Mr. Lindner, we know about the risk for all sick people when intensive care units are overwhelmed and supply collapses. When you look beyond this peril to society in the midst of Covid-19, what scares you most?
CHRISTIAN LINDNER: That is a twofold finding: On the one hand, the tolerance of a very large majority of the population, who, beyond an impressive sense of responsibility and reasonableness, sometimes look completely uncritically at political decisions. Then a prime minister, who rules in the style of the strict country father, becomes the most popular figure. The other worrying finding is how many ordinary people are picking up bogus conspiracies somewhere on the Internet. This range – on the one hand, lack of criticism in the case of wrong measures of politics up to the crudest views – that taught me something new about society and that worries me. Let me just say one more sentence about the intensive care units. That is exactly why we have to think about a different strategy. Hospitalization grows exponentially with age. Which is why we have to do everything we can to protect the elderly and people with previous illnesses better than before. At the same time, this would be a building block to enable more public, cultural and economic life overall.
You can hear the full conversation with Christian Lindner here:
Professor Streeck would probably welcome that. Do you have a favorite virologist?
No, I would rather wish that all virologists and epidemiologists were on a council of experts at the Bundestag together with constitutional lawyers and ethics experts, educationalists and psychologists. In summary, they would regularly issue an opinion with political recommendations. Think of the council of experts for assessing macroeconomic development. I would like that for the pandemic too.
Federal Health Minister Jens Spahn says: “In a few months we will probably have to forgive each other a lot.” What do you think will require a lot of forgiveness?
Decisions are made under uncertainty that later turn out to be wrong. No political argument should be attached to these misjudgments. In the meantime, however, we are one step further. What was true of uncertainty at the beginning of the year, you can no longer fully rely on it.
“We represent things based on convictions. We are a civil rights party. If we weren’t more sensitive to questions of the freedom of fundamental rights than the CDU and CSU, why should we exist at all? “
Do you actually know who came up with the milkmaid idea to use November 2019 sales as the basis for the compensation payment of 75 percent? Many an economist still shakes his head.
These are decisions that in politics in recent years have sometimes been made very, very quickly in coalition rounds, overtaken by executives who get things off the ground quickly and sometimes spontaneously. We experience that in these federal-state rounds, which talk for hours about closings or openings. Then suddenly a VAT cut is decided with a questionable benefit. There is no long-term effective, sustainable and well thought-out crisis strategy. And to be clear: Compensation or not, financial help or not, people want to work, they want to open up and in the long run the state of the third largest economy in the world cannot replace lost value creation with debt. We’ll all pay for that. And that is why we have to find a way to permanently open up the economy in a modified manner.
Currently, religious freedom is placed above professional freedom. Church services can take place under hygienic conditions, museums, cinemas and theaters have to close … What does that say about our country?
That doesn’t say something about the country, but that says something about the CDU and CSU. If hygiene and distance are observed, there can of course be services. But with hygiene, distance and guest lists to follow up: why shouldn’t there also be a theater performance? Not all places will be taken, it may not be profitable at all. But if a theater wants to open and masks are worn in the corridors, it is disinfected, there is good ventilation, then this is not a super-spreader event. Something similar could be said about museums, about gastronomy.
Can compliance with the hygiene concepts be checked at all?
I think so. In case of doubt, this is done with random checks. Then maybe there will be no parking tickets for a time, but due to the higher social prioritization, we make sure that life can take place. Just as we can use soldiers and should use them even more in practice to track chains of infection. The priority of state action must be to combine the best possible health protection with the greatest possible freedom and the protection of fundamental rights. You have to be creative.
You are trying to position yourself as a bourgeois opposition between the grand coalition and the AFD. According to the surveys, the plan is not working properly.
For one thing, we don’t use surveys as a guide. That means that we represent things based on convictions. We are a civil rights party. If we weren’t more sensitive to questions of the freedom of fundamental rights than the CDU and CSU, why should we exist at all? And we are not trying to position ourselves between the grand coalition and the AfD. I totally reject that.
When was the last time you looked at your Corona warning app?
Today, green and only three risky encounters lately.
How do you plan your Christmas party?
So at the moment I would say: completely open. If the rule is to only see one additional household, then it can be difficult. Both of my parents have been in new partnerships for many years or have been newly married. Then my partner’s parents come along and so on, plus sister … You see how complicated it gets, how many households are sitting at the table, just in my core family. And to that extent one cannot currently plan it, because the half-life of the announcements by the CDU, CSU, Chancellery with SPD has become so short. My appeal would be that we quickly develop strategy elements with which Christmas in the family is possible.
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