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The end of Germany as a modern economy

Oct 11, 2023


Germany, traditionally one of Europe’s wealthiest and most powerful countries, is also a nation embroiled in overlapping crises. An aging and retiring population, a lack of domestic energy supplies, and the collapse of the German industrial base pose existential threats to the nation.

Straight Arrow News contributor Peter Zeihan reviews these crises in detail, concluding that as bad as things may look now, they are only likely to worsen. He warns that most of us will live to see the end of Germany within our lifetimes.

Excerpted from Peter’s Oct. 11 “Zeihan on Geopolitics” newsletter:

I’m sitting along a cliff band around 12,000 ft in the high alpine, and I’m hoping the scenery might soften the blow I’m about to deliver to my German readers…the future of Deutschland is not looking bright. Three unsolvable problems will lead to Germany’s collapse as a modern economy over 20 – 30 years.

The Germans chose two of the worst trade partners around, Russia and China. While cutting ties with these countries is a good strategic move, it has resulted in detrimental losses. Any success the Germans once saw in their trade relations has now collapsed.

German labor is staring down the barrel of a collapse as well. With highly skilled laborers aging out, the industrial base of the German ecosystem will have no one to prop it up. The Japanese were able to mitigate a similar situation, but they started that process decades ago.

To complicate things further, Germany has managed to run their energy portfolio into the ground. The Greens have ditched cheap energy solutions for wind and solar, but even when combined, those fall well short of energy demands. So the Germans are stuck with lignite, and if anything happens to that…yikes.

No matter what angle you look at Germany from, the combination of all these factors is a death sentence. While their decision to resist Russian blackmail early in the Ukraine War was the moral high ground, they may have driven the last nail into their coffin.

Everybody, Peter Zion here coming to you from midway through the Westin mosquito traverse, I’m coming to you from a low Cliff band about about 12,000 feet, just in the shadow of peerless horseshoe, and finback mountains, all of them 30 meters. This is the Empire amphitheater below and over here, you could see out towards the port of VISTA Valley, which has the best Mexican in the state of Colorado. Anyway, I think everyone who follows me from Germany has written in and asked me when Germany was going to end so I figured today would be a good day Germans like alpine environments, you know, maybe this will soften the blow a little bit. Germany has


three unsolvable problems that are going to destroy it as a moderate economy and maybe even nation state over the course of the next 20 to 30 years. The first one, of course, is its trade relationship with the Russians and the Chinese. The Russians are the primary source for a lot of the raw materials that the Germans use, especially when it comes to energy, something like 40% of the total used to come from there. Now the Germans have been very, very, very diligent, successful in cutting oil and natural gas from the Russian space out of their system, but it’s coming at exorbitant cost with energy prices being triple or more what they were before the war. And this is when Russian stuff is still making it to the international environment. If you remove that prices are going to go up significantly more. And as a result, we’re seeing a number of companies that are heavy into the energy space that energy producers, companies that use energy, whether it’s in ceramics or steel, or petrochemicals simply moving out because there’s nothing that they can do to bring cost down.


The other part of the trade issue, of course, is China. The Germans are apparently needing to learn this lesson twice, that you don’t rely on authoritarian genocidal, dictatorial, warlike countries for your trade relationships. And so they’re two big trading partners that matter to were China in terms of selling machinery to suit the Chinese industrial boom could continue in Russia for raw materials. And the Germans have doubled down on the Chinese relationship in many ways in the first two years, or first year and a half of the war in Ukraine. Now there are some sides of that is starting to change that the Germans are finally finally finally finally injecting some morality and some ethics strategic thinking into their trade relationships with the Chinese. Usually, it’s just been moralizing versus the United States and some of the other European countries, they’re actually applied it now to some of the absolute Dick hats that they’ve been trading with for the last 20 years and making money off of this is good, probably should have happened 20 years ago, I understand why it didn’t get a little breezy. I understand why it didn’t. In the end of the Cold War, with the reinvigoration of Germany the Germans thought all things were possible. But they realized from the history how fragile everything was. So they had this thing that they called us politic, which was the Germans leaving the door open for relations with the Soviets, in the hopes of eventually call me relations down and it contributed to the end of the Cold War is very successful. They tried to do that in the post cold war era, both with the Russians and the Chinese. And it hasn’t worked. So kudos to the achievements when and where they’ve been happening. And you know, you got to condemn them a little bit for just being overly naive, and thinking that the United States was the evil power here instead of the ones that are actually murdering people in the 10s of 1000s. Okay, that’s only problem one, unfortunately. And the Russian system, even if it survives, they’re going to be significant models exporter, because they can’t maintain their own infrastructure. And the Chinese system isn’t going to survive because their demographic situation is so atrocious that they’re in their final decade. So everything that has been a success for the Germans and trade for the last 20 years, that’s going to go away, regardless doesn’t matter what happens with policy in Berlin at this point. Second big problem is demographics. In Germany, it is among the fastest aging societies in the world, it has been on a downward spiral for over 100 years now. And by the time we get to 2030, the big pulse of people who are currently providing just huge masses of skilled laborers, because you know, German laborers best in the world, they’re going to be retired. And so the quality of the workmanship is going to go down and the size of the workforce is going to collapse and the capacity of the Germans to raise funds within their own system to fund their own industrial build out, and to consume what they produce will pretty much end.


Some people like to look at Japan as a possible model for the Germans to follow because the Japanese have found a way to diversify the trade relations so that their demographics don’t hit them quite as hard. The problem is that the Japanese have a very different model. Number one, they started this process 35 years ago, so that was a long time to make the transition. Second, the Japanese don’t just outsource the source. They keep the design in house and they build all the manufacturing capacity model.


little bit, but a lot of it in other countries, particularly countries with good demographics, strong purchasing power, and a vested interest in Japanese security, mostly the United States. Germany doesn’t have a partner like that. It certainly doesn’t have the time. And because it didn’t start 35 years ago, all of its industrial plants in Germany or in countries that border Germany, who only have marginally better demographics, so the entire industrial base, within a decade is going to break as well. And then we get to the third problem. And that’s just energy writ large. The German system is predicated on the bottomless supply of inexpensive, reliable, secure supplies of energy primarily from the Russians, that’s gone. They’re now getting liquefied natural gas from the United States from, you know, continental lakes. It’s not that that’s not reliable, but anything that can be put on a ship as opposed to be a pipeline by default, can go somewhere else if market and security conditions dictate.


Their crude is coming from the Middle East, you know, enough set especially since the United States is no one that patrolling the Persian Gulf. That leaves nuclear power which the Germans have largely shut down. And so the only thing they have left is lignite coal which lignite plus coal produces based on who’s doing the numbers and the Germans love to lie about their energy numbers, somewhere between 40 and 55% of their total electricity needs.


Of these the only bit that is sustainable is the lignite because that is actually produced in Germany. And one of the great ironies of having the Green Party in the ruling coalition and in previous real ruling coalition’s is they have systematically dismantled a lot of the relatively low carbon sources of energy that the Germans have halved nucular natural gas in favor of coal at especially lignite. So under the greens because of green policy, we’ve seen an explosion that will last decades in German carbon emissions. And there’s really no way around that. Yes, yes, yes, yes, yes, they have spent something like $2 trillion. Now, building up a power network and putting in solar and wind, but I don’t know if any of you have ever been to Germany, but that thought doesn’t shine in Germany. In terms of reliable output, when people actually use the electricity, Germany only gets about, I think it’s eight to 11% of their electricity from green sources. Now, they will tell you that it’s 40 to 70%, based on the season, but what they’re not telling you is how they collect the data. So if you are in Germany, and a little bit of electrons comes in from wind or solar that has to be fed into the system, regardless of what the price point happens to be. And if you’ve got a lignite facility that you’re leaving on, because it takes more than 24 hours to spin that thing up and down. And when the sun goes down, or the solar goes away, the lignite has to be there to keep the lights on. Well, you don’t count the electricity that it generates during the day, you only count the solar and wind and fear in August, when all the Germans are on vacation, and the sun actually finally is shining. All of those electrons have nowhere to go. So you don’t thumbs into France, Poland or the rest, count those two, if you actually count what power is generated and what is used when it is used, you’re talking only about 10% Green. So if something happened to those other supplies, during shuts down,


or it uses look back. And so it’s easy to


put these three things together. There’s no way this is a sustainable system. We are looking at the end of Germany as an ethnicity this century for sure, because of the demographics, we’re looking at the end of Germany as an industrial power within 10, probably no more than 15 years, simply because of the trade relations the countries have chosen to partner with. And that assumes nothing else goes wrong. Remember, we still have the European debt crisis, which it was never resolved. And we have the energy crisis on top of that. So I’m sorry, guys. I wish I had better news. But this is a really, really, really ugly story. That’s been a very long time coming. And most of us are going to live to see the end of Germany. Oh, one more thing on Germany. Oh, yeah. Other son of the rich. This is the cliff band for horseshoe mountain. And that’s Formel Canyon behind me go without towards South Park. Yes, that’s South Park.




and a lot of my work, I’ve expressed a lot of concern that when the Germans really do feel the pressure from China, from the Americans from the Russians from energy, all of it, demographics that the greater lash out, because some of the things that they do need they can achieve via military means. It would be ugly, a lot of those things are in Russia. And we know how that went the last talk, but it’s not impossible.


I’m not as concerned about that anymore. But one of the things that happened early in the Ukraine war was with Nord Stream on September one, the Russians shut down that pipeline, that’s the one that was the primary source of natural gas for the Germans. And they told the Germans publicly we’re not going to turn the


On unless you change your mind on Ukraine, if you stab Ukraine in the back and make sure NATO can’t function in which case you could have your energy again and maintain your identity, or we’re going to leave this off, and you’re gonna deindustrialized you will no longer be modern. So you can be Western or you can be moderate you Kip both.


And the Germans chose to be Western. They chose the energy crisis rather than give in and after the last 30 years of siding with the Russians on every energy and security issue that mattered. That was a big deal. That was not expected, certainly not by me, but I don’t think the Germans get enough credit for that. But it does suggest that when the rubber hits the road, the Germans may be really serious about choosing morals and ethics, over convenience and wealth. And if that’s the case, unlike the Russians, the Germans may very well pass into this Good night.


Quite quietly,

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