Author: Peter Zeihan
Review by: Alex Gregory, Chairman and CEO, YKK Corporation of America
Peter Zeihan’s The Accidental Superpower: The Next Generation of American Preeminence and the Coming Global Disorder will appeal, especially, to those of us who were not as interested in world history and geography in high school as we now wish we had been. With an interesting and thought-provoking approach, Zeihan explains the past, present, and future of many countries of the world in very fundamental terms: demography and geography.
The good news, according to Zeihan, (spoiler alert) is that the United States is well-positioned to face and to overcome many of the expected future global challenges thanks to favorable aspects of our geography (including our abundant navigable rivers and our protected natural east/west borders) and our potentially positive demographics (our ability to offset our aging demography through immigration).
As developed countries of the world trend away from global commerce toward becoming more self-sufficient, especially in terms of energy sourcing, the U.S. and other developed countries that historically have been net importers will fare far better than countries that rely on exports and that are geographically challenged (e.g., no navigable rivers, limited port access, problematic mountain ranges, etc.). As Zeihan’s biography on Amazon.com explains: “His irreverent approach transforms topics that are normally dense and heavy into accessible, relevant takeaways for audiences of all types.”
All is not rosy, however, as he warns that drug gangs may become the U.S.’s greatest risk if U.S. immigration policy becomes more inflexible. At a minimum, readers will find the book’s innumerable facts about geography and demography to be fascinating and very compelling. For example, Zeihan explains how geography and demographics affected the evolution of civilizations, and then he extrapolates those trends into future generations.
Some readers will argue that his approach is overly simplistic in that it leaves out human factors and technological advances that can offset both geography and demography. That imperfection in his book is to me, however, what makes it much easier to understand and much more enjoyable to read.