According to ARD Deutschland-Trend, the mood in the population is clear: The vast majority would like to have uniform regulations against Corona nationwide. I can understand the reasons for this very well. But the standardization in the sum of all the arguments may not be so good. The only thing is that the pro-arguments for diversity are pretty much lost in the current debate. Let’s change that.
So what’s the status?
It was only on Wednesday that the Prime Ministers met with the Chancellor on this very issue. The result is a little something for everyone: a large portion of uniformity, a small portion of dissent – with the prospect of arriving at a uniform solution here too soon. The trend towards uniformity is thus reflected in politics.
This is not surprising because it reflects a typical pattern in our political system. If you look at the energy industry, for example: There, too, there is a predominance of efforts to standardize everything, i.e. to determine in the present what the technology of the future is …
But back to Corona: the proponents of uniformity usually make two arguments. The first is actually not one. Because it reads – and that’s exactly how you often hear it in the original tone: “You have to be moderate with the Corona measures.” One could mockingly say: Here comes Mr. Obvious. This statement is so trivial that he or she could save it. Because who would contradict here? Opinions do not differ until the question of what exactly is the right amount.
The second argument is then no longer trivial. They say: Uniformity is simpler and more effective.
The logical chain is structured like this: only if regulations are simple are they also comprehensible and only then do people have confidence in the measures and adhere to them better. I can follow this argument to a certain extent, even if, in my impression, there is a rather brazen image of man behind it: The intellect and the reflective ability of the rule recipients is just well below the intellect of the rule authors and therefore the rules must be so simple that they really everyone understands so that the majority can and will adhere to it. But I’ll save my mockery here, maybe that’s even the case.
There are certainly tons of funny stories circulating in the social networks at the moment: that the Berliner can stay with his girlfriend in Brandenburg, but the two are only allowed to go to the hotel there with a test. Or that Frankfurters are allowed to go to Mainz, but not to Frankfurt. Or was it the other way around?
Yes, that is – and I agree with that – totally confusing. Anyone who wants to penetrate this completely has no chance. But if you ask me: Nobody has to.
One look, one phone call
Because I dare to say that the diversity that we currently have and that is causing so much turmoil rarely poses a challenge to the individual: what the regulations mean in a specific case is usually pretty clear. And find out quickly.
I myself am a frequent traveler, even at this time. For example, recently I traveled to Munich. What did I have to do for it? Take a look at the website of the Bavarian Ministry of Health and call the hotel, which is important to me. By the way, it was only important for me that I could prove a corona test that was no more than 48 hours old because I came from Barcelona. And I could.
The fact that there is a problem between Mainz and Frankfurt at the same time is an anecdote for me. It is not relevant to me. So I ask myself: How do they come to the fact that uniformity is so much easier for the individual?
Uniformity only makes it much easier for those trying to keep track of everything. These are the media, who cover everything, and the politicians, who have to give an opinion on everything. For those for whom the measures are made, however, diversity is rarely a problem.
So now let’s see what the downside of uniformity is …
Solution knowledge: zero
To be clear once again: We all want – apart from a few – that as many people as possible stay healthy and that the intensive care units are not overloaded. We also want our economy not to die.
But: Nobody has the knowledge of what we currently have to do for it. We have a lot of smart people with a lot of abstract, general knowledge – virologists, epidemiologists, health professionals. However, how to solve the specific problem that we have now – in October 2020, given the current weather situation, the current epidemiological situation, the current mood in the population – nobody has this specific solution knowledge. Regrettably.
But nobody is to blame for that. We are facing a completely new situation that definitely fulfills all the criteria of complexity: It is inscrutable, uncontrollable in the strictest sense (you cannot safely lead it to a desired goal) and also largely unpredictable.
In short, there is no knowledge of what is right. To bet everything on one card in such a situation is high risk. I would even let myself be carried away to the point: it is irresponsible.
The wrong card
The probability that we – as long as we know so little – will get the right card is very low. The experiences from other domains, e.g. industry show: When mastering complex challenges, you will get better results faster with diversity. And it is very dangerous to commit to one alternative solution too early instead of running many different possible solutions in parallel.
You can certainly never try out all the options: There is always a trade-off to be made, because every attempt costs time and money. It’s the same with Corona. But within what is feasible, diversity pays off. And if in doubt, you should decide a day later rather than a day earlier. Because every day you know a little more, regardless of whether you are developing a completely new product based on various technologies or you are fighting a pandemic.
Already clear, however, that we also have to swallow some toads …
So we have to accept that the situation becomes more incomprehensible for some and that we have to invest more in explanations of the measures. We also have to accept that diversity is more difficult to bear than uniformity, because for a long time we do not know what is really right. And we also run the risk that diversity may not make things better either.
But the bottom line is the pros and cons, my plea falls on the strategy of diversity instead of uniformity.
Fortunately, this is anchored in the federalist idea of Germany, so that it can even be expanded and expanded. However, this would necessarily include a much more consistent pursuit: Who is doing what and where is what works?
Instead of complaining that Berliners are doing things differently than Munich, we should take a very close look: How is this developing here and there? Where does something seem to work and where doesn’t it?
I am not saying that it is easy – on the contrary. But it would lead to insights much faster than betting on a single card.
Especially when it matters, especially when it comes to human life, especially when the economic survival of companies is at stake, we need more than one alternative.
Or what do you mean?
Lars Vollmer is an entrepreneur, lecturer and bestselling author. In his book “Der Führerfluch – How we overcome our fatal tendency to be authoritarian” he opposes the crises in our country self-organization and the idea of a responsible society.