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If they can do this, what can’t they do? oktober 29, 2016

Posted by Kaj Grüssner in Debatt, Frivilligt samarbete, Naturliga rättigheter, Paternalism, Rättighetskränkningar.

The demands for quotas in the boardrooms of publicly listed companies have been voiced for many years, but are becoming increasingly shriller. The arguments on both sides have remained largely the same from the beginning. Those who favour it cite the need for cancelling out the supposed institutional sexism, i.e. that women aren’t being nominated to the boards simply because they are women. Those who oppose it cite the right of the owners do decide themselves who sits on the board, and that quotas will undermine the credibility of the women who actually get on the boards.

While I certainly acknowledge the arguments of the “against”-people, I think the focus is much too narrow. The real question is this: If the government can mandate a gender-based quota in the boardrooms of a specific group of companies (i.e. publicly listed), what can’t they do? Now I freely admit I don’t pay that close attention to public discourse on this topic, so if this question has been raised, mea culpa. But I haven’t heard it. And in my opinion, it is the central one.

Another question is this: based on what authority could the government make such a law? What specific provision in the current legal code gives the government this authority? I would be grateful if the advocates for gender quotas could provide the answer.

Returning to the initial question. If we acknowledge that the government indeed has this authority, where does it end? If it can enact gender-based quotas, then why not other kind of quotas? If it can enact quotas for publicly listed companies, then why not for private companies, private organizations, clubs or any other private association, such as a football club? And if it can enact quotas for board of directors, then why not for the executive management board, regional management teams etc? And what about foreign companies? If a foreign group’s parent company’s board does not meet the enacted quotas, can the government order that group’s local subsidiary to seize operations?

I know, or at least hope, that most of you reading this instinctively thinks NO to most of these hypothetic questions. But what is that NO based on? If the gender-quota is allowed, there is no non-arbitrary line to be drawn. Hence the initial question. If we allow that, then what possible grounds do we have to oppose what naturally follows?

The same question is of course applicable to everything the government does. If a 35% tax rate is okay, then why not 45%, 65% or 95%? If one kind of state monopoly is okay, then why not another? If some professions require government license, then why not all professions? I think you get my point.

Government is the embodiment of arbitrariness and relativism. There are no principles because there can’t be any. Everything is decided on a whim, a (necessarily false) presumption of knowledge, with the inevitable consequence that every decision is subject to change at any moment. The effect this has and has had on people is dire, but that is a topic for another day.