The Problem With Gender Quotas

Nearly every day, an article pops up on Twitter stating, “We need more women to become [fill in the blank].” From engineers to CEOs, writers to philosophers, women are told there is such-and-such a position they must fill in order to bring balance to the galaxy. To further this goal, Germany has created a new plan:

According to a new agreement between the parties negotiating to form Germany’s next governing coalition, supervisory boards for companies registered on the German stock exchange will need to be at least 30 percent female starting in 2016 … From the U.S., where women held only 16.1 percent of board seats by last count, it’s an intriguing experiment to watch for several reasons. Government-directed quotas are potentially unconstitutional, and even private companies seeking to set quotas have been told affirmative action plans need to meet pretty strict requirements to survive an equal protection or Civil Rights Act-based challenge. But many of the folks following women’s lack of progress on Wall Street would like to see the U.S. be, well, a little more Teutonic.

It’s an interesting proposition, and seems to promote a sort of necessary balance. But there are some problems with this idea of “egalitarianism” that Micah Mattix identified well in a Tuesday TAC post:

On the one hand, it is asserted that there are no differences between men and women; therefore, every vocation, every position type, should reflect the country’s gender ratio. If the ratio is not reflected, it is the result of some injustice, again because there is no reason other than discrimination for fewer women in this or that vocation. On the other hand, is asserted that having more women in a certain profession or vocation would make it better because it would add something that was missing. But if there is no difference between men and women, what could possibly be missing?

To put it simply: these articles argue that there are no differences between men and women as such. They believe men and women only differentiate on an individual basis. But if this is true, one shouldn’t need gender quotas to help promote a “missing” element.

Now, if women are truly being discriminated against, then this is a problem. If women were failing the bar exam because of a discriminatory system, or if a company refused to hire women CEO’s simply because of their gender, it would be a serious problem. But this seems better remedied on a case-by-case basis than through a statewide quota.

Germany is a democratic country. If women aren’t vying for certain company positions, might it be because some don’t actually want those positions? According to Katrin Bennhold, that’s the problem: in a 2011 New York Times story, she said gender stereotypes (specifically, “the mother myth”) perpetuated throughout Germany’s history have deceived the female populace. She quotes Angelika Dammann, the “first and only female board member at software giant SAP”: “We are still very far from a situation where it’s as normal for women as for men to want both …read more

Via: American Conservative

    

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Self-Driving Cars and Why We Want Them

Driving from Washington, D.C., to Atlanta this Thanksgiving weekend, I had the opportunity to read Burkhard Bilger’s great New Yorker article on the development of self-driving cars. It’s a long, involved story melding technical accomplishments with personal storytelling, and throws in a healthy dash of historical context. I was able to take the time to work through the full thing because I was in the back seat, freed from driving responsibilities by my absence from the rental car agreement my parents had signed up in York, PA. From time to time I booted up my laptop, and started surfing the web using a Verizon wireless hotspot, at full 4G LTE speeds. My sister used this same arrangement to watch movies streaming from Netflix, one more way to pass the tedium. We are just old enough (mid-twenties) to still be able to occasionally gasp at the seeming absurdity of streaming high quality video and maintaining instantaneous communication with the wider world while hurtling down the highway at 70 miles an hour. The road trip entertainment of our childhood was strictly restricted to the print and personal variety.

We now have ever more activities to occupy our time, and a worldwide connection that can follow us nearly anywhere we go. We don’t need to lose connection when we take off or land in a plane. Why shouldn’t the driver be able to get in on the fun?

From the consumer’s point of view, this is the great appeal of self-driving vehicles: liberation from the monotony of hurtling down empty expanses of highway, or inching along in the gridlock of the commute. Bilger cites an earlier advertisement for the long prophesied self-driving cars as depicting a family turned toward the each other, playing checkers as they move. But as Bilger describes Google’s motivations in pouring its resources into developing this technology, the men of Mountain View have more on their mind than consumer convenience. Relief from tedium through automation was the promise of the last century, the pitch that sold a thousand washing machines.

Instead, Sergey Brin, one of Google’s co-founders, wants nothing more than to (wait for it) “fundamentally change the world with this.” He looks out on the expanse of America’s urban landscape and sees wide swaths of wasted land as cars are used for a couple hours a day at most, then occupy prime real estate unproductively the rest of the day. His self-driving cars can become a fleet, providing personal car service to commuters at a far higher efficiency than today’s taxies, yet more flexible than metro, bus, or light-rail systems. As Brin said, “We’re not trying to fit into an existing business model … We are just on such a different planet.” At least so far, though, that different planet doesn’t let free the driver from his responsibility behind the wheel. Attentive human beings are required to be at the ready in case the car needs to hand off responsibility, having become confused. Even assuming as we surely should …read more

Via: American Conservative

    

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The top ten reasons to "shop small" on Small Business Saturday

Small-business owners are looking forward to participating in the growing trend of “shopping small” on the Saturday after Thanksgiving. If you are looking for reasons to shop small, here are just a few.

…read more

Via: Fox Opines

    

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Republicans Will Embrace Iran Diplomacy—If They’re Smart

When, after the massacres at Newtown and the Washington Navy Yard, Republicans refused to outlaw the AR-15 rifle or require background checks for gun purchasers, we were told the party had committed suicide by defying 90 percent of the nation.

When Republicans rejected amnesty and a path to citizenship for illegal aliens, we were told the GOP had just forfeited its future.

When House Republicans refused to fund Obamacare, the government was shut down and the Tea Party was blamed, word went forth: The GOP has destroyed its brand. Republicans face a wipeout in 2014. It will take a generation to remove this mark of Cain.

Eight weeks later, Obama’s approval is below 40 percent. Most Americans find him untrustworthy. And the GOP is favored to hold the seats it has in the House while making gains in the Senate.

For this reversal of fortunes, Republicans can thank the rollout of Obamacare—the website that does not work, the revelation that, contrary to Obama’s promise, millions are losing health care plans that they liked, and the reports of soaring premiums and sinking benefits.

Democrats, however, might take comfort in the old maxim: If you don’t like the weather here, just wait a while.

For, egged on by Bibi Netanyahu and the Israeli Lobby AIPAC, the neocons are anticipating the return of Congress to start work on new sanctions on Iran. Should they succeed, they just might abort the Geneva talks or even torpedo the six-month deal with Iran.

While shaking a fist in the face of the Ayatollah will rally the Republican base, it does not appear to be a formula for winning the nation.

According to a Reuters/Ipsos poll from Tuesday, by 44-22 Americans approve of the deal NATO, Russia, and China cut with Tehran to freeze its nuclear program.

While two-thirds do not trust Iran when it says its program is not designed to build nuclear weapons, fully 65 percent believe “the United States should not become involved in any military action in the Middle East unless America is directly threatened.”

Only 21 percent disagree.

This is the nation that rose up last summer and told Obama it did not want to get involved in Syria’s civil war, and told Congress to deny Obama the authority to order air strikes—red line or no red line.

Even if the Iran deal collapses, 80 percent of Americans would favor a return to the sanctions regime and negotiations. Only 20 percent would support military action against Iran.

In summary, while Americans do not trust Iran, they do not want war with Iran. They want to test Iran. On this issue, Obama is in sync with his countrymen.

Why, looking at these numbers, would Republicans return to Washington with a full-metal-jacket ,”axis-of-evil” attitude, with John McCain becoming again the face of the party?

Why would Republicans return to Washington and throw away the winning hand that is Obamacare? It is ravaging the president’s reputation for competence and his credibility, and calling into question the core philosophy of the Democratic Party—that Big Government is America’s salvation.

Why would Republicans return to …read more

Via: American Conservative

    

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Thanksgiving: Offering Our Harvest

Where I grew up, autumn is a season of first fruits. Work-hardened hands are connected to soft, generous hearts. Heritage is plowed into your heart-soil, tradition resonates in everyday rhythms, and praise is the crop that bursts forth from rich hard earth.

My farmer great-grandpa (we called him “Grandpa Dad”) would hold me on his knee, calloused hands cradling my four-year-old frame, and tell me stories. He painted pictures with soft, deep words: of silent movies and driving a four-horse team at age eight. Of his father, who traveled west in a covered wagon and homesteaded in wild, bare Idaho land. I can still see his handsome, wrinkled face; still feel him pull me into his strong, cologne-spiced hug; still hear the rich velvety tones of his voice—a voice that would always melt into chuckles of peace and praise.

Every fall, we sat around the rough wooden picnic table, shucking golden sweet corn: Grandpa Dad, Grandpa Wally, Daddy, my brothers. Grandpa Wally was a pepper-haired man with an infectious belly laugh, who waltzed with me as a baby and always told me, “Grace, you should go to a school out east. You should see the world.” He put on his overalls and work boots, and worked while the sun slumbers. To bed at 8 p.m., awake at 4 a.m. His sweet corn, fresh beef, and brown-speckled eggs filled our stomachs year round. Face brown and wrinkled from the sun, teeth glinting with gold eyes glinting with humor, his bass voice made the floor tremble. He raised five children to the gospel truth, to hard work, to the golden laughter of peace and praise.

Our Thanksgiving table was always heavy-laden with turkey, potatoes, stuffing, biscuits, all the food our stomachs could hold (and more). We weren’t all farmers, but we shared our labors, prepared with soft and calloused hands alike. We found rest for our souls at that table, though sometimes that meant words were left unspoken—stuffed under the rug or left outside the door in chilly November air.

I never appreciated that time when living it. There was a casual, steady reliability in it. There was no reason to expect anything else. Grandma’s candles and china, her careful place settings—they never changed. Neither, I thought, would we. But people change and move with the seasons. When I look out on sunsets and leaves painted cinnamon, I think of home. When I see a field of tall, golden-crowned corn, counting their glorious rows, I remember the harvest—always given to family.

I remember the warmth of Grandpa Dad’s red flannel shirt, his straw hat perched on snowy white hair, and his straight white teeth smiling joyously back at me. Though he passed on to glory at 96, I still see him in the harvest. His life trained ours—to work for God and for family, to give back the first fruits with praise.

I remember my Grandpa Wally’s words when I was about eleven years old: “Grace, when you grow up, you should write a story about me.” It was said jokingly. But the …read more

Via: American Conservative

    

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Celebrating hard work and workers this holiday

At 5:00 p.m. on most Thanksgivings, my family is just finishing dinner — aunts and uncles poking at the last strands of turkey on the platter and all of the kids jiggling pumpkin pie with their fingers or forks.

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Via: Fox Opines

    

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Our “Traditional” Mideast Allies Are Not All Opposed to Iran Deal

Philip Weiss calls out WNYC host Brian Lehrer and others for emphasizing the non-Israeli opposition to the interim Geneva Iran deal:

One of the irritations of coverage of the Iranian deal is the extent to which the American media say reflexively that Saudi Arabia and the Gulf States along with Israel oppose the deal. Yesterday on WNYC, for instance, Brian Lehrer urged listeners “not to pigeonhole Israel as the only major opponent of this. It’s also Saudi Arabia, it’s also Turkey… the other Gulf states like Qatar… don’t want Iran strengthened as they see it or even legitimized.”

This is important, because it’s becoming a standard argument against negotiating with Iran, echoed by the neoconservatives and hawks in Congress. We are, so the claim goes, ignoring or “abandoning” our “traditional” allies. The thing is, it’s simply not true. Saudi Arabia has already voiced support for the deal. I’m sure they don’t much like it, and the Sunni-Shia intra-Islamic rivalry weighs heavily on them. But they simply aren’t going for Netanyahu-style petulance. And not just Saudi Arabia. Juan Cole here outlines the extent of the Middle Eastern support of the p5+1 Iran negotiation, recording positive or favorable reactions from the governments or Turkey, Egypt, Jordan, the United Arab Emirates, Iraq, Lebanon, and Algeria. Of course Oman hosted secret talks between American diplomats and Tehran’s.

I don’t doubt the diplomacy is making the Saudis uncomfortable, and visitors to the kingdom have long remarked on visceral anti-Iran sentiment there. But they aren’t going to play a spoilers role. One diplomat who knows the country well described the Saudis as “realists” who will “adapt to what happens.” There is widespread Arab suspicion about Iranian intentions in the Gulf, and no desire to fall under Iran’s hegemony. But that’s an American strategic goal too, as can be made clear with words and deeds.

Moreover, for all the Arabs, there is a silver lining in the cloud of possible detente between Iran and the West: the possibility of renewed attention to the other nuclear proliferator in their region, the one which actually has introduced weapons to the region. On Monday, the Saudi Embassy tweeted out

I doubt we can expect Saudi Arabia to take the lead in non-proliferation diplomacy, but I wouldn’t count on them plotting with Israel to carry out anti-Iran military strikes either. The Mideast “free of all WMD” is a rhetorical dagger aimed at Israel’s nuclear arsenal. Bit by bit that critical taboo subject is emerging from the shadows of journalistic neglect.

…read more

Via: American Conservative

    

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Generosity starts at home — raising generous, caring children in a selfish age

It may be hard to make the case that the toddler who screams “Mine!” every time someone gets close to his favorite toy actually has a natural inclination toward generosity. But it is true that children watch the adults around them and, like sponges, absorb the values they see modeled by their parents.

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Via: Fox Opines

    

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