Owning any asset in poorly positioned nations is an inherently risky bet going forward.
The dictum “demographics is destiny” proposes that all the complexities of finance, society and politics are ultimately guided by demographics: the relative size of each generation, birth rates, death rates, etc.
For example, an oversized generation of retirees and an undersized generation of workers to support them has far-reaching consequences that can’t be legislated away.
The influence of demographics isn’t limited to pension costs. Some analysts have made the case that oversized generations of young men align all too well with the launching of wars.
The point is that birth/death rates—low and high–have consequences that impact national destinies for decades.
Another school holds that geography is destiny: 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.
Zeihan extends geography into the political realm, noting that nations with difficult-to-defend borders require a strong central government to organize taxation and defense, while nations with few contiguous threats (for example, the U.S.) can be governed in a more decentralized fashion.
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