Ideology and Laws

Note: This is another slightly (= very much so) off-topic posting.

“You! I’ve just awarded you the prize for the hundred-meter dash. Does it make you happy?”
“You know darn well I placed fourth!”
“Exactly! The prize for the first place is worthless to you … because you havenit earned it. But you enjoy a modest satisfaction in placing fourth; you earned it. I trust that some of the somnambulists here understood this little morality play. I fancy that the poet who wrote that song meant to imply that the best things in life must be purchased other than with money – which is true – just as the literal meaning of his words is false. The best things in life are beyond money; their price is agony and sweat and devotion … and the price demanded for the most precious of all things in life is life itself – ultimate cost for perfect value.”
“Starship Troopers” by Robert A. Heinlein

Frankly, I’ve always been stupefied by stories about how governments try to have their ideology supersede reality. From faked production numbers in Eastern Germany (prior to reunification) to ‘correcting’ scientific findings that did not agree to the state narrative. But the more I look around, the more I notice that this is not a trait inherent only in … ‘the usual suspects countries’.

I’ve already written about this topic, but there’s currently a case in Germany that … is just depressing. After the last election earlier this year, there are currently coalition talks in the government. One of the results is a planned quota for board members in German companies — a quota of 30% women. If a company do not have this amount of women on its board, it won’t get fined, but it must leave these seats unassigned.

I guess the next advertisement for a company with balls of steel will show their board of directors with some men and fewer than 30% women and a couple of empty female-shaped silhouettes. Below that the title: “We don’t compromise on (e)quality.”

I don’t own much money, but I’d by their stocks.

I mean, seriously, the kind of women you get who are willing to accept a high-prestige, high-pressure, and high-responsibility job just because she has a certain biological characteristic is not the person who should get the job. Leave it empty and save yourself the trouble of a demotivated work-force who see that a non-relevant characteristic (biological sex) is more important than qualification (skill, knowledge). The only reason why it does not blow up immediately is aptly put by this quotation:

I could be president of Sikorsky for six months before they found me out, but the president would only have my job for six seconds before he’d kill himself.
Walter R. ‘Dick’ Faull, Test pilot

Unfortunately, it conforms to the current zeitgeist to go for a quota for women. No matter that:

  • in countries with quota (and political parties), the percentages would go down if the quota would be removed, even years after being introduced (so much for ‘breaking the glass ceiling’)
  • despite the quota, there is demand for selective training/qualification efforts for women — which makes only sense if ‘to-the-upper-limit’ trained women are needed to compete with men who do not receive any special training (any guesses what they and the companies they work for could achieve if they would have the same training opportunities?)
  • equality is not only about rights — that’s the usual line (“equal rights”). But rights do not come free — they come with duties and responsibilities. You invite disaster if you decouple rights and responsibilities. There is a lot of complaint going around on men having privileges. Maybe they have some, but this includes the privilege to be the first one to go into danger (standard example: “Who investigates the noise in the dark?”) and the last one out (standard example: “Women and children first!” — I get the children part, but why women first?). When it comes to high-status jobs the trade-off is usually that they need a lot of work and investment — which usually does not work well with families or children. My father did pursue a career and he was successful in it — guess how often I did see him? Are these quota-women willing to do the same? If they are not and just get the job due to a quota, the costs still apply, but they are not carried by the women but by the company, the other male and female employees — and our economy. I mean, seriously, if you want to compete, compete fairly — the best comments I have heard so far were from a YouTube video by jordanowen42:

    “We are now living in a modern society that is not encumbered by chivalry. You demanded equality and you got it. So now you are experiencing a world in which men and boys interact with you just as they would with one another.”


    “I extend respect to people who deserve it, not people who think they are entitled to it. To carry on in an intentionally polite manner around someone because of their gender IS sexism. The response you are receiving from these men is not the result of you living in a sexist culture, but the result of NOT living in a sexist culture. I for one believe that women are capable of being resilient, strong, independent and intelligent and do not require that society act as if they are delicate flowers.”

  • just because 30% will be women does not mean that the particular woman cheering for the quota will get such a position. That’s the thing among males. There is high competition. Few men are successful, but the men who are not successful do not get attention, there are losers. Things won’t change that much for women in general.
  • a quota is incompatible with personal freedom. I always thought ‘women’s rights’ were about women having the freedom to pursue whatever life they wanted to pursue — although I would include the duties and responsibilities that come with certain life choices. However, a quota means that there must be a certain amount of women willing and able to fill these jobs. I understand that many women think that there are enough women who qualify — I’d like to point to the Dunning-Kruger effect here. To really be able to fill these jobs would require a large sample of women pursuing these careers to have the necessary amount of variance to chose qualified people from. Just because there are women ‘available’ does not mean they qualify. Which actually might be a reason why it takes more than a decade to have a meaningful shift in the amount of women in the board of directors. It’s the end of a long chain which most people — men and women — never reach. And you need a broad basis for a highly qualified elite.
  • a quota will be the worst thing you can do for actual equality. Every woman, including those who sacrificed their private life for a career, will now become suspect of having achieved this position only due to something she is not responsible for — her biological sex. It’s the worst thing you can do for actual respectful equality. The message is: “Women are weak — they need a quota to succeed.”
  • bypassing the selection process and the trials of a career does not only compromise on quality — it breeds resentment. It’s like saying after a long distance race: “Okay, we are for ‘equality’, but the first 19 positions are occupied by men. That’s a problem we must rectify. So, men on places 8 to 21 are now disqualified. With women previously on places 11, 12, and 22 we now have 30% women among the top ten. … Ah, and by the way, have fun during the relay race at the world cup. You might have no chance of winning, but at least we are political correct.”

Funny thing is that you can use any arguments you like, it won’t convince proponents of a quota. They will see it as confirmation that they are on the right track. Any counter-arguments are attributed to scared men, trying (in vain) to protect their ‘privilege’. Nope, I’m actually for equality — or rather reciprocity. I think there should be equality of opportunity, not of outcome. I think there should be fairness, not negative discrimination of men in service of perceived discrimination. I think there should also be recognition for disadvantages men have and advantages women have. I think there should be honest conversation and evidence-based arguments, not ideology. And I think that a quota is poison for equality with short-term benefits for its proponents (usually women) and long-term negative consequences for actual equality in rights and responsibilities.

Personally, I have never understood the whole issue. Why is there this big deal about biological sex? Seriously, unless you talk about female/male prostitutes and surrogate mothers, why is sex important? Why does it matter? If there are 10 candidates for a job and 8 of them are male, and a man is chosen, it’s not only the two women who did not get the job, there are also 7 men who also did not get the job. Women are not inherently better managers, just look at the female managers who made the news.

Frankly, I find the whole issue depressing. Biological sex should be irrelevant. Currently, we have state-sponsored discrimination against men. Just imagine we had all the selective training efforts and quotas for men — there would be an outrage. And righteously so, because biological sex should play no role (in most cases), whether it’s male or female.

It’s just stupid to create quotas for performance irrelevant (or, given the lower variance, even performance-harming) criteria.