Our members of the government don’t particularly like this question: How much incompetence can politics tolerate? Or to put it more politely: Why do many top politicians react so allergically to what economists, financial and energy experts have to say to them?

These questions are being raised with great urgency by the actors these days, because the iron laws of economics have been violated with partly negligent sloppiness and partly with willful ignorance. At times one has the impression that the concept of the political should itself be positioned against physics.

Max Weber did not know Gerhard Schröder, Angela Merkel and Olaf Scholz, and yet he foresaw the mechanisms that, in changing political constellations, lead to a hasty exit from nuclear energy, to a no less hasty return to it, soon to a renewed exit and now to something in between .

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In his speech “Politics as a Profession”, which politicians like to quote but little read, Max Weber speaks of “purely job hunting parties that change their factual program depending on the chances of winning votes”. They are not concerned with technical competence, they are primarily striving for the “state crèche” “where the winners want to be fed”.

And this feeding – one may rightly add – not only includes salaries, pensions and company cars, but also recognizable that spiritual nourishment that is commonly referred to as party-political ideology. The appetite for this party-political supplementary food is particularly great these days, as can be seen from the activities of the traffic light coalition:

Example 1: We have a gas problem, not an electricity problem, claims the Minister for Economic Affairs, although every child now knows that gas is also converted into electricity and less gas automatically causes an electricity problem. At the latest when looking at the price explosions, it becomes clear that both markets are closely linked. Apparently, this economy minister doesn’t want to serve his country first, but to consolidate his green power base. NZZ editor-in-chief Eric Gujer sums it up: “Ignorance first, expertise second.”

Example 2: This principle is also followed by the minister’s idea of ​​using nuclear power as a last resort, which is just not a technological solution. Contrary to the advice of a commission of experts he had set up, he suggested keeping two of the three remaining nuclear power plants as emergency reserves so that they could be started up if necessary.

This ignorance of the facts drove Commissioner Guido Knott, the main job boss of Preussen Elektra, the pulse. The ministry’s proposal was “technically unfeasible and therefore unsuitable for securing the supply contribution of the plants,” he wrote in a cable. You could take that as a slap in the face for the minister: ouch.

Example 3: But who is actually responsible for this appointment in the key business department? In any case, for the first time professional competence played no role in the installation of the new Economics Minister. Most of the previous ministers were economists, such as Karl Schiller, Rainer Brüderle, Helmut Schmidt and Manfred Lahnstein. The others were lawyers like Hans Friderichs and Otto Graf Lambsdorff. This house has never seen a children’s book author in the executive chair.

But the impression must not be created that disregard for specialist knowledge first entered political life with Robert Habeck. That would be unfair. Olaf Scholz and Angela Merkel have done a good job of making politics more objective.

Example 4: At the urging of the SPD, Professor Lars Feld left the chair of the Expert Council before the Bundestag elections, for the sole reason that he was annoying.

He was annoyed simply by the fact that, as an order theorist in the sense of Ludwig Erhard, Alfred Müller-Armack and Wilhelm Röpke, he recalled the laws of the market economy, where the government believed it could switch them on, off or on at will. Scholz had no desire for economic competence that contradicted political calculations.

Example 5: When filling the top position of the European central bank, neither the SPD nor the CDU supported Axel Weber or later Jens Weidmann. Why? Because a politician was more likely to be able to take political concerns in southern Europe into account and assert them against the stability interests of savers.

The result is shocking for both of them: the ECB keeps mispronouncing it and record inflation of almost ten percent is now causing problems for southern countries and savers alike. Christine Lagarde is standing in front of the shambles of her central bank policy and is now wearing the penitential robe: “I take the blame on myself.”

Conclusion: The reconciliation of ecology and economy is on everyone’s lips. The reconciliation of politics and competence would be the next major project of a turning point. So that the nasty Max Weber phrase about “dilettante administration by looted politicians” can still be stamped as invalid. Competence – and this is where the great hope lies – will not limit the political, contrary to what politicians fear, but will inspire it.

Gabor Steingart is one of the best-known journalists in the country. He publishes the newsletter The Pioneer Briefing. The podcast of the same name is Germany’s leading daily podcast for politics and business. Since May 2020, Steingart has been working with his editorial staff on the ship “The Pioneer One”. Before founding Media Pioneer, Steingart was, among other things, Chairman of the Management Board of the Handelsblatt Media Group. You can subscribe to his free newsletter here.