Polycrisis, Polls and the Election Cycle

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Everything seems to be going wrong, everywhere all at once—COVID-19, Ukraine, bank failures, inflation, extreme weather events.

Crisis afflicts the geopolitical system, global financial system, global climate system and global health system. The interconnectedness of different crises across overlapping systems has been termed a ‘polycrisis’. In these circumstances, governments confront multiple unfolding emergencies. Elaborations of the concept appear in the blogs of economic historian Adam Tooze and in research from the Cascade Institute.

Never-ending crises and emergencies disrupt the election cycle in different countries. Traditionally, popular governments, recently elected, serve two, maybe three terms before departing office. Before that point, mainstream political journalists and the commentariat declare that the incumbents are infighting/out of touch/losing credibility/tired/making mistakes/out of ideas. Public disquiet/anxiety/resentment with the government and ‘disappointing’ opinion poll results feed into each other. Meanwhile, the major opposition party, their leader (and coalition bloc under MMP) are deemed, implicitly as fit-to-govern – judgments which opinion poll trends seem to confirm.

The pattern can be broken. Labour’s 1972 election landslide result was dramatically reversed in 1975. Early in election year 1981, National looked spent. Three years earlier, Labour had gained more of the popular vote, victory next time seemed inevitable. By July 1984, though Muldoon’s time was truly up, the election result was simply a confirmation. Helen Clark’s 1999 coalition government squeezed a third term in 2005 before time was inevitably called in 2008. 

After 2017, Jacinda Ardern’s Labour-led coalition government gradually drew support and won the 2020 COVID election convincingly before the cyclic downturn began. Labour’s poll numbers were dire and the Prime Minister was attracting resentment, deservedly or undeservedly. It looked as though National was a government-in-waiting and that Christopher Luxon would be the future Prime Minister.

Chris Hipkin’s accession after Jacinda Ardern’s resignation should not have up-ended this narrative, yet the latest poll results suggest otherwise. On those numbers, Labour and the Greens could form the next government. Conventional assessments contrast Hipkins engaging no-nonsense demeanour and operational skills with Luxon’s lack of dexterity and direction. 

All true, actually, but something deeper is happening. We are in different times. Previously, one would expect enough voter disenchantment to change the government. It’s time for a change, get this lot out. News media coverage and poll results would amplify these sentiments. But with massive floods, a frightening storm, infrastructural collapses and socio-economic decimation, on top of a cost of living crisis, a here-and-now time frame prevails. Emergencies need to be urgently addressed; response time trumps the cyclicity of election time. The need for resilient recovery plans is a bipartisan rather than partly political concern. Trust in government action is a matter of practical performance rather than ideology. 

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This is not a passing phenomenon; managing emergent crises and emergencies is the new normal, for voters and political leaders. Amidst the global polycrisis, our country is vulnerable. Extreme weather events, sea-level rise, droughts, floods, pandemics and financial crisis contagion will increasingly shape the time-exigencies of national politics. This pattern of reaction, however, is not enough. Planning for resilience requires a national-strategic vision built around local and regional development, food security, a revamped Ministry of Works and a financial framework less beholden to Australian banks.

Our Prime Minister grasps the short-term imperatives as Christopher Luxon flounders. But, ruthless short-term pragmatism is only a palliative; joined-up thinking is required. Playing off the cost-of-living crisis against the expense of global warming countermeasures is myopic. Already we have seen that climate crisis effects worsen our cost-of-living crisis. This causal linkage will tighten, regardless of who wins the 2023 general election. A low-carbon future is not a nice-to-have.



23 COMMENTS

  1. Do some joined-up thinking ion other countries with as high a proportion of non-citizen voters as “ours”, next. oh, wait… there aren’t any!

    • And your point being? Apart from attempting to denigrate the “new kiwis” that the Key corporate raiding party shoe horned into an already creaky Auckland city infrastructure that is..

  2. Who will help organise the call to take the hard measures? It is a hell of a to do list…because Banks (Finance Capital), corporates, IT, Industrial Dairy, Horticulture, and the NZ petit bourgeoisie are not going to save us…they focus on bottom lines and “share holder value” only, i.e. the capitalist bludgers of society.

    The key political task for 2023 is a.) to keep Natzo/ACT/NZ1 away from office, and b.) pressure the resulting Lab/Green/TPM Govt. with people power to implement the necessary programmes–which have been listed here on The Daily Blog in various forms many times but can be summarised as…
    –bigger Govt. including a works & infrastructure ministry
    –hit the corporates and wealthy hard via tax system,
    –Close MSD, cancel all debt, Basic Income via IRD and a special needs ministry
    –Community based food security and local trading
    –Public Transport expanded and fare free
    –Free Dental & Medical care
    –Resilient telecommunications
    –Power Generation & Supply returned to full public ownership and control

    Insurance companies already renew policies annually–so after Gabrielle, premiums are heading skywards and it will not be too long before insurance will not be offered to some properties in some areas. We have to stop building in some locations and compensation paid out promptly to areas like Auckland West Coast and many others.

    Lastly, some Iwi groups have delivered an example of how to capacitity build during COVID–which many other groups could learn from.

  3. “Everything seems to be going wrong, everywhere all at once—COVID-19, Ukraine, bank failures, inflation, extreme weather events.”
    When the belly’s full all else is art.
    If you’re not sold up and now living on higher ground prepping a veggie garden in the company of your own chickens with a cow for the latte’s, a whisky still and some dope plants you’re not reading the fine print.

  4. Isn’t the major problem for National, their leader? He seems hopelessly out of his depth, doing u-turns, having to backtrack and explain what he really meant to say, and has no popular feel whatsoever. Every appearance on television seems merely performative; he seems to be like an actor playing the part of a political leader, but he’s no good at the role. If National had an at least average leader, they would be ahead.

  5. Polycrisis. Reminds me a bit of Noriel Roubini’s ‘Megathreats’.

    I agree however: the next elected government will have fewer places to hide. ‘A national-strategic vision’; ‘joined-up thinking’. Yes. If only. Given the current ideological straight-jacket, here and many places elsewhere – and add to this a number of existential threats – what will be the catalyst for positive change and transformative action? Who in the managerial class will step up? Or will change inevitably need to come from increasing civil unrest and social revolution? Just asking.

  6. Ok. Apols. My first comment was as I was in the fly out the door with my lips stretched towards the last dregs of the coffee while my arse was straining for the car seat.
    I’ve just read your post and yep. It’s brilliant.
    However:
    Don’t worry man. She’ll be right. The thing about we and our AO/NZ is that we’ve yet to comprehend, in much the same way as a slug can imagine legs, ( Although given the chemicals and radioactivity we’re now awash with they’re probably on the way. Slug Nike’s? ) is, that we’re ok.
    We’re OK. A female human person who used to be a close friend of mine used to say ” It’s all fun and games until someone breaks a hymen.”
    Climate:
    Sure, the planet has dire issues but there was a time when dinosaurs roamed Antarctica. https://www.bbcearth.com/news/when-dinosaurs-roamed-antarctica
    So nothing new re warm places what are now cold.
    Human population:
    We’re NOT everywhere that we can be. We’re only jammed into cities to be harvested because we’ve been gaslighted then entrapped by debt, that’s all. It’s not like we can’t just say fuck this for a joke and bugger off. We CAN do that. Or course, those in who’s best and usually financial interests it is that we don’t might kick up a fuss but fuck them. Oh wait? Perhaps not.
    Military:
    I’ve moved thousands of sheep with three dogs. ( No. Not mustered. Moved. Different thing. ) from one paddock to another. And just like us, my dogs were specifically suited to their various rolls.
    Cruso was at the back barking up a storm, Meg ran along the sides of the mob to keep them moving ( The sheep at the front stop to stare at the strange new lands ahead while the sheep at the back scrunch up in the middle and the whole thing comes to a standstill whereby a lot of sheep shit and urine flows amid the confusion. Meanwhile The Greezel silently fine tunes the mob leaders according to directions via bellowed swear words and grave threats of terrible violence from the biped praying for a lotto win way the fuck out the back.
    Reality:
    The sheep could have easily just spread out and fucked off. There was nothing three fat old dogs and one fat old human could do about that expect watch while rolling a spliff then giving up and going home to play The Last of Us on his PS3. My heading dog loves the stereo sound. You seen the series on Neon, I think it is? Is brilliant.
    It was the last episode last Monday so now’s your chance to have binge-watch Monday bearsies with your mates. So what if it’s Monday? Take the week off and just work on the weekend. In fact, fuck working at all and just take [time] and see what happens. I imagine the kiwi-as hyper riche multi billionaires and the four now australian owned banksters taking 20% more off we Kiwis than their own Australian customers… @ $180.00 a second! A fucking second man!
    RNZ.
    “Banks make new record profits amid strong inflation, rising interest rates”
    https://www.rnz.co.nz/news/business/485914/banks-make-new-record-profits-amid-strong-inflation-rising-interest-rates?utm_source=pocket_saves
    Again. RNZ ( As it should… )
    “Banks make new record profits amid strong inflation, rising interest rates”
    https://www.rnz.co.nz/news/business/485914/banks-make-new-record-profits-amid-strong-inflation-rising-interest-rates?utm_source=pocket_saves
    Epilogue:
    The above ISN’T so much a mystical polycrisis as much as it’s a scam. Crooks are scamming you, you poor little sheep. Aotearoa/ New Zealand isn’t so much a Half-Gallon Quarter-Acre Pavlova Paradise as a fat arsed, bowlegged, soft fingered scammers Paradise.
    Wikipedia:
    ‘The Half-Gallon Quarter-Acre Pavlova Paradise’
    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Half-Gallon_Quarter-Acre_Pavlova_Paradise
    AO/NZ’ers must come to understand that our beautiful and plentiful country is ours. Not theirs, so they can take their greedy, dirty, soft, pink little fucking hands off it.
    Asset strip then deport the banks. Slap the multi billionaires with a handy 99% windfall tax based on their gross wealth then go up them with regard to where they got their money from in the first place then let loose a royal commission of inquiry on the little mob. Then put in a request for at least four Royal Navy aircraft carriers to steam here immediately. I’m thinking Bluff, Port Chalmers, Wellington and Auckland.

    • @Countryboy,
      No one though, as we very well understand, is going to do a blind thing about any of it.
      All we can do now is sit in the back stalls and watch it all unravel.
      Below is a link to a good piece of analysis about why journalists like the Guardian’s George Monbiot are criticizing Russell Brand as well as the late Fisk, Greenwald and Hersh.

      https://www.jonathan-cook.net/blog/2023-03-10/i-once-admired-

      • Monbiot is quite correct. For a start Assange is no journalist. He has no qualifications as one. He is basically a hacker. He has linked up with the far right so he can’t be claimed by the left.
        As for Fisk, I met him once and he was a bad tempered old sod!

  7. A wonderful current philosopher says that capitalism is schizophrenic, that it will change and adapt to anything that it encounters, because it is built on a criminal narco economy, legal and illicit. It will always push us to the edge, then give us the medicine to pull us back from the abyss, or not. And she proposes that that too is our choice, to be alive or not. I assume we that write are alive, if not chat gpts, and that we have survived capitalism so far. However the assault on nature is distinct, because nature has allowed humans to exist for a while, but is clearly low on patience with the financial economy. Free public transport and massive investment in city and regional rail networks is the only path away from the rapture. Too many are prepared for the end of the world but we must find the fight within us to battle alongside the planet and in doing so restore some social justice.

  8. The Chinese system of governance with its socialist aspects seem to be a more successful form of governance than Judeo christian western societies. They don’t have election on a national level like we have in our western society so it probably a cheaper poly system

  9. What different paths have different countries taken when on emergency footing? One could be the ‘Your country needs you’ approach and offering beneficiaries no-risk payments for stepping up for so many hours at the large and small problem areas, where suitable and able.

    Most are short of money, income, everyday things – we have a big overseas earnings imbalance, growing inflation, growing interest rates, debt burdens on beneficiaries that illustrate that the amount the country through its fineanciers condescend to pay.

    What about creating local money which workers can use to trade locally. That would keep areas/suburbs floating above the various tides. And would hardly affect inflation because it is out of the official money system.

    We have the People Power should be the publicity, ‘Pull together and share your hot chips before they go soggy.’ (A popular style of analogy appealing to simple people like me who aren’t driven by the need to have lots of glittering prizes.)

    Those who have the ‘will’ must realise that a lot of the commenters are of the popcorn variety. Let the game roll, while they watch with cynicism and interest wishing to be uninvolved, or prepared to be annihilated themselves in a negating mood that will ensure they have no goodwill. All is lost and they are too sophisticated to sweat about it, but throw knowing or sarcastic remarks into the melee.

    Fireside reading for the coming autumn/winter months!:
    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/On_the_Freedom_of_the_Will

    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_World_as_Will_and_Representation
    —the world of objects in space and time and related in causal ways—exists solely as “representation” (Vorstellung) dependent on a cognizing subject, not as a world that can be considered to exist in itself (i.e., independently of how it appears to the subject’s mind). One’s knowledge of objects is thus knowledge of mere phenomena rather than things-in-themselves. Schopenhauer identifies the thing-in-itself—the inner essence of everything—as will: a blind, unconscious, aimless striving devoid of knowledge, outside of space and time, and free of all multiplicity.

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