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Thursday, March 5, 2009

Who Is Accountable?

Accountability is defined as "A is accountable to B when A is obliged to inform B about A’s (past or future) actions and decisions, to justify them, and to suffer punishment in the case of eventual misconduct" Schedler, Andreas (1999). "Conceptualizing Accountability". in Andreas Schedler, Larry Diamond, Marc F. Plattner. The Self-Restraining State: Power and Accountability in New Democracies. London: Lynne Rienner Publishers. pp. 13–28. ISBN 1-55587-773-7. Today, corporate scandals abound and the culture of victimization seemingly runs rampant at every level of the business world as noted by Connors, Smith, and Hickman, authors of the book The Oz Principle. Most agree there exists a great need for individuals, organizations, and businesses to become more accountable. When people ignore or pretend not to know about personal accountability, they begin to blame others or claim great confusion about their situations. Sometimes they then begin to ask someone else to tell them what to do, claim they can't do their share of work, or wait for a situation to magically resolve itself. Ethical behavior most surely requires accountability. Whether it be a couple in the process of adopting a child or a multi-billion dollar firm conducting business, accountability ranks high on the scale of proper intentions in the transactions. Most believe the corporate world is divided into ethical, good corporations and unethical, bad corporations led by those with selfish motivations. Of course, the reality is that any good corporation can probably find some bad apples in the mix; however, track records have seemed to identify certain companies as particularly evil in their manner of conducting business. Mark Twain once quipped, "The secret of success is honesty and fair dealing. If you can fake these, you've got it made." This humorous citation speaks loudly about the false front presented by those who prefer deception over the difficult task of preserving accountable, truthful policies and behaviors. As humans with good intentions and trusting natures, people are often fooled by false claims and false promises. Their ability to perceive a well-disguised lie is often very poor. The great philosopher Socrates taught that evil is the result of ignorance, an ignorance of mental and spiritual consequences for one's actions. True knowledge, on the other hand, demands virtue and this virtue will bring happiness. His belief confirms that anyone who knows what is truly right will automatically do it, and the true wise man will do what is good and be happy. Socrates must be held in low regard by many shady businesses that deny accountability and practice deception to cloak malpractice. Happiness for some corporate officials is measured in dollar bills. Money drives these powerful people to criminal activities while their greed exceeds any concern for the intrinsic worth of personal integrity. Lack of accountability on the management level becomes the stimulus and soon entire businesses become infected with the immoral disease. Too often, when caught in misconduct, the officials cry "Victimization!" as they bleed shareholders dry. In a perfect world, all humans would expect to be responsible for their own actions. Unfortunately, culture often teaches blame and passing the buck better than it teaches ethical responsibility. So many people are suffering from the sins of the greedy and dishonest. A return to accountability and reform must progress from the planning stages into everyday practice.
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