New Zealand has long been considered an economically free country. The government’s stringent, almost straightjacket-like COVID-19 restrictions, however, run counter to New Zealand’s multidecade 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, from No. 2 down to No. 4 in the world.

The government, under Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern, may be governing over a relative swan song in economic freedom now, as it seems to be steering the country toward more dark and troubled waters of significantly less economic freedom.

The mask, vaccine, and isolation mandates in New Zealand have been some of the strictest and most restrictive in the world.

For long periods of time, New Zealanders have not been allowed to go within the proximity of those who do not live in the same household, not even to be with their blood relatives.

It has been devastating to the tourism businesses, along with a heartbreaking number of other types of businesses.

Some have found it virtually impossible to find a job. One woman recently told The Wall Street Journal that after traveling all around the country, she has given up on her job search and has now joined a protest, which for weeks has been camped around the nation’s capital.

In general, the protesters hope things will improve if the government will just back down.

“I just want the mandates to be dropped so that no matter whether or not you’re wearing a mask or vaccinated you can get a job. I just want to be able to work again. It’s so hard,” the woman told the newspaper.

Before the government’s draconian response to the pandemic, she had never had any challenge staying employed.

The regulations have been devastating for small business owners who do not agree that they should pay the high price of losing their businesses to help the government prevent the spread of COVID-19.

Since as long ago as April 2020, small business owners have been complaining about these restrictions, saying they feel like “sacrificial lambs.”

As the months of economic freedom-crushing regulations on their businesses have worn on, once thriving businesses have permanently shuttered and dependence on the government has calcified.

The protesters deserve answers as to why preventing COVID-19 infections among the young and healthy ranks as the most important thing above all other concerns, since COVID-19 does not make the young and healthy particularly ill or permanently sick, especially now that people have the option of vaccinating themselves if they are concerned about the health risks.

Ardern recently stated that she will not talk with the protesters, saying, “The only solution is for the occupation to pack up and leave.”

Ironically, the prime minister also said about the protests, “When it is difficult for people to just do their jobs in and around Wellington, we should all denounce that very, very clearly.”

But isn’t that what the protesters have been doing, about the whole country of New Zealand—and not just about Wellington?

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