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Thilo Sarrazin: "Society has the politicians it deserves"

Written by Thilo Sarrazin for Die Weltwoche.

I am 76 years old, I am in good health and I like to live a little longer. So for a year now I have meticulously adhered to all corona rules - as they currently apply. It's boring at times and also a little depressing, but what would the alternative be? I do not assume any knowledge that I objectively do not have, and when in doubt I stay on the safe side. I do not question the authority of the experts and I see without malice that they - on an undoubtedly higher level of knowledge than I have - often have different opinions and change their opinion more often.

I have registered that illnesses from Covid-19 can lead to serious long-term effects, even if they are not fatal - for example, when it comes to the performance of the lungs. However, I have also noted that the courses at a young age are mostly very mild and often no symptoms at all. 85 percent of all corona deaths in Germany are older than 70 years, and the median age of those who died from and with Covid-19 is 84 years.

If you look at the corona frequency, the so-called incidence, by age group, it is noticeable that those over eighty are most affected and children up to 14 years of age are least affected. Little affected, almost as little as the children, is also the age group from 64 to 79 years to which I belong. For the most part, they can still take care of themselves and, like me, apparently largely adhere to the Corona rules. In addition, this group is beyond the constraints of professional life and child-rearing and can better manage their contacts. This apparently also happens with success.

Battle of the Mutants
In the case of the very old over 80, on the other hand, it is apparently the contact with the nursing staff - regardless of whether they are family members or others - that caused the high rates of infection and, in this age group, also the deaths.

These brief hints show how complicated everything is and that you get stuck with simple formulas. The corona virus changes its properties through mutations. The British mutant B.1.1.7 is currently making a name for itself, it is apparently even more contagious and dangerous and is currently largely supplanting the original virus form in Germany. In the infection process, this triggers a countermovement to the slowly growing protection of the population through vaccination. The inevitable conclusion is that a no-covid or even zero-covid strategy has failed, at least in Europe. The virus is here to stay.

That is why politics and society can (and must) no longer shirk from weighing up the social, societal and economic costs to be incurred in fighting the virus. However, this leads to an area that the mainstream of the social and political debate has so far carefully avoided:

- How many economic livelihoods may be destroyed,
- how many additional unemployed can it cost,
- which educational gaps in our children we have to accept, so that fewer people get corona and ultimately die?

Marginal costs and marginal benefits
Every corona death is one too many. But the social price of avoidance costs must also be discussed, named and weighed up. From a moral point of view, every human life has its own value, which cannot be quantified. But the educational chances of children, the life chances of the professionally active generation, the economic livelihoods in retail and hospitality and the professional perspectives of actors, musicians and artists must nonetheless be weighed against the goal of absolute life and health protection.

That is above all a task for politics. But most politicians seem to be speechless in this regard - and even more so by the accompanying emptiness. They block themselves against any figure of thought that offsets the marginal costs of the comprehensive paralysis of society against the marginal benefits of avoiding illness and death. Like an underage child who refuses to make decisions, you want everything at the same time.

In this context, the explosion of public debt has a deeply symbolic character beyond its real problems. But let's not complain, in this pandemic society has the politicians it has earned through its own contradictions.

Photo: Wolf Lux
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