Wednesday, March 07, 2012

European Union Pushes Discriminatory Gender Quotas for Corporate Boards

by Hans Bader

The European Union (EU) could not keep member states like Greece from cheating on EU budget rules, resulting in Greece’s fiscal collapse and the current European financial crisis. But now, the EU government, which cannot manage itself effectively, wants to micromanage private companies in the EU by dictating that they use gender quotas on their corporate boards — a discriminatory, economically-destructive demand that would be illegal if imposed on U.S. companies. As Bloomberg News recently noted, Greece was able to enter the Euro Zone “after claiming its deficit was less than 1 percent of gross domestic product, well within the bloc’s 3-percent threshold. European Commission reports have since revealed Greece’s budget hasn’t been within the 3-percent limit a single year since its accession. Greece went unpunished except for being told by the EU to tighten up its bookkeeping.”

Rather than focusing their energy on preventing the EU ship from sinking, or fixing the EU’s flawed constitutional architecture, EU officials are now doing the equivalent of rearranging the deck chairs on the Titanic. The EU is now eying 40-percent quotas for corporate boards, a mandate already imposed in several countries such as Spain and France. Such a quota is backed by the EU’s Justice Minister, Viviane Reding, who wants the EU to adopt Europe-wide laws that would impose such quotas even on EU member countries that have traditionally avoided such micro-management of corporate affairs.

Gender quotas could provide a big boost for nepotism on corporate boards in some fields. In sectors like metallurgical engineering, there are just not very many women with the required knowledge and expertise to sit on a corporate board. So a company in such a sector, confronted with a gender quota, will probably pick female relatives of existing corporate insiders to sit on the board. If you have to put someone who is largely ignorant of your business on your board, it might as well be someone who will do what others on the board with more knowledge advise them to do — and they are more likely to take your advice if they are your relative than if they are not related to you.

After Norway adopted gender quotas for corporate boards — requiring companies to have boards of directors comprised of at least 40 percent women — large numbers of inexperienced people ended up as corporate directors. “A study by the University of Michigan found that this led to large numbers of inexperienced women being appointed to boards, and that this has seriously damaged those firms’ performance.”

But this didn’t stop other European countries such as Spain and France from following Norway’s example and mandating 40-percent quotas (Spain’s quota requirement is already in effect, while France’s law goes into effect in 2017). Other countries, like Italy, adoped lower quotas (Italy’s is 30 percent). The European Parliament has previously recommended that all member countries adopt such quotas in their national laws.

The Economist recently opposed such quotas in an editorial. (Corporate law scholars such as Stephen Bainbridge have also criticized such proposals.) As The Economist later noted, Europe’s race towards quotas is at odds with company practice and legal norms elsewhere in the world:
Hans Bader, a senior attorney at the Competitive Enterprise Institute in Washington, compares the situation in Europe with that of America: “From an American legal perspective, laws mandating quotas for women on corporate boards in European countries seem utterly bizarre. In America, such quotas would be struck down as a violation of the right of male directors to equal treatment. The Supreme Court ruled in its 1989 Croson decision that quotas violate, rather than promote, equality, calling it ‘completely unrealistic’ to expect groups to be represented in each field or activity ‘in lockstep proportion to their representation in the local population.’ American courts have struck down quotas and gender-balance requirements for boards and commissions in cases such as Back v. Carter. They have allowed companies to challenge quotas on behalf of their male or white employees in cases such as Lutheran Church Missouri Synod v. FCC. And they overturned government-mandated preferences for female business owners in the Lamprecht case.” . . . Ranko Bon, writing from Motovun in Croatia, thinks it is lucky that the idea of female quotas is catching on in Europe only: “America is largely free of it, and much of Asia is still blissfully unaware. As Europe is increasingly irrelevant in world business, the damage will be limited and perhaps even tolerable.”

Defenders of these quotas argue that quotas are good for business because companies with more women on their boards do better. But even if such companies typically make more money, this claim confuses cause and effect, and puts the cart before the horse, as studies like the University of Michigan study illustrate. With each passing year, the percentage of female business professionals in Europe rises, as does the percentage of female college graduates. The pool of female qualified applicants in a company for a directorship naturally rises over time. So a company that is not growing and hires few new people will naturally have less women in its ranks than a company that is growing and hiring new people. The company’s growth does not occur because of the increase in women in the company; rather, the increase in women in a company occurs because of the company’s prior and pre-existing growth. Countries like Sweden that have faster-growing economies and less corruption and red tape than places like Greece also have higher female participation in the labor force, and thus, higher numbers of women on corporate boards: “Northern countries like Finland, Sweden or Latvia, which don’t have quotas, boast the biggest percentage of women on company boards in Europe.”

This is also why growing companies in the U.S. tend to have more Asians, Hispanics, and women than companies that aren’t growing: the percentage of each graduating class that is Asian or Hispanic or female grows each year. It’s not because affirmative action helps company performance –it doesn’t. Rather, it’s because growing companies hire new blood, and new blood is more heavily Asian and Hispanic (and female) than the older generation, among whom business people are overwhelmingly white males. My brother’s investment firm was much more heavily minority than the ranks of the company its principals came from (Deutsche Bank), and the financial industry as a whole, but it did not practice affirmative action, and would have regarding doing so as bizarre. The reason for its high minority percentage was because the company’s managers were young, and young people as a group are more heavily minority and more heavily non-white than their elders, due to immigration (immigrants are disproportionately non-white) and a higher non-white birthrate.


Sarkozy rejects Muslim pandering

The issue of France’s Muslims moved front and center into the presidential campaign with the incumbent, Nicolas Sarkozy, excluding on Saturday any special indulgences for halal meat or separate swimming hours for Muslim women in public pools.

Echoing his 2007 campaign, Sarkozy insisted that French civilization must prevail in France. He created France’s first Ministry of Immigration and National Identity after being elected, but has since done away with it.

Muslims, and immigration, are constant themes in recent French presidential races, but the topic is rising to the fore with vehemence as the April 22 first-round vote nears — 50 days from now. The final round is May 6.

Critics say Sarkozy is ogling supporters of extreme-right candidate Marine Le Pen, who is third in polls after front-runner Francois Hollande, a Socialist, and the conservative president. Le Pen, who succeeds party founder Jean-Marie Le Pen, her father, has worked to erase the image of the party as anti-Semitic — but now castigates what she says is the profile of Islam in France.

There are an estimated 5 million Muslims in France, the largest such population in Western Europe, and the latest generation is making increasing demands that the country accommodate needs set out by their religion or their customs.

“There is no place in the republic for xenophobia, there is no place for racism … There is no place for pools with hours for men and hours for women,” Sarkozy told a rally Saturday in Bordeaux.

The team of Hollande, the Socialist candidate, castigated as “sickening” a remark Friday by Interior Minister Claude Gueant, who said that giving foreigners the right to vote in local elections would open the way to halal meat in school canteens and burqa-style bathing suits in public pools.

Sarkozy makes “scapegoats, stigmatizes” Muslims, said Manuel Valls, communications chief for Hollande’s campaign.

Hollande has proposed allowing all foreigners residing in France legally for five years to have the right to vote in local elections. The Socialist candidate has made it a policy to avoid implicating himself directly in divisive issues, leaving responses to his lieutenants.

At a rally Saturday in Dijon, Hollande simply reiterated that foreigners should be allowed to vote “without fearing for our citizenship or our national cohesion or our freedom.”

The French president, who declared his candidacy just weeks ago, on Feb. 15, is narrowing the gap with Hollande but, polls show, would lose by a wide margin in second-round balloting.

“There is no taboo subject,” Sarkozy said, suggesting that it is not in the nation’s interest to be politically correct about immigration or about what some Muslims seek to conform to their religious beliefs or cultural mores.

He said issues like halal food in schools or special hours so that Muslim women can swim out of view of men are in contradiction with the French principle of secularism.

Such issues “should be considered not as religious facts, but as facts of civilization,” he said.

Jerome Sainte-Marie of the CSA polling firm, monitoring the rally with BFM television, said that with Sarkozy’s showing in polls he must work the terrain where he does best.

“Nicolas Sarkozy has no other choice but to turn the tables and transform this election into a referendum on national identity,” Sainte-Marie said.

But the spokesman for Le Pen’s campaign, Florian Philippot, counters that “the French are not for one second dupes of the electoral strings (being pulled) by the Sarkozy camp.


Islamic Leaders Plan Pro-NYPD Rally in Support of Secret Anti-Terror Surveillance

It’s been a tough few weeks for the New York City Police Department (NYPD), as critics have charged authorities with unfairly targeting Muslim populations. While surveillance activities have been dubbed as discriminatory by some who believe the police department has gone to far, a unique rally will take place this morning in support of the NYPD’s tactics.

Muslim groups have heavily criticized the department and politicians charged with overseeing its operations after The Associated Press reported that the NYPD had been secretly monitoring Muslims across the Northeast following the Sept. 11 terror attacks.

On Monday morning, Muslim leaders from the American Islamic Leadership Coalition (AILC) will come together in support of officers’ tactics to target extremism in their community.

WNYW-TV has more about the group’s plans to assemble: "The rally, which is expected to start at 10 a.m. ET, will include representatives from more than 20 Muslim organizations, activists and Congressman Peter King (R-NY), who serves as the chairman of the U.S. House Committee on Homeland Security."

King, who has been a major NYPD supporter and a chief ally among those leading the fight against Islamic extremism, had made his opinion clear on the matter.

“The threat right now is Islamist terrorism — and that’s going to be coming from the Muslim community, it’s just a fact,” he said. “Just like the mafia came from the Italian community, and the Russian mob is coming from the Russian community.”

On its web site, the AILC is promoting the rally and explaining why, despite criticism among many individuals in the Muslim community, its members are supporting the NYPD (read the entire press release):
Since the 2007 release of its Intelligence Division’s landmark report, “Radicalization in the West: The Homegrown Threat,” the NYPD has come under a systematic and coordinated assault by highly-politicized Islamist organizations and their enablers, intent on dismantling the NYPD’s successful counter-terrorism and counter-radicalization programs. These groups would prefer to see American Muslims shackled to a mindset of victimization, and thus alienated from American society at large, rather than confront the very real issues we face in our communities, including the threat of extremist ideology. [...]

It is important to note that published NYPD documents clearly and appropriately distinguish between the religion of Islam, and the highly politicized ideology of hatred, supremacy and violence characteristic of political Islam (i.e., “Islamism”), and especially the subset thereof known as “jihadi Salafism.” [...]

In light of the swirling controversy over the New York Police Department’s counter-terrorism and counter-radicalization practices, we feel it is our civic, moral and religious duty to publicly address a number of issues raised by this controversy.
“To our knowledge, no NYPD counter-terrorism cases have given rise to departmental abuses of power,” the release continues, concluding with a reiteration of support for the department’s “courageous” efforts to protect the city.

While the AILC is praising these actions, CAIR has been railing against the NYPD’s surveillance tactics. In addition to post-9/11 anti-terror measures, some of the angst being displayed by CAIR, among other groups, stems from allegations that the NYPD showed “The Third Jihad,” a film about radical Islam, to nearly 1,500 police officers during training (the department did eventually admit that the documentary was shown in the lobby of a training building). The Blaze extensively covered this issue in January.

Dr. Zuhdi Jasser, the narrator of the film, is also expected to speak at today’s rally. ”We feel the NYPD has been taking a lot of unfair hits,” he said, referring to the reason for today’s pro-NYPD gathering.

This showing of support is the community’s first real stance for the NYPD and its counter-terror efforts.


The war on workfare in Britain is worse than workfare itself

The pity and tears of the anti-workfare lobby are far more insulting to working-class youth than asking them to stack shelves in a British supermarket

As a radical leftist of some years’ standing, it pains me to point out the following: we are rapidly entering a new era in Britain in which radical protests against government austerity measures are more reactionary than anything proposed by the government itself.

We saw it with the debate around the National Health Service, where the clumsiness of the Lib-Cons’ cash-saving reforms were more than outdone by the conservatism of the left-wing anti-reformers, who think a moral forcefield should be erected around the creaking, increasingly authoritarian NHS. We saw it in the debate about having a household benefits cap of £26,000, where the government’s naivety about how to roll back the recession was overshadowed by the cynicism of liberal campaigners begging unelected bishops in the House of Lords to mow down any tweaks to modern welfarism. And now we see it in the controversy over workfare, where the fact that this initiative is far from perfect pales into insignificance when compared with the patronising politics of pity and vicarious workshyness of its influential opponents.

Introduced by the Lib-Cons in January 2011, the welfare-to-work programme, or ‘workfare’, is a voluntary scheme for people aged 16 to 24 who have been unemployed for three months or longer. The government, in tandem with big corporations like Tesco or Burger King, provides these youth with placements, where they work for 25-30 hours a week for a period of two to eight weeks. They don’t get paid an actual wage, but they continue to receive their jobseeker’s allowance and possibly some additional travel and childcare costs. Theoretically, anyone who opts out of a placement can have their benefits cut, though according to the government, out of the 34,200 people who did workfare between January and November 2011, only 200 had their benefits docked.

That’s it. It is hardly the best government job-creation scheme in history, yet nor is it ‘slave labour’, as its historically clueless critics claim, some of them even turning up at Westfield shopping centre in London dressed in Dickensian garb with placards saying ‘Westfield Workhouse’ and ‘Say “No” to slave labour’. Perhaps if these people spent more time reading Oliver Twist rather than doing am-dram versions of it on the streets of West London, they would know that asking a 19-year-old to spend a few hours serving sausage rolls in a Greggs bakery is not quite the same as the system of exhausting child labour that existed in the past.

Of course, there is much that can be criticised about the workfare scheme, primarily the impact that it could have on the existing working population. By subsidising the supply of effectively free workers to massive retail outlets and other workplaces, the government is potentially isolating and even threatening the positions of those members of staff who got their jobs by their own volition and who currently must (and should) be paid a full-time wage. Rather than work so closely with big businesses, which are driven primarily by a desire to cut costs and boost profits, it might have been better for the government to set up and fund proper apprenticeship schemes and social-based work projects, which would allow unemployed youth to get a taste of the world of work without coming into conflict with actually employed workers.

However, the noisy and shrill critics of workfare are attacking the scheme for all the wrong reasons – not on the basis that it might harm existing workers, but on the basis that it is somehow harmful to ask unemployed yoof, those apparently fragile creatures, to work in return for some of society’s resources, for the monies they currently receive from the state. This can be seen in the widespread use of the terms ‘unpaid labour’ and ‘slave labour’, which overlooks the fact that these young people are actually being rewarded for their short bursts of work (in the form of small benefit payments from the state, which are not as good as a full wage, of course). And it overlooks the even more important fact that sending young people the alternative message – that they should receive these resources in return for nothing, in return for never working – is a far more dangerous and destructive thing than a scheme pressuring them to do some shelf-stacking in Tesco.

The small but influential middle-class anti-workfare lobby, which has already successfully pressurised Tesco, Burger King and others into withdrawing from workfare, seems incapable of thinking through the consequences of its arguments and its actions. It seems not to recognise that fighting to preserve a situation in which huge numbers of young people have their bodies and souls sustained by the state is not a ‘good fight’. On the contrary, it is a fight which is likely only to exacerbate young people’s dependence on external favour and patronage rather than on their own inner drive and ambition, and which will further tie youth into an unhealthy relationship of reliance with the state. In the long term, this will have a far more damaging impact on them, on their capacity for social solidarity and on their individual self-respect, than workfare ever could.

It is in fact entirely reasonable to expect able-minded, able-bodied people, anyone who is not a child or disabled or sick or old, to do something in return for resources, to make some practical, real-world contribution to their communities or the running of society. Of course, it would be ideal if they could be provided with gainful and fruitful employment, but where that is not possible it is quite legitimate to request that individuals contribute to the upkeep of their communities in return for monetary sustenance. This is especially the case with the young, with people who are loosening their ties with their families and entering for the first time into proper social and community life. Absolutely the worst thing society could do for this section of society – for the 16- to 24-year-olds whom workfare is aimed at – is communicate to them the idea that society will sustain and reward you for doing nothing, for simply existing.

The impact of that message on youth is likely to be dire: it will inflame today’s already existing culture of entitlement, and further alienate youth from both their communities and their peers, encouraging them to suckle at the teat of the state rather than to use their own resourcefulness to strike up relationships with people and institutions in their communities. At precisely a time when young people should be showing initiative, taking risks, ‘getting on their bikes’ perhaps, venturing into the unforgiving world and making a niche or a name or just a living for themselves, they are instead encouraged by the welfare statists of the modern liberal elite and the anti-workfare lobby to stay home, wait, be sustained by external actors. The healthy pressure of economic need is replaced by the soul-zapping sustenance of the state’s largesse. It might even be an idea to withdraw benefits from the 16- to 24-year-old age bracket entirely, apart from to those who are disabled or who have children to care for, in order to demonstrate how seriously society takes the exercise of self-drive and risk-taking amongst the young.

None of this, none of the consequences of entangling large sections of youth into a deadening relationship with the state, crosses the minds of the anti-workfare activists. That is because these campaigners – well-fed, middle-class, utterly removed from the condition in which many working-class young people find themselves today – relate to these people’s problems entirely through the vicarious prism of pity rather than through the lived and shared political category of solidarity. Viewing working-class youth more like lobsters in a restaurant tank whom they want to save rather than individuals capable of fighting and striving for work and a better life, they employ that most self-flattering, luxuriant emotion known to man – pity, the aloof projection of a highly condescending sorrow on to people of whom they know little. And as that ancient proverb says: ‘Friends help; others pity.’

That should be the motto of self-respecting working-class youth in modern Britain: ‘Friends help; others pity.’ They should reject the patronising assistance offered by the welfare state and its thoughtless, well-off cheerleaders and instead turn to ‘friends’ – family, peers, colleagues, communities – for opportunities and tips and the kind of proper, face-to-face moral sustenance that can never be provided by a faceless bureaucrat. That would be better than falling deeper into the system of what we might call ‘vicarious workshyness’, where it is patronising outsiders who now seek to convince working-class youth that they should be shy of work, afear’d of it, because it might be asking too much of them and it might damage their self-esteem. Yes, there is something Dickensian in the workfare debate, but it isn’t that workfare is like the workhouse – it is that the critics of workfare are driven by the same priestly moralism and ‘Good Tory’ desire to save the downtrodden that afflicted rather too many of Dickens’ characters.



Political correctness is most pervasive in universities and colleges but I rarely report the incidents concerned here as I have a separate blog for educational matters.

American "liberals" often deny being Leftists and say that they are very different from the Communist rulers of other countries. The only real difference, however, is how much power they have. In America, their power is limited by democracy. To see what they WOULD be like with more power, look at where they ARE already very powerful: in America's educational system -- particularly in the universities and colleges. They show there the same respect for free-speech and political diversity that Stalin did: None. So look to the colleges to see what the whole country would be like if "liberals" had their way. It would be a dictatorship.

For more postings from me, see TONGUE-TIED, GREENIE WATCH, EDUCATION WATCH INTERNATIONAL, FOOD & HEALTH SKEPTIC, GUN WATCH, AUSTRALIAN POLITICS, DISSECTING LEFTISM, IMMIGRATION WATCH INTERNATIONAL and EYE ON BRITAIN (Note that EYE ON BRITAIN has regular posts on the reality of socialized medicine). My Home Pages are here or here or here. Email me (John Ray) here. For readers in China or for times when is playing up, there is a mirror of this site here.


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