New Zealand has long been considered an economically free country. However, the government’s strict COVID-19 restrictions, which almost resemble a straitjacket, go against New Zealand’s decades-long history of strong and robust economic freedom.
New Zealand fell two ranks in the Heritage Foundation’s 2022 Index of Economic Freedom released last week, falling from No. 2 to No. 4 in the world.
The government, under Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern, may be ruling on a relative swan song in economic freedom now, as it appears to be leading the country into darker, murky waters of far less economic freedom.
New Zealand’s mask, vaccine and isolation mandates have been among the strictest and most restrictive in the world.
For long periods, New Zealanders have not been allowed to be close to those who do not live in the same household, or even to be with their blood relatives.
It has been devastating for tourism businesses, as well as a heartbreaking number of other types of businesses.
Some found it almost impossible to find a job. A woman recently told the Wall Street Journal that after traveling across the country, she had given up her job search and had now joined a protest that had been camped out for weeks around the nation’s capital.
In general, protesters hope things will improve if the government backs down.
“I just want warrants removed so whether or not you wear a mask or get vaccinated, you can get a job. I just want to be able to work again. It’s so hard,” the woman told the newspaper.
Prior to the government’s draconian response to the pandemic, she had never had difficulty staying employed.
The regulations have been devastating for small business owners who disagree that they must pay the full price of losing their business to help the government stop the spread of COVID-19.
Since April 2020, small business owners have been complaining about these restrictions, saying they feel like “sacrificial lambs”.
As months of regulations crushing economic freedom on their businesses dragged on, once thriving businesses closed for good and reliance on government calcified.
Protesters deserve answers as to why preventing COVID-19 infections among young and healthy people is the most important thing above all other concerns, because COVID-19 does not make not particularly sick or permanently ill young and healthy people, especially now that people have the option of getting vaccinated if they fear the health risks.
Ardern recently said she would not speak with protesters, saying, “The only solution is for the occupation to pack up and leave.”
Ironically, the Prime Minister also said of the protests: ‘When it is difficult for people to do their jobs in and around Wellington, we should all speak out against it very, very clearly.’
But isn’t that what the protesters have been doing, about the whole country of New Zealand – and not just Wellington?
This piece originally appeared in The Daily Signal