The End is Just the Beginning

Several recent threads have made me think about this book. Rather than comment in those threads I decided to start a new thread. I’m currently reading “The End of the World is Just the Beginning” by Peter Zeihan. Link:…

Last year I had read Ray Dalio’s book “Principles for Dealing with the Changing World Order”:…

Ray is a very smart person. And he researches the crap out of everything. It is really quite impressive actually. And that book is a very good read, talking about centuries of empires, the patterns they take, the signposts that tell you what stage an empire is in. And how repeatable these patterns are over history. As such, we see America in decline and China on the rise.

Now, enter Zeihan. Not as well researched as Ray (or maybe it is, but due to writing styles it is hidden). But Peter hits on something very important – demographics. Ray ignores demographics. I think because we have never really had a demographic problem like this ever before. We’ve had population declines (war, disease). But this time around it is concentrated mostly on the young. China’s 1-child policy is the extreme example. But smaller families has been a recent trend, going below replacement-levels in way too many countries. Populations are getting older but still rising. It won’t be long before not only is the older generations the most populace, but the population as a whole starts getting smaller.

Ray says that history would say America is in decline and China is rising. Zeihan says “not so fast, and here is why”. I am tending to believe Peter over Ray. But I think the road is going to be bumpy along the way.

I recommend both books highly. If you can read only one, I think Peter’s book is the one to read.


Peter hits on something very important – demographics.

Another person interested demographics is Harry Dent Jr.
The basis of Dent’s investment thesis, spending wave theory,[2] is that consumer spending related to the generational formation of families has a profound effect on the market value of investments such as financial securities, real estate, and gold.

intercst has a retire early website. On he has a page that tracks various retirement portfolios. Besides the 100% bonds & 75/25 s&p 500/bonds & 60/40 portfolios he has attempted to mimick Warren Buffet, Larry Swedroe, Harry Browne & Harry Dent portfolios here:
The Harry Dent portfolio has performed the best.
From intercst link:”Dent favors three sectors of the economy during the 1982-2008 boom: technology, health care, and financial services. More troubling is the 12-14 year long recession/depression from 2009 to 2022. The deflation during that period will make long-term US Treasury securities the investment of choice.

Three sector funds were used to build the Harry Dent portfolio below. The Vanguard Health Care Fund (VGHCX) was chosen for its low expense ratio. Since Vanguard doesn’t offer similiar specialized funds in other areas, the Fidelity Computer Technology (FDCPX) and Financial Services (FIDSX) sector funds were selected as a convenient choice.”
“Harry Dent Portfolio
75% Stock/25% Fixed Income, rebalanced annually
25% FIDSX, 25% FDCPX, 25% VGHCX
21% VFSTX, 4% VMMXX“

As the world’s population ages I would think performance of business sectors will change along with world demographic trends. Everyone will have to analyze the situation and place their bets on specifics business sectors. Do demographics trump all other factors? Or was the superior performance of the Dent portfolio due to other factors?


I really enjoyed Harry Dent’s book some 20 years ago but I find his forecasts to be too much doom and gloom.

The Captain

I read Ray’s, Changing World Order, and listened to Sam Harris’ one hour and fifty-one minute podcast with Peter Zeihan about his new book, The end of the World is Just the Beginning. Ian Bremmer, was also on the podcast, which was a bit of a friendly debate on the topic of Peter’s book, and who will come out on top, the US or China. Also, Russia and the US.

I haven’t read Peter’s book, yet. Thanks for reminding me. Ray is scary but I found it oddly incomplete. Maybe proprietary stuff is missing? Peter is scarey, too, but it is all there. If you liked his book, I believe you’ll appreciate this podcast. The full version is only available to paid subscribers.

Sam Harris is a unique and acquired taste. Or a matter of taste. I like him very much. May be on the spectrum, sometimes, but sane, in-depth, probing interviews, with top-notch guests.


But smaller families has been a recent trend, going below replacement-levels in way too many countries.

Continued population growth may be desirable in the short run, but in the long run is very much a problem. Humans are not that good at long term planning.

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Continued population growth may be desirable in the short run, but in the long run is very much a problem. Humans are not that good at long term planning.

The reason it is a problem is with the younger generations being smaller, and having fewer children, you get fewer workers to support the larger retired generations. Those people still need food, housing, consumption goods, etc. And someone needs to make it, grow it, provide it, etc. Let alone the fiscal implications of pensions and things like social security.

Peter also mentions that when demographics get bad enough societies simply collapse. He does not to into detail on why the collapse, rather than just get smaller and then stabilize. For example, he said some countries are already past the point of no return, population-wise.

My hope is that automation will save some countries. Automation in food production (we are already on our way there), in goods production (ditto), etc.

FWIW, he goes into various reasons why some countries or regions will fare better than others over the next few decades. For many of us here, the USA is on a list of “will fare better than most”. Which does not mean “cakewalk for us”.

Interesting tidbit from the book: I had no idea how important the US Navy has been to allowing this new world order that was brought in by Bretton Woods at the end of WWII. And how our collective desire to stop being the world’s police force is accelerating this coming change.


But smaller families has been a recent trend, going below replacement-levels in way too many countries.

Continued population growth may be desirable in the short run, but in the long run is very much a problem. Humans are not that good at long term planning.

My unscientific estimate is that the current world human population is sufficient to maintain and operate a modern technological civilization on approximately 1/3 to 1/2 of the earth’s land surface (excluding Antarctica).

The catch is that said modern technological civilization - or, more specifically, prosperity - suppresses birth rates. Something that was noted around 1780 if not earlier, and shown to be true based on records from the Roman Empire.

(The wealthy and the Roman nobility, which two groups overlapped a lot, had fewer babies. In fact the first several emperors had no legitimate natural sons, and would adopt the most competent of their provincial governors thus making said competent people their heirs. Unsurprisingly, the emperors chosen by this method were pretty competent. Then one of them had a legitimate natural son, who in due course became emperor and proceeded to demonstrate why the other approach was better.)

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Just another thing here. For those who don’t want the book, the Sam Harris Making Sense podcast, #288 from July 14, is an interview with Peter Zeihan, about this book. I just started listening.

A 54-minute version is free. The longer one (nearly twice as long) is only available to subscribers. I do not subscribe.…

China’s political environment makes a productive economy difficult. Many of their numbers over the years have been “enhanced”. They are a force but nowhere as much as some report.

A declining population is definitely difficult for an economy. Most pensions are based on more people paying in, and not less. And who is going to take care of elderly folks as they age?

Maybe after a population shrinks and levels off it is ok, but getting to that point will not be fun. Will need a lot of improvements with robotics and AI to help reduce some of the pain.


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A higher population is not a plus just to have enough people to work and take care of us. Esp. if the quality of life is such the air and water are polluted and wildlife and natural food sources are depleted.

When I was a kid, there were less than 1/2 the number of people on this earth. Lake Tahoe was still clear, there were still places you could see the stars and a ten minute drive hadn’t yet turned into an hour in Los Angeles.

Population is now an unmanaged commons. Or, worse, enabled by dark and selfish interests that masquerade as “God’s will.”