|White House officials will likewise be holding a call with the governors to guide them on where they can find the medical supplies. / Photo by Orhan Cam via Shutterstock|
The pandemic has taken a political turn as tensions rise between governments implementing public safety measures and the public wanting to restart the economy, worrying about their source of income. Some protesters in the US have even taken to the streets to point out infringements to their economic freedom, according to international news organization The Christian Science Monitor.
Understanding economic freedom
Economic freedom is the freedom of choice of every individual to control his or her labor and property. At the heart of this fundamental right is individual autonomy. In an economically free society, the government allows labor, goods, and capital to move freely and refrain from the constraint of liberty and coercion beyond the extent needed to maintain and protect liberty itself.
As few countries have started to ease their restrictions, many are still unified that it is still too early to open the economy. This creates mounting pressure on the part of the government, such as in the United States. The Trump administration shares that some parts of the country are ready for the gradual reopening of the economy but other state leaders believe that the response to Covid-19 is still hindered by the inadequate response.
President Donald Trump also used the Defense Production Act to compel the production of ventilators and other medical equipment, such as testing swabs, to help the country fight the coronavirus pandemic. White House officials will likewise be holding a call with the governors to guide them on where they can find the medical supplies. The nation’s governors have been asking President Trump to increase swab production in the country but Trump vowed there were enough testing swabs in the country. “Swabs are easy,” he said during a news briefing.
Governor of Washington Jay Inslee has accused the President of encouraging “illegal activity” and insubordination by provoking the protesters who defied the shelter-in-place law. Inslee added that the move was “dangerous” as it can inspire the public to ignore things that will help save their lives.
Supporters of President Trump in various states have ignored the stay-at-home and social distancing orders and gathered to demand that their respective governors lift the restrictions on public activity. The protest that occurred in Lansing, Michigan drew thousands of people. After people demonstrated against social distancing, the President tweeted in capital letters “LIBERATE MICHIGAN!” He also wrote that Minnesota and Virginia should be liberated.
When asked why the President appears to be encouraging the efforts meant to undermine the measures to contain the virus, Vice President Mike Pence also avoided the questions. Inslee, however, likened the President’s comments to schizophrenia as it is asking the people to ignore Dr. Deborah Birx and Dr. Anthony Fauci, who have become the scientific faces of America’s coronavirus response.
Protesters gathering in close quarters
Dr. Birx, the White House coronavirus task force coordinator, said that the Michigan protesters gathering without face masks is “devastatingly worrisome.”
Protesters argued that the lockdown has crippled the economy statewide as most Covid-19 deaths are centered on the southeastern area of Detroit metro. There are also other states, such as Ohio, South Carolina, Oklahoma, and Georgia, that have already moved to slowly restart parts of their economies after weeks of lockdown. Protesters had their temperatures taken by the police, they sang the national anthem, and chanted the words “Let us work.” Republican US congressional candidate Mike Detmer also said to open the state. “Let’s get business back open again,” he added.
|Protesters had their temperatures taken by the police, they sang the national anthem, and chanted the words “Let us work.” / Photo by Tero Vesalainen via Shutterstock|
Why economic freedom matters
International economic issues researcher Anthony Kim opined that advancing and preserving economic freedom is of “critical importance” today. This is because it creates wealth. Countries with higher levels of economic freedom are known to have higher per capita incomes than other nations.
Economic freedom also promotes innovation, which ensures a country’s greater capacity to cope with challenges. Another reason why economic freedom matters is that the link between overall human well-being and economic freedom is undeniable. People living in economically free societies take better care of their environment, have better health, and live longer. More critically, they also tend to have greater capability to counter infectious diseases, such as the pandemic.
Economic freedom is often measured based on qualitative and quantitative factors that are grouped into four broad categories, including the rule of law, government size, regulatory efficiency, and open markets.
In the 2020 Index of Economic Freedom published by The Heritage Foundation, it found that Singapore is the world’s freest economy with an economic freedom score of 89.4. Its overall score has remained the same since 2019 with only a small improvement in the business freedom score but was offset by a small decline in the government integrity score. Singapore’s score is well above the world and regional averages.
Other countries with the freest economies are Hong Kong (89.1 overall economic freedom score), New Zealand (84.1), Australia (82.6), Switzerland (82.0), and Ireland (80.9). Countries known to have mostly free economies include the United Kingdom (79.3), Denmark (78.3), Canada (78.2), and Estonia (77.7). Countries with moderately free economies include Romania (69.7), Kazakhstan (69.6), Botswana (69.6), North Macedonia (69.5), and Malta (69.5).
Bitcoin.com chairman Roger Ver has also called to end the lockdown because it violates personal and economic freedom. He joined other high-profile tech personalities, including Tesla’s Elon Musk, in calling for the immediate end of the stay-at-home order. He believes that it is not just related to economic freedom but personal freedom.
"If you're locked down, you can't go to work, you can't live your life, you can't go to the store, you can't get things done that you need to get done," Ver said. He spoke to media company Cointelegraph that it’s “frustrating” how many people are silent about it but the lockdown is stripping them of their freedom. He said that although Covid-19 deaths are obvious, other people died because they were not able to earn as much money and were not able to go to the doctor. He cited those who don’t have money to buy high blood pressure medication and have ended up having a stroke. A study from the University College London offers evidence for Ver’s argument.
It would be a mistake for a country to abandon its commitment to economic freedom in times of crisis, but the struggle lies in striking a balance between that and public safety.