• 2024 is an election year like no other
  • But the outcome of the elections won’t matter
  • Losing loser’s consent will wreak havoc in 2025

In 2024, almost half of the world’s population will vote in elections. And, as with every election, these are the most important ever

But I’m not so sure the outcomes matter terribly much. What intrigues me instead are the chances that loser’s consent will survive the outcome. Will people accept their new governments in 2024? And what if they don’t?

We have already seen plenty of election denialism over the past few decades, especially in the US. But notice how each chaotic episode seems to be escalating. From court challenges by Al Gore to Hillary Clinton’s accusations of a “stolen” election by an “illegitimate” president who colluded with foreign powers to Trump’s chaos in 2020.

With that track record, what might 2024 bring? I suppose past performance is not a reliable indicator of future results. But it is worth worrying about.

It’s not just the US that is struggling with its democratic process.

The UK establishment’s attempts to undermine the Brexit referendum were matched by the losing side’s refusal to accept the outcome. Ironically, it was the EU’s proportional-representation-style electoral system and the Brexit Party that forced the issue. The only time politicians ran on a platform of making themselves redundant is the only time politicians have ever delivered on their election promise.

The EU’s promise to appoint the president of the European Commission from the winning parties of the European Parliament election was left for dead in 2019. The EU appointed Europe’s least competent national-level politician instead – Germany’s defence minister.

These days, faced with the political backlash to its policies, the German government is trying to ban its political opponents’ parties.

In Poland, the government just arrested former government ministers and raided the state news broadcaster.

In places like Spain, Sweden, and now the Netherlands, election-winning political parties struggle to form governments, with coalitions of losing parties often pipping them to the post of prime minister. In a way, the political establishment has united against democracy. Sometimes in truly bizarre coalitions.

Even when populist parties do win elections outright, they tend to be neutered as soon as they arrive in the halls of government. Italy being the best example of this. Matteo Salvini went from declaring the euro a “crime against humanity” to not even offering a referendum on it. Which makes him a what?

In Argentina, the new anarcho-capitalist president is discovering the constraints of the political system. While advocating for extreme and wholesale change and being elected on that platform, his compromises with parliament are increasingly compromised.

Why have government and the democratic process been so chaotic and unstable lately? I suspect it’s because the stakes have grown so dramatically.

Governments these days control every aspect of our lives or threaten to. The value of winning an election, or, should I say, getting into government, is truly vast in that context.

And, as the share of politics’ influence in our lives grows, so too does the pain of losing an election. If the one political party poses a threat to your livelihood, then the outcomes of elections dominate your livelihood’s day-to-day concerns.

As Alexander Fraser Tytler put it:

A democracy cannot exist as a permanent form of government. It can only exist until the voters discover that they can vote themselves largesse from the public treasury. From that moment on, the majority always votes for the candidates promising the most benefits from the public treasury with the result that a democracy always collapses over loose fiscal policy, always followed by a dictatorship.

Have you seen the size of US deficits lately? They’re the biggest except for the Covid period and the country isn’t even in a recession, let alone a war.

The government’s day-to-day impact on every aspect of our lives is why farmers in Germany are revolting. They see the green policies as a threat to their livelihoods. And they are. But that’s inherent in an economy run by the government to the extent that it is. Politics has become the dominant feature of our prosperity… or lack of it.

In the US, “Trump Derangement Syndrome” is a term used to describe those who believe the world will end if Trump is elected. In that context, the election denialism of Hillary Clinton in 2016 is understandable. One cannot accept the election of someone who will sow death and destruction. “Not my president” was the response of the masses. Better to accuse them of election-rigging and collusion with foreign powers than accept the result.

Should Trump lose again in 2024, we’ll see the same thing again from him, no doubt. Sure, the talking points will be different. But I suspect why the election is invalid will matter as much as who wins – not very much.

The real question of 2024’s elections will be whether the losers accept losing. Because they’re going to get rinsed as a result. Their subsidies will go, their handouts will be cut, their projects dumped and their political favours will go unfulfilled. It’s going to be chaos.

In the UK, we face a long list of similar threats. But the details are in this month’s issue of The Fleet Street Letter, and for subscribers’ eyes only.

How will the EU deal with an increasingly eurosceptic presence inside its parliament? How long can a European Commission that is not democratically accountable diverge from its parliament which is?

Do you think China will accept Taiwan’s election of a pro-independence candidate? Accusations of interference by China were, of course, all over the place…

Russia’s election in March is a good example of outcomes that don’t matter, but acceptance does. How hard will the Russian state have to push to make the election look plausible? Will Russians accept the outcome?

In Pakistan, the country’s most popular politician sits in jail while his party is persecuted. Their election is in February. And you can imagine a lot is at stake given the context…

It’s easy to laugh at such a chaotic political system. But over in the US, former President Trump might be arrested too. And there is nothing stopping him from being elected president while in prison. Wouldn’t that be something?

Our political system finds itself precisely where you might expect if you examine the incentives everyone faces rather than dreaming about how the system is supposed to work. What’s changed is that the government has more power over us than ever before under democracy, and so the stakes are high enough to lose your mind when you lose.

It’s no wonder that the world needs a way out of the politicisation of everything. A place where your wealth could be secure from the political chaos of democracy, no matter who is in power. A rules-based order, if ever there was one.

And here it is.

Until next time,

Nick Hubble
Editor, Fortune & Freedom