient. It is not. It is wildly insufficient. (Location 5750)

France, the United States, and Canada are the only countries on the planet that check all the boxes. (Location 5793)

Keep in mind that Russia grows a lot of wheat on its marginal territories. In poor harvest years at the height of the Order, Russia already interfered with exports out of the other three wheat-belt states in order to ensure its own people sufficient food supplies. (Location 5802)

This is the future for Brazil, Croatia, Denmark, Finland, the Netherlands, Pakistan, and South Africa. (Location 5808)

Bulgaria, Estonia, Czech Republic, Ethiopia, Finland, Germany, Hungary, Latvia, Lithuania, Mali, Romania, Slovakia, Zambia, and Zimbabwe. (Location 5811)

Nigeria, the only African nation that can maintain its agricultural output without extensive outside assistance, will establish a sphere of influence that includes Equatorial Guinea, Cameroon, Chad, Niger, (Location 5829)

Should something—should anything—happen to those imported food flows, civilizational collapse into anarchy complete with a population “correction” isn’t simply a distinct possibility, it is the most likely outcome. (Location 5863)

In absolute terms the biggest loser by far will be China. China sits at the end of the world’s longest supply routes for nearly everything it imports, including roughly 80 percent of its oil needs. (Location 5866)

China’s demographic collapse suggests imminent labor force and capital-supplies collapses. (Location 5869)

There will be no shortage of famines in the post-Order world. Likely in excess of 1 billion people will starve to death, and another 2 billion will suffer chronic malnutrition. Some two-thirds of China’s population faces one of those two fates. (Location 5871)

There’s another sort of input that might at least partially replace the missing components of equipment and fertilizer and such: labor. The country to watch most closely in this regard is China. (Location 5895)

But if gardening is a full-time job and if it is the only method of food production and if the labor is bottomless and free, (Location 5904)

China’s best bet will likely be a brutal, state-organized deurbanization campaign that somewhat resembles the Cultural Revolution, to turn a half billion people or so back into gardeners. (Location 5909)

just might—might—generate enough food to preserve the concept of China as a political entity. (Location 5913)

The world’s best temperate zone farmlands, the ones largely confined to advanced countries unlikely to experience severe disruptions, will be able to apply digital technologies to agriculture. (Location 5920)

The bottom line is that technologies now exist to hack plants and get them to spend more energy on propagating (that is, growing the bits that humans ultimately eat). (Location 5928)

In China, the most common use is for the government to know where you are, who you are with, and what you’re doing at any given second. (Location 5936)

Let’s begin with corn and soy, which rank fourth and first among internationally traded food commodities, respectively. (Location 5996)

The knock-on effects of such mass relocations for manufacturing capacity should be obvious. The labor will simply be in the wrong place, doing something unrelated to widget making. (Location 6127)

And the knock-on effects for population size are simply terrifying. (Location 6130)

This means that should China need to switch away from synthetic fertilizers to something more . . . natural, the country’s life span gains—the country’s last forty years of population increases—will be lost in just a couple of decades even if nothing else goes wrong. (Location 6131)