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Interesting Blog: Blind Spots

March 25, 2021 11 comments

A few weeks ago, I came across a blog called Blind Spots. It is largely about the many blind spots often displayed by supposedly “smart” and “credentialed” people which are caused by worship of ideas, stories, theories, and signalling. Too bad, it only contains a few posts.

Accountancy is the Priesthood of Modern Life

Like the priests and bishops of old, it has become quite standard for the accountants within the finance function to stand at the apex of influence within our organisations and tell the rest of us what and how to think about business. It is routine that the finance function is more influential than and dictates to marketing and other income-generating teams but it is extremely rare to see the inverse. It is even becoming increasingly common for CFOs to hold dominion over cybersecurity and other IT functions when it would be inconceivable to imagine a finance department answering into a computer science-educated Chief Technology Officer.

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I’ve written before about the blinding effect abstractions can have on us when we drift into thinking the symbols are more real than the things they were created to represent. Money is a representation of value. A scoring system against which we can grade the worth of real life things. Without the resources to buy with it, it is completely worthless. Accountancy-thought, due to the ease with which costs can be counted compared to benefit, or money can be counted compared to the value of real-life stuff, has led us to develop a habit of over-focus on cash to the neglect of the things that cash can buy, which is presumably what we were all in it for in the first place.

Capitalism is Bad for Business

Commerce is roughly as old as recorded history itself. The later-stage first farmers appear to have been the first humans to trade with one another over 5,000 years ago in the fertile crescent region we now know as the Middle East. For as long as we produced surplus to what we needed, we sold that excess in markets. As things developed further, the demand, and therefore supply, evolved for specialists and skilled tradespeople who could work with metals, furs, wood, or pottery. And so the trade in services was also born.

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In reality, the most far-reaching element of these economic policies was the promotion of shareholder value above everything else in society. When you decide that the most important thing in a society is that people be able to invest in something and sell it for a higher price, it has the effect of turning everything and everyone in that society into a gambling chip: companies, property, even people. We call this effect financialisation. Think of any financial instrument as a gambling chip; it is something you can buy in the hope of either selling it at a higher price or earning a dividend or rent off of without having to work.

What do you think? Comments?