Timothy Francis-Wright twright at
Tue May 8 20:05:01 PDT 2001

> [iso-8859-1] Double Dog D**2 wrote:
> The guys setting up in your shop are the purest form of
> accountant existing today - the auditor. An accountant is, by
> his nature, a recorder of transactions, a person who puts
> together the records of what moved where when. Like any other
> profession, what separates him from the rest of the proleteriat
> is partly his technical skill and partly his social role.
> The technical skill of the accountant is largely in the
> allocation of transactions to time periods and in the
> consolidation of separate books. His social role is that he is
> independent -- like a doctor or lawyer, part of his role is to
> be entirely discreet and trustworthy. The UK Companies Act
> sums it up best -- his role is to give a "true and fair view"
> of what has happened in a year.
> I say that the _profession_ of accountancy has resisted the
> encroachment of capitalism, because although individual
> accountants have obviously peeled off to join the bourgeoisie
> in their droves, the standards of the profession itself have
> resisted being warped far better than most others. You will
> not find an accountant's equivalent of the legal personality
> of corporations, or of judging teachers by the post-graduation
> salaries of their students or any such. The idea that accounts
> exist in order that "shareholder value" be maximised and
> measured is less than ten years old, and is still looked on as
> a bizarre innovation in many circles. In general, accountants
> still, as far as I can ascertain (and I know a fair few of that
> breed), regard themselves as being involved in the activity of
> measuring and recording physical activity and transactions,
> rather than of serving any particular end. Which often makes
> bog-standard, bean-counting auditors rather refreshing company.
> dd
These are all points well taken, but I note that (at least American) CPA and law firms evince a bizarre form of surplus labor. The professional in either firm who is not a partner has one thing of value to the firm: billable hours. However, one's salary is not generally proportionate to one's billable hours (although a certain minimum is expected).

The situation greatly benefits the partners in a truly efficient firm: associates work for essentially fixed salaries, and their surplus labor is both quantifiable and the source of much of the firm's profit.

--Tim Francis-Wright "Interfere? Why of course we should interfere! Always do what you're best at, I always say!" -- The Doctor

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