Annalena Baerbock had just got going in the TV triumph on Sunday evening with her core topic, climate protection, when the Green Chancellor candidate said the remarkable sentence: "Every ban is also an innovation driver." fossil combustion engine stopped, remained uncommented in the round of candidates - the more violent the comments on social media were.

Johannes Pennekamp

Responsible editor for economic reporting, responsible for “Die Lounge”.

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Users posted on Twitter that the bans and innovations had worked out really well in the GDR.

One user pointed out that bans led first and foremost to an innovation - the "inventing of circumvention facts".

It is "economic and ecological madness if we waste our resources and brainpower with it".

Political competition was also not long asked.

FDP party leader Christian Lindner commented: "A reminder of the central value of our society for a current occasion: #Freedom is the #Innovationdriver .."

"Basically Baerbock is right"

Baerbock's blanket statement came as a surprise because the Greens among their current party leaders had tried to cast off their reputation as a “prohibition party” that wanted to stipulate meat-free days in the canteen, for example. Politically, the sentence should therefore be an own goal. But how do scientists evaluate it who delve deeper into the matter?

Dietmar Harhoff, Director at the Max Planck Institute for Innovation and Competition in Munich, does not find the sentence as absurd as it may sound to many.

“Basically Baerbock is right.

Political regulation and bans also produce innovative answers, ”says the researcher.

As an example, he cites the catalytic converter technology in the car, which has made great leaps thanks to political guidelines.

In science there is even a term for the connection between political intervention and innovation, the so-called Porter hypothesis.

It says that the right interventions can make the companies concerned more competitive.

It's not just about bans

However, Harhoff hopes that Baerbock's understanding of innovations is not limited to calls for bans. "Central to innovations are not bans, but freedom for people who develop them," emphasizes the researcher. In order to be able to successfully bring new technologies and products onto the market, it is important not to have blinkers on. For example, even the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change is calling for CO2 to be extracted from the atmosphere using new approaches and, for example, injected underground.

The Greens, but also other parties, are skeptical of this technology. "I see the danger that the Greens in particular will classify new technologies as good or bad technologies very early on - and that is harmful," criticizes Harhoff. On the other hand, it is correct, as in Baden-Württemberg under a state government led by the Greens, to create so-called real laboratories. There new things can first be tried out in practice before a decision is made.

Monika Schnitzer, economist at the LMU Munich and member of the Federal Government's Advisory Council, also responded to Baerbock's statement with a "Yes, but ...". In the auto industry, for example, there has long been inertia because the combustion engine business was going well. “Bans,” says Schnitzer, “can help to break this open.” However, there are many better options. A price on CO2 that makes gasoline more expensive, competition with competitors like Tesla or even purchase premiums for e-cars are better incentives for companies to bring innovations to the market. In the case of bans, the following should also be noted: "If they do, they have to come with sufficient lead time, otherwise you won't get the best innovations, but the ones that are immediately available."

Innovation researcher Oliver Falck (Ifo Institute) points out another point: "If you know what the future looks like, then you can of course pave the way there with prohibitions." But the future is known to be unknown, only some politicians think they know it, so Falck. If things turn out differently in practice, bans are used to block options. For example, he doesn't know whether the quasi-commitment to electric cars is correct or whether, in the end, the fuel cell or another technology is better. Falck published an international overview study on Monday, which successfully stimulates innovations. It wasn't about bans - it was about tax incentives for companies.