On Wednesday, the Prime Minister's Conference will decide how to proceed with the fight against corona.

Top economist Michael Hüther, director of the Cologne Institute for Economic Research (IW) since 2004, advocates a new weighing of risks.

He considers it right to expose one's health to a certain danger.

He stated this in appropriate reports and strategy papers for politics.

He discussed it online and exclusively with WELT readers.

Question from Sarafay P .:

Where do you see the German weekly incidence on April 1st?


I take a critical view of the seven-day new infections indicator because it basically depends on the test intensity and the number of unreported cases and is currently losing its informative value because of the vaccinations.

In any case, we have to consider the percentage of Covid-19 cases treated in intensive care in relation to the total number of operable bed capacity, the weekly incidence of hospitalized cases among those over 60 (per 100,000 inhabitants), the possibility of contact follow-up as well as the vaccination rate and mortality Consider age groups.

As the vaccination progresses, the incidence of new infections and mortality will diverge.


Question from Thomas B .:

In a WELT article it was just argued: It is not the place where we stay that is decisive, but how we behave in it.

But that is exactly what was taken away from us: personal responsibility.

According to the motto: You can't do that!

In my opinion one of the most fatal and wrong decisions and views towards the sovereign ... What do you think of that?

Hüther: In

my opinion, that is an important point: Self-responsibility must take more leadership again, but that requires clear guidelines - hygiene rules, test strategy, follow-up, etc. - to exist.

This means that personal responsibility requires that we show people more trust and that we offer an appropriate infrastructure.

Question from Ms. M .:

Are there any calculations or forecasts that show the relationship between prosperity, education, freedom and life expectancy?



There are many studies on this for the past.

The American National Bureau of Economic Research has recently published a working paper (No. 28304 from December 2020) that investigates the medium-term impact of the sharp rise in unemployment as a result of Covid-19 in the USA on life expectancy and mortality.

The result: "These figures translate in a staggering 0.89 million additional deaths over the next 15 years." 890,000 additional deaths within 15 years.


rage of Ronsomma:

Will probably another EU stimulus package passed with the beginning of the openings?


I think that is unlikely: Because the NextGeneration EU fund is only just being spelled out, and important impulses in the EU countries should be derived from it.

It is now important to stabilize investments, which have become weak everywhere and are of great importance for coping with structural change.



rage G. Matthias

Like last year, made famous by information received from the Ministry of the Interior, you were one of eight authors of the strategy paper "How do we Covid-19 get control" of the BMI from March 2020. Could you in your role explain the origins of this paper in more detail?

How did your co-authorship come about?

Is it true that the paper was largely written by Otto Kölbl and Maximilian Mayer?

What was the role of the other six authors?

What is your own share in the paper?

Michael Hüther:

The paper was created spontaneously when State Secretary Kerber asked the economic institutes RWI and IW whether a few calculations could be made in order to be able to depict scenarios of the pandemic in economic terms.

The other participants have been invited by the BMI.

You always have to remember: we knew next to nothing at the time, and it was about initial orientations.

The IW contributed to the economic scenarios that we then published ("best case" five percent GDP slump, "worst case" ten percent. Thank goodness it has become the "best case", certainly also because of the target-oriented ones Economic policy in the first lockdown.

Question from Inseldeern:

I share your view that a major problem is that the gap between the two camps of the discussants is getting bigger and bigger.

Each side claims the sovereignty of interpretation.

What way is there to bring more objectivity back into it?

And which representatives do you miss in Ms. Merkel's advisory team?


The NRW Expert Council was appointed eleven months ago and has an interdisciplinary structure.

The discussions taking place there are perceived by everyone as enriching and instructive, which is already exemplary.

This has not been discussed or deliberated at the federal level.

Unfortunately, many colleagues are also on the move with a security attitude towards their results that is unrealistic because we are dealing with the social dynamics of an epidemic.

Something like that cannot be calculated in advance in the model.

We have to make that clear too.

Question from Andre T .:

"No covid" is nonsensical and dangerous.

Half of the population can no longer stand the restrictions.

The other has fallen under the illusion that something like this would work in a country in the heart of Europe and lead to more freedoms in the long term.

What kind of nonsense is that, please?

A party, a workplace breakout somewhere, and the whole region is red.

Isn't the Minister of Economic Affairs responsible for helping the economy as their point of contact?

Why does Altmaier go along with the lockdown path?


Well, economic policy - and not just that - lost the thread in the second lockdown because the right ideas were no longer properly implemented.

There was no plan for the time after the stimulus package.

The slow legal and procedural support is shocking.

Federal Minister of Economics Peter Altmaier actually never presented an opening plan, which probably contributed to the fact that the many small entrepreneurial existences - which are now the main issue, since the industry is, thankfully, robustly developing - have completely succumbed to the lack of prospects because they did not have a strong voice at the negotiating table of the Chancellor and Prime Minister.

Question from Ulf Poschardt:

How do you feel about plural economics?



That is an important contribution to opening up the economic discourse to the historical, ethical, legal and social science debate.

But it should not be exaggerated any more than the neoclassical mainstream.

This is particularly successful if, firstly, one understands economics as a contribution to solving real problems and, secondly, one deals openly with the normativity of every economic policy derivation.

Question from Dirk:

One reads again and again that many closings due to suspicions or poor data situation (no evidence) would not stand in court.

Why is the legal instrument used so little?


In the given national risk situation, it is difficult to complain against it.

Although courts have ruled on various occasions according to proportionality and the prohibition of excess.

Question from Dirk K .:

You are also a historian.

Do you know of a case in which entire societies managed to isolate themselves to eradicate a disease?

Why do you think this is possible now?


My impression on this: Modern society is subject to the mania for feasibility, which suppresses mortality from perception and thus separates death from life.

The pandemic is a painful reminder that we have not yet reached eternal life, that the time gap between “lifetime and world time” (Hans Blumenberg) continues to push and challenge us.

Question from Jan W .: In

your opinion, what are the key points that a structural reform similar to Agenda 2010 needs in order to make Germany fit for the future by 2050?


A structural reform must address the recognizable problems on the one hand, and the challenges ahead on the other.

First, we have to establish that our federal structure is neither crisis management capable nor suitable for digitization.

That is why it will have to be a state reform that ensures the effectiveness and speed of state action.

Second, the challenges in structural change are grandiose (decarbonisation), for this we have to strengthen the innovative strength and the propensity to invest, which refers to all location conditions from education and infrastructure to tax policy.

Question from Mike H.

I make it easy for the expert: Medical risk is approaching zero, economic risk is approaching 100.



Well, you know that considerations should be considered earlier.

This includes the economic consequences of the pandemic and the fight against the pandemic, as well as social and psychological consequences.

Different considerations are necessary in certain phases.

It becomes difficult when the demand for weighing up generates the accusation that one is walking over corpses.

Behind this is the fundamental question of whether one considers the eradication of this virus to be achievable.

This contrasts with the epidemiological experience with other viruses.

If so, then realistically - as with the influenza virus with its lower but still existing mortality - we have to adjust to it.

Question from Hartmut Olffers:

What we need is more sobriety and objectivity in the debate about the lockdown measures.

Really nobody would think of banning it because of the dead and many injuries caused by car traffic.

There is no such thing as a risk-free life.

It cannot and must not be the task of the state to relieve the citizens of their own responsibility and to deprive them of their fundamental freedoms.


This question ultimately refers to the constitutional problem of how far “the pandemic danger situation of national scope” leads and what can be justified in terms of encroachments on fundamental rights.

A pure risk defense is not enough, and even in the dangerous situation, the state must observe the principle of proportionality and the prohibition of excess.

Question from Ulf Poschardt:

Above all in the humanities, a climate of bondage arises at many universities: Instigated by Woke activists: unpleasant opinions, content, topics, professors are defamed inside.

How do you experience this tendency?


That is an increasing problem, and new normative function ascriptions in the sense of “transformative science” are contributing to it.

Basically, a moralization has found its way into the academic debate if one thinks “trigger warning”, which endangers the university's program sovereignty.

And that includes: Research is only accepted if it lives what it analyzes and if it conducts social transformation in a morally sanctioned manner.

This can be called intentional or normatively intentional science.

You are therefore quickly assigned or labeled so that you disappear from the discourse: According to the motto "Hüther liked Lütge, who reacted to Homburg ten months ago ..." That has nothing to do with the contribution I made to the debate , but is supposed to nullify the argument.

Here you can listen to our WELT podcasts

We use the player from the provider Podigee for our WELT podcasts.

We need your consent so that you can see the podcast player and interact with or display content from Podigee and other social networks.

Activate social networks

I consent to content from social networks being displayed to me.

This allows personal data to be transmitted to third-party providers.

This may require the storage of cookies on your device.

More information can be found here.

“Everything on stocks” is the daily stock market shot from the WELT business editorial team.

Every morning from 7 a.m. with the financial journalists Moritz Seyffarth and Holger Zschäpitz.

For stock market experts and beginners.

Subscribe to the podcast on Spotify, Apple Podcast, Amazon Music and Deezer.

Or directly via RSS feed.