Saturday, April 21, 2012


In New Zealand our public holidays are primarily religious or political.  Easter and Christmas are offset by Labour Day, Queen’s Birthday, Anzac Day and Waitangi Day.  And then there are the local holidays that ‘celebrate’ the founding of a province.

All very good if you support what these days stand for.  But if you don’t, too bad.  You’re still required to observe the day.  And there are the costs imposed by governments for those businesses and employers who choose to open on those days – from higher salary and wage costs, to the legal and financial penalties for those who open when government says they shouldn’t.

Having public holidays mandated by law is a bad idea.  It enforces religious and political observations on the public, whether or not we agree with them, or with the significance of the holiday concerned.  It removes the separation of church and state, which is a cornerstone of our constitutional make-up.  Our religious and political beliefs and observations are none of the government’s business, and should not be enforced on others either – no matter how much we believe they are true. 

If governments or the churches want us to observe their favourite holidays, they should make the observation voluntary and do a damn good marketing campaign.  Tell us why we should join them, but allow us the opportunity to say no.  if you let market forces prevail, and get customer buy-in, I am more likely to at least consider your point of view.

As long as certain behaviours – such as public holiday observance – are prescribed and enforced, people will break the law.  The number of people who shop at businesses who open illegally on public holidays – such as Easter or Anzac Day – shows that the significance of these holidays is not as universally accepted as government and the churches would have us believe.  So they have to force observance on us, to get what they want.  Just like Big Brother did.

The solution: make public holiday observance voluntary.  People need to choose what they do with their time, when they work (or not)m and when they open their business
*      Employers wanting to open on public holidays should be free to negotiate freely with their staff, to ensure they are adequately staffed on the day in question
*      When employing new staff, they can discuss public holiday observance at the interview stage, and make it clear what days the business is open or closed. If there is no agreement on the public holidays being made available, the interviewee is free to find an employer whose policies they agree with.  They should not, however, expect state welfare assistance simply because they disagree with the policies of potential employers.

Governments, do-gooders and the churches won’t like what I’m saying.  But I don’t like what they’re doing either.  They’re driving punters away by trying to control behaviour and denying people their legitimate freedoms. 

The current level of social, political and religious control does nothing to promote liberty, equity or human rights.  You can’t force public holidays on those whose opinions differ, while refusing to allow them the public holidays that best reflect their individual opinions.