Policy Debate

Economists Aren’t up For Sale

Angela Merkel with economist Christoph M. Schmidt IW
How many economists does it take to change a lightbulb? Source: Maurizio Gambarini/DPA [M].

In Germany there is a backlash against certain professions: politicians, for starters, are accused of “living in a bubble” and of being interested solely in getting re-elected. Researchers allegedly can be “bought,” while journalists are suspected of “spreading fake news,” and so on. This is not just unfair toward these three careers (vocations even), it also damages democracy and society as a whole.

Every group takes on a specific, clearly defined role in society. And it is the job of the media as the so-called “fourth estate” to portray facts and facilitate a public discussion, making them an important watchdog of democracy. Science also has a debt to society, a real responsibility: It brings the results of its research work into the debating arena of society and politics as a basis for sound decision-making.

For that to happen, scientists have to leave the ivory tower where some of us still like to reside, and open our minds to a dialogue with politicians, the media and society as a whole, so we can offer advice, but never exert influence. Politicians and the media should see us as critical partners to help them fulfill their tasks.

Want to keep reading?

Subscribe now or log in to read our coverage of Europe’s leading economy.