Discovering Peter Zeihan: When Heads Explode

Charles Hugh Smith Discovers Peter Zeihan

Charles Hugh Smith is a blogger – author who is open-minded enough to acknowledge new ideas when they hit him on the head. Peter Zeihan is a geopolitical analyst who loads his arguments with enough factual details that Charles is forced to acknowledge that there is something there. When Charles Hugh Smith takes an honest and openminded look at Zeihan’s thesis, the heads of many of his readers are bound to explode!

… if a nation’s geography is favorable, the barriers to prosperity and stability are low, while the barrier is high for nations with unfavorable geography.

Peter Zeihan, author of the 2014 book, The Accidental Superpower: The Next Generation of American Preeminence and the Coming Global Disorder, lists the core geographic attributes that are either favorable or unfavorable in ways that influence a nation’s long-term prosperity and built-in geopolitical challenges.

What does geography have to do with prosperity, stability and geopolitical risks?

Navigable rivers that reach deep into productive interior regions lower costs of transport dramatically, while natural harbors enable low-cost access to international markets via ships.

Natural barriers to invasion such as oceans, deserts and mountain ranges dictate whether a nation must spend heavily on military defense of the homeland or whether the cost of defense is lightened by favorable geography.

… Nations with no navigable rivers or deep-water ports are cut off from the wealth-creating potentials of low-cost sea trade, while nations with excellent natural ports and a seafaring tradition have an enormous advantage: consider Portugal, which established trading centers in India and Asia in the 1500s once its explorers rounded Africa, and England, which rolled up Portugal’s chain of wealth-creating trading network into its Empire in the 1700s.

Zeihan notes that while Africa has 16,000 miles of coastline, it only has a dozen continental bays worthy of port construction. Other places are blessed with a wealth of natural bay: Texas alone has 13 world-class deep-water ports (the map shows 17 ports total.) __ Of Two Minds

Most of the basic ideas from the book are summarised in the video talk below. If you have never watched a Peter Zeihan talk, and have not read “The Accidental Superpower,” you should watch one of the 2016 talks (about an hour long) on YouTube or Vimeo. These ideas are likely to push against many of your preconceptions, but that is the main way that adults learn — by overturning their indoctrinations.

2016 Investment Summit – Peter Zeihan from Brightworth on Vimeo.

Zeihan looks at the foundations: demography, geography, legal and economic systems. Then he shows how the excess capital produced by those with lucky demographics, geographics, and bureaucratic systems, gets distributed and allocated (misallocated) to generate striking — but temporary — geopolitical phenomena. Taking an honest look beneath the surface layers of things will often get people riled — particularly people who make a living off the established orders or who are deeply invested intellectually in the established way of viewing reality.

The US Government is Easy to Hate; But the Government Is Not the Country

Many amateur geopoliticians allow their understandable hatred for the US government to push them into adopting an entirely gullible stance to anti-American propaganda from Moscow, Beijing, and other sources. Zeihan’s approach represents a middle ground to geopolitical projection. It is based upon speculative arguments — but the underlying data used is quite supportable, and must be faced by anyone who wants to understand many of the more puzzling aspects of North American resilience.

In Peter Zeihan‘s 2014 book, The Accidental Superpower, Zeihan asserts that North American advantages of geography, rule of law, and demography provide the continent with an advantage that will last well into — and perhaps beyond — the 21st century.

This has very little to do with the US government, which has evolved and acquired the same type of old-world corruption which caused many immigrants to move to the US in the first place. Despite the corruption, the elitist in-breeding, the duplicity in government-media-academia, and a history of sticking its nose in parts of the world where it does not belong, North America has so many built-in advantages that even bad government and corrupt societal institutions cannot destroy all of its opportunities for at least the next several decades.

Contrast that qualified optimism over North America with the likelihood that large parts of China, Russia, other BRICS, the EU, and many other parts of the world are likely to come under new ownership and governance within only a few decades or less.

The logic behind the map above is clearly explained in “The Accidental Superpower,” and is briefly explained in Zeihan’s standard hour-long talk which is widely available to view on the internet.

There are many points on which intelligent and informed persons can disagree with Zeihan’s analysis. But it would be most unwise to ignore the supporting data which Zeihan has compiled, or his basic demographic and geographic arguments on economic and state stability.

If Charles Hugh Smith Can Take an Opern-Minded Look at Zeihan’s Ideas, So Can You

Charles Hugh Smith is often lumped — by those who do not understand him — with anti-western doomers such as Kuntsler, Orlov, Martensen, Cobb, and the like. But he is too independent to fit easily in any particular herd. I was impressed that Smith finally took a careful look at China’s Housing Bubble in January of this year. This is apparently another case of Smith being hit on the head by a reality of rapidly expanding salience. The mark of an honest man is his tendency to finally come around to what the facts are shouting in his ears.

Another example of Charles Hugh Smith wisdom:

Short, intense directed apprenticeships that teach students how to learn on their own to mastery are the future of higher education. We can continue to squander trillions of dollars on an ineffective system until it finally collapses under its own weight, or we can admit the current contraption is unsustainable and a failure, and move on to a better, cheaper system.
__ more at:

Almost everyone displays reluctance to overcome past indoctrination, programming, and prejudices. Al Fin, for example was slow to realise the impracticality of grid-scale wind and solar. And that is far from the only controversial issue on which Al Fin has been forced to change his mind over the past decade or two, by underlying and supportable data.

There is a tradeoff between the solidity of “wisdom” and the flexibility of formative learning. Charles Hugh Smith displays remarkably solid wisdom on many issues. But his reaction to Peter Zeihan’s ideas and data displays his ability to engage in formative learning when it is necessary, in order to make sense of specific phenomena.

Many of his readers are not likely to prove as flexible, unfortunately.

This entry was posted in Coming Anarchy, Demographics, Everything You Think You Know Just Ain't So, geopolitics, Peter Zeihan and tagged . Bookmark the permalink.

3 Responses to Discovering Peter Zeihan: When Heads Explode

  1. Abelard Lindsey says:

    I just got this book based on your recommendation.

    You and Brain Wang are may favorite bloggers. You think like I do. Very few people do.

  2. yoananda says:

    very interesting indeed !

  3. Gerald O'Hare says:

    The old anti Americanism was based upon the often snobbish elitism of Europe and the moribund class thinking of communism. The old thinking was wrong. Recent behavior does reflect a new mindset in American thinking. Less involvement and no boots on the ground. Americans will work with local people to impact a situation. Some areas will be completely ignored. Americans are more adaptable than imaged.

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