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The Limits of Peter Zeihan’s Analysis

As ATS readers know, I frequently post commentary by Peter Zeihan here. A reader offers the following insightful criticisms of Zeihan’s work.

Keith, that is an interesting article by Peter Zeihan you shared today. Although he is the data and trends expert (and I am not), one thing I can’t help but feel he may be underestimating is the amount of debt people are already living with in the U.S. He does throw in a few lines about concerns re: growing economic inequality, but he also says “most” American citizens will be able to afford the coming price inflations (because of all the COVID money that was handed out, presumably). I’m not sure about that. For some number of Americans (maybe not most, but not a small amount either), it largely went into servicing debt and bills that they were already behind on, pre-COVID. I could easily see price inflation being the straw that breaks the camel’s back. And then we will see pressure build for either some kind of long-term UBI or debt relief, either of which the system may opt to carry out if the alternative is widespread economic collapse. Perhaps Zeihan is factoring that in here, in which case, okay — but his declaration that “most” Americans can afford coming inflation struck me as out of touch. Though, he has his ideological blinders as much as anyone does, as evidenced by his full-throated parroting of the line that Jeremy Corbyn really was this hugely anti-Semitic force within the UK Labour Party (iirc, I believe he’s actually called him a Nazi) — as opposed to a rather meek social democrat that nonetheless did voice opposition to aspects of the Atlanticist imperial project, of which Israel is a key part. I can imagine Zeihan’s take on the Israel-Palestine situation.

My response:

You have pointed out what I think is the main weakness in Peter Zeihan’s thinking. He is such an establishmentarian (a self-described GWH Bush globalist) that he is completely blinkered about things on the economic bottom or political margins. He used to work for Stratfor. He’s great at analyzing mainstream (i.e. ruling class, upper-middle-class) economics. He is an advisor to big-shot investors. A lot of his YouTube speeches were recorded at investor summits. Zeihan is also good at analyzing mainstream international relations (relationships between governments) and mainstream politics (the two parties).

But when it comes to economics outside the affluent classes, fringe/radical politics, or insurgencies within countries, he is out of his league. Zeihan obviously knows very little about that because he doesn’t think it’s important. He thinks upper strata power brokers are where the action is so he ignores what is happening on the ground. His comments about Corbyn (which I have also seen) were ignorant beyond belief. Obviously, he doesn’t appreciate the full impact of widening class divisions in the US on the economy. I don’t think he appreciates how deeply entrenched present-day political polarization is, either. When it comes to international relations, he doesn’t appreciate bottom-up insurgencies and ground-level actions. His analysis is totally fixated on statecraft. I’m sure he is pro-Israel and regards Israel as merely defending itself against Hamas terrorists. I doubt he appreciates the degree to which Israel is losing legitimacy even in the USA.

Ironically, his work would be strengthened considerably if he paid more attention to insurgencies in different parts of the world (like the Palestinians). He also needs to examine the work of guys like Michael Lind and Joel Kotkin on domestic issues, particularly economics. And he needs to pay more attention to Jonathan Haidt’s analysis of the culture war/political polarization. I do appreciate Zeihan in part because he is an establishmentarian, but a realist, and he makes for an interesting contrast to all the radical and semi-radical commentators I follow.

 

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  1. I have only just discovered the man, and his pontifications are a big shock ! I recognized right away that his first problem is his obvious delight in his own brain power, and a lack of humility in the possibility of his being quite wrong ! Nevertheless, having now also discovered this site, I can begin to sort out the ins-and-outs of the discussion. I sincerely hope that his opinions of putin’s activities are right, but if he is wrong those who believe his spoutings may regret it ! To be taken ‘with a pinch of salt’ is my current position.

  2. I just discovered Peter also. I would enjoy hearing a debate with Peter and some one like the people from the web site The Duran or Viva and Barnes

  3. Pardon this longwinded reply. It represents a condensed version of my thinking since I woke up 21 years ago to videos of the falling Twin Towers. Unless we strike at the root the world’s citizens are nothing but serfs in a neoloiberalism!

    The current model of banking and currency is based on the Bank of England model, founded in 1694. Benjamin Franklin stated that the main reason for the American Revolutionary War was the insistence by George III that the American colonies accept Bank of England banknotes, which were issued as promissory notes, rather than use the increasingly successful American fiat script, issued by the colonies in the CORRECT quantity and not bearing debt! We must be prepared for a new monetary system, an honest one, when our present debt-based banking cartel collapses. Kindly read and critique this proposed Constitutional Amendment. But first, a little background…

    From “The Truth in Money Book” by Theodore R. Thorsen and Richard F Warner:
    QUOTE Someone had to borrow at usury to bring that money [checkbook balances, bills and coins] into existence. The money goes out of existence as the usury and the debt principal are paid back to the bank. These amounts are huge: several billion dollars go out of existence each day. [Actually this money goes into the reserve accounts of the Federal Reserve Banks, out of the hands of the public! This book was first printed in November 1980. The amounts which are withdrawn presently are much larger.] If the money is not replaced with new loans, a shortage occurs. Soon individuals and businesses experience serious cash flow problems. These result in more and more loan applications to banks—the only place where money is being created to replenish the supply” UNQUOTE

    Here is one possible solution—-To Hell with Fractional-Reserve Debt-Based Banking Constitutional Amendment

    (1) Rescind the Federal Reserve Act of 1913 and rename existing Federal Reserve notes and check book balances, in all U.S. banking and credit-creating institutions as well as foreign holdings of dollars, on a 1-to-1 basis, as U.S. Treasury Dollars and U.S.Treasury-Denominated bank balances. All currently existing financial contracts of the Federal Reserve Banking System, including United States Treasury Bills, Notes, Bonds, and Inflation-Protected Securities, remain in effect.

    (2) Henceforward, ex nihilo credit creation by banking and financial institutions in the United States is prohibited. Loans are required to originate from previous savings of U.S. Treasury Dollars and U.S. Treasury-Denominated bank balances, which for each loan are held in and paid from specific sequestered loan accounts by the various financial institutions, with interest charges and term limits for each loan to be determined solely by the contracting parties. Non-cash reserves held in the regional Federal Reserve Banks in accounts of the member institutions of the Federal Reserve System no longer form the basis for credit creation and are extinguished via accounting erasure. Any further payments of principal and interest on currently-existing promissory notes owned by any bank are required to be distributed to holders of savings accounts and checking accounts in that bank in a manner to be determined by each bank, such procedures to be transparent to savings or checking account holders at that bank in terms of amount and frequency of payment. Regional Federal Reserve Banks continue to provide check-clearing operations for the member banks.

    (3) Monetary transactions of the regional Federal Reserve banks or of its member banks with international banks, including the Bank of International Settlements and the International Monetary Fund, can not include ex nihilo credit creation.

    (4) The U.S. Treasury supplies Treasury Dollars as needed to any member bank of the Federal Reserve system to satisfy demands for cash by deposit and savings account holders in excess of cash reserves held by banks at the time of enactment of this amendment.

    (5) Fund the U.S. government and its agencies and projects directly via Treasury Dollars authorized by the Congress in its yearly federal budget. The borrowing of money from the Federal Reserve system of banks or from other institutions or individuals to pay for federal government expenditures is prohibited. All outstanding Treasury Securities are henceforward redeemed on demand via payment with U.S. Treasury Dollars.

    (6) Abolish the Federal Income Tax on individuals, corporations, and business enterprises while maintaining a social security tax on individual incomes. Social security retirement revenues are strictly sequestered in Federal Government Retirement Accounts held by the U.S. Treasury and managed by the Social Security Administration. The Sixteenth Amendment to the U.S. Constitution is hereby rescinded and the Internal Revenue Service disbanded.

    (7) Institute a federal sales tax with a varying yearly tax rate adjusted by the U.S. Congress in session, the sole aim of such adjustments being to maintain a stable or decreasing Consumer Price Index based on data collected by the Federal Government. Any such federal sales taxes taken in by the Federal Government are extinguished from the currency supply to keep the Consumer Price Index stable or decreasing and are not utilized for further funding.

    (8) Article 1, Section 8, Clause 1 of the U.S. Constitution is amended to read as follows: The Congress shall have Power to collect customs duties on imports and exports, uniformly applied throughout the United States, and to provide for the Defence and general Welfare of the United States.

    (9) Article 1, Section 8, Clause 2 of the U. S. Constitution is rescinded.

    (10) The adoption of this amendment does not prohibit the use by the citizens of the United States of any alternative currencies they should choose to use in their private or commercial transactions, provided both parties to the transaction agree to the medium of exchange.
    _______________________________________
    If you have the courage to undertake an examination of the REAL history of the modern world, and not the propagandized version we have been subjected to, watch the 10-part series “Europa—The Final Battle”. You won’t find it on youtube—-naturally, it is censored there—but it is still available on Bitchute:

    https://www.bitchute.com/video/H3j90XMIfidR/

    Ten Point Ethics-Inducing Reforms of the Federal Government and National Policy!

    (I) Revamp the private debt-based monetary system (see above).

    (II) Bring ALL US troops home behind the borders of the United States. Close ALL US military bases overseas.

    (III) No entangling foreign military alliances.

    (IV) Develop advanced laser-based defensive weapons systems providing the United States with an impenetrable protective shield against all manner of missile attacks. Share the technology for such systems worldwide.

    (V) Abandon nuclear weapons programs and biological weapons programs and curtail all trade with any nation which will not similarly comply.

    (VI) Secure our national borders. Task the U.S. Navy with keeping open the world’s sea trade lanes.

    (VII) Mount a sustained national research effort to develop fusion as an energy source. Share the technology worldwide once it is developed.

    (VIII) Legalize all drugs and let the chips fall where they may. No more profits from making any drug illegal. If necessary, step over dead bodies in the street!

    (IX) Establish strict term limits on Federal Representatives and Senators. Disallow campaign contributions from businesses for any state or federal office. Only personal contributions are allowed.

    (X) Disband all federal government alphabet agencies not specifically authorized by the U.S. Constitution.

    • Your analysis & solution would allow 99% of US citizens to thrive again! Sadly, greed and utopian ideals have grown such deep roots in the global elites who are the puppet masters of far to many private technocrats that fund our politicians on BOTH sides!! Regrettably, we’ve home grown 2 generations of a weak society!! Your proposed system of going “back to basics” on the original principles the US was founded on would REQUIRE a hard fork in the US lifestyles (gravely needed in my option) shifting from a life of consumption to one of production. Which is clearly doable but will certainly be a rocky transition but we’ll worth the price of our freedoms and the freedoms of the generations to come!
      No matter what happens within the political & policy arena, it’s going to get worse! Thankfully, my strength, hope & joy is found in Jesus🙌

      • Ok, i understand use of the sales tax. But we must also implement a wealth tax, not a tax on labor.

    • A, I enjoy speculative alternative history fiction just as much as you appear to.

      In the real world however, good luck forming the several dozen political coalitions necessary to enact each of your several dozen dreams. Take note that those coalitions will by the nature of their goals and participants be mutually antagonistic and if you can get them off the ground–a very slim long shot possibility–lead to political mega-gridlock and the bursting of your happy bubble.

      Before launching any more grandiose dreams into the blogosphere, A, I strongly urge you to condense your most favorite idea into a 20-second elevator pitch, walk your neighborhood’s precincts, go door to door, and try out you idea on your neighbors. Rinse and repeat for your next four or five top favorite ideas. Good luck finding even three people who agree with your entire agenda.

      I recommend that you master humility, A. May God bless you.

  4. I too have just discovered Zeihan and was blown away with his knowledge of geopolitics. After reading all of his books, I confirm my initial impression. He is a brilliant and refreshing resource. His foundation is data and a lot of it, likely steeped in the Stratfor tradition. He follows the demographics of countries to reach his conclusions/projections which are solid from a reasoning standpoint. A reduction of the Chinese population by half over the next decade is dramatic but just do the math. Its one child policy has come home to roost. He extrapolates from this to economics and whether precise or not, it’s the order of magnitude he brings to our attention. Extend that thinking to third world countries and he points out the likely result. Comforting to know that the US, the UK and Japan will be the big winners. My advice: never nit pick a big thinker!

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