“Vad jag behöver är någon som ser mig, inte mitt kön”

Den nya LUF-bloggaren Elin Hedlund skriver väldigt bra om varför hon som kvinna är emot kvotering:

För att fortsätta på den mindre glättiga linjen kan nämnas att jag i framtiden skulle ha tjänat 15 % mer ifall jag var man, oavsett kompetens, och att det finns själar som menar att det rätta sättet att få in mig i styrelser är kvotering – som om det skulle få folk att stirra på mig mindre när jag kommer till festen iklädd kostym. Vad jag behöver är någon som ser mig, inte mitt kön. Någon som förstår att kunskap och kompetens sitter lika lite i könet som det sitter i hårfärg eller längd. Tyvärr är de som skriker fel de som skriker högst, och resultatet blir att nästan uteslutande folk från patriarkaliskt eller vänsterfeministiskt håll hörs på den politiska arenan. Var finns de könsnormsbrytande individualisterna?

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Jenny Lind meets Jussi Björling

On Wednesday I was fortunate enough to hear two very promising young Swedish singers in recital. The recital programme is a homage to two of Sweden’s greatest classical singers: Jenny Lind (1820-1887) and Jussi Björling (1911-1960), so it was fitting that the performance I heard was in Björling’s birthplace, Borlänge.

As I’ve written in my review for Seen and Heard International, I was very impressed by both singers and by the accompanist. The programme was also very well thought out, starting with songs associated with Lind and Björling and going on to some very fine opera arias.

The recital (with a shortened programme) is being performed at the Gothenburg Culture Festival on Thursday 18 August. As entry is free I would strongly recommend anyone in Gothenburg to give up an hour of their evening – you won’t regret it.

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Locke, Hobbes and two smoking barrels

"I'm offering you a free choice."

Since I have started writing about weighty issues of political philosophy I thought now would be a good time to explain how I define liberty.

The most influential modern definition of liberty is the absence of coercion. But what this means has always been contested. (What follows owes a lot to Quentin Skinner’s fascinating lecture “A genealogy of liberty”, which is summarised here.)

The discussion of coercion in political theory starts with Thomas Hobbes’ Leviathan. Hobbes argues that to coerce someone is to physically prevent them from doing something (or force them to do something). On his definition, the highwayman’s demand for “your money or your life” is not coercive, because he gives you a free choice. So there is no such thing as coercion of the will, only of the body (e.g. the highwayman wrestles you to the ground and takes your purse by force, without making any threat).

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The liberalism of Harry Potter

Liberal literature? Photo CC BY-NC-SA bibicall on Flickr

What would you think of a government that engaged in this list of tyrannical activities: tortured children for lying; designed its prison specifically to suck all life and hope out of the inmates; placed citizens in that prison without a hearing; ordered the death penalty without a trial; allowed the powerful, rich, or famous to control policy; selectively prosecuted crimes (the powerful go unpunished and the unpopular face trumped-up charges); conducted criminal trials without defense counsel; used truth serum to force confessions; maintained constant surveillance over all citizens; offered no elections and no democratic lawmaking process; and controlled the press?

You might assume that the above list is the work of some despotic central African nation, but it is actually the product of the Ministry of Magic, the magicians’ government in J.K. Rowling’s Harry Potter series.

So begins one of the most interesting articles I have read in a while: “Harry Potter and the Half-Crazed Bureaucracy” (pdf) by Benjamin Barton (abstract here), an American law professor.* Lib Dems have already discussed Daniel Radcliffe’s liberal leanings, but according to Mr Barton the Harry Potter books themselves have a liberal or even libertarian message. (If they do, it’s a much more effective way of spreading it than writing rather dry blogposts about whether liberalism and democracy work together like yours truly.)

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Liberty meets democracy: a car crash, or creative tension?

Warning: this post may contain traces of political philosophy

Norway’s Prime Minister has vowed to fight terrorism with “more democracy”. But would he still be so keen if Norwegians voted to execute the man responsible for the terrorist attacks on Oslo and Utøya?*

Democracy is the ultimate hurrah-word. It is used by so many people as a catch-all description of a just political system that we are at risk of forgetting the actual meaning of the word. Fundamentally, “democracy” means “rule of the people”. Or, to define it more accurately, “rule by the majority of adult citizens”. Put that way, it becomes obvious that the values of democracy and liberty can collide, as Chris Dillow has pointed out in two thought-provoking posts.

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Kvotering i kommunala bolagsstyrelser gör ingen nytta

Man behöver vara superhjälte om man ska förbättra jämställdheten i arbetslivet. Foto: CC BY-NC-ND *Kicki* på Flickr

Nyamko Sabuni utmärkas vanligtvis av principfasthet även när hon har impopulära ståndpunkter. Men tydligen har avsaknaden av jämställdhet i styrelser fått henne att ompröva sitt motstånd mot kvotering. Hon har därför föreslagit att kommunala bolag borde ha minst 40 % av vardera könen i sina styrelser. Problemet med förslaget är inte bara själva kvoteringen (ett redskap som jag är emot av principiella skäl). Det är också att dess effekt på jämställdheten i arbetslivet kommer att vara nära noll.

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Benjamin Britten’s ghost story in a Swedish castle

My second review for Seen and Heard International is of a production of Benjamin Britten’s haunting chamber opera The Turn of the Screw at Läckö Castle. As always, Simon Phipps, the conductor and artistic director for Läckö’s summer opera productions, has done very well:

Special praise must go to the orchestra, who provided excellent accompaniment for the singers and very atmospheric orchestral interludes. Läckö’s audience is not the typical opera crowd, being a bit younger and with a sizable proportion of curious locals and tourists among the diehard opera-lovers. Nevertheless they were all mesmerised by the whole experience, with hardly a movement or cough throughout the performance.

Read the full review here.

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My first review for Seen and Heard

I have just become a reviewer for Seen and Heard International, part of one of the world’s leading online classical music review magazines. My first review is of the fantastic Ring Cycle at Wermland Opera that I have written about in detail on this blog.

I’ve been asked to provide a short byline to introduce myself to their readers, and here it is:

Niklas’ interest in classical music began when he attended the Salzburg Easter Festival in utero and greatly enjoyed Herbert von Karajan’s conducting. He grew up in England and while at school and studying History and Economics at Cambridge performed in student choirs and orchestras. He now lives in Gothenburg, Sweden and is a regular member of the audience at the local Opera and Symphony Orchestra.

My next review will be of Benjamin Britten’s The Turn of the Screw at the Läcko Castle Opera. Don’t miss it – subscribe to this blog or to Seen and Heard International.

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Om en man kan visa så mycket hat, tänk hur mycket kärlek vi alla kan visa tillsammans

Jag har precis fått följande e-post från Liberala ungdomsförbundet:

Hej kära kongressdeltagare,

Det som har skett i Norge kan knappt beskrivas med ord. Våra tankar är med alla dem som förolyckats i Norge. Men Liberala ungdomsförbundets kongress som äger rum i veckan kommer genomföras utan förändringar. Det enda vi i Liberala ungdomsförbundet kan göra är att fortsätta det demokratiska och liberala arbetet. I dag behövs det humanistiska och demokratiska mer än någonsin. Det politiska samtalet är raka motsatsen till hatet och våldet.

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Yes, we love Norway

A Norwegian Constitution Day parade

The death toll in Norway is far worse than I thought last night. At least 84 young people are confirmed dead in the shootings on Utøya and seven after the bombing in central Oslo.

When I heard this morning of the number of people killed I was physically shaken. The young people gunned down by a man disguised as a policeman were at the summer camp held every year by the Workers’ Youth League, the youth wing of the governing party. They were people just like me and many of my friends: teenagers and students interested in politics and driven by idealism. They were at a meeting very much like the Swedish Liberal Youth congress I am going to next week.

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