Think of a problem that you believe is impacting the modern world. Now, Google for that term and add the word “accountability”. The chances are you will immediately see results linking to articles that bemoan a lack of accountability in the modern world.
We’ve all been taught to see accountability as a positive thing, but have you ever mused on the concept in and of itself? If not, it’s definitely worth considering in depth— and there’s a handy starter guide to the concept, and its limitations, below…
What is accountability?
Essentially, accountability means an individual or a body (such as a government or a corporation) accepting their role in an bad situation. Let’s say that a company fails to adhere to health and safety laws, and there is an accident in their workplace that costs the lives of several of their employees. In this scenario, accountability would mean an apology, and willingly entering into a settlement process with a wrongful death lawyer representing the families of the victims. There would also likely need to be assurances the same scenario could not happen again, through improving health and safety techniques. That would be true accountability.
However, this very rarely happens, and that’s particularly true with corporations and governments. A lack of accountability has eroded people’s trust in institutions, who many people believe to be above the law.
How beneficial is accountability?
How long is a piece of string? There’s no way of quantifying how useful accountability can be, but we do know it has some advantages:
Full accountability helps to prevent bad situations from being repeated, by forcing change on operations and management.
Full accountability helps to provide some solace for the victims and their families.
Accountability is honest; it’s mature; and it encourages people and corporations to think before they act.
What are the limitations of accountability?
While accountability can help a victim feel vindicated, and may help them financially with a legal settlement, it certainly isn’t a magic wand that waves away all of their problems. Victims will still suffer after-effects, and bereaved families will still be bereaved.
However, many people find that accountability is better than nothing, and is worth pursuing on a personal and societal level.
What can I do to help hold institutions accountable?
Accountability has a key role to play in activism, and forcing companies to be held accountable for their actions is incredibly important. You can protest, ask questions, submit freedom of information requests, and even join class action lawsuits if you have been directly damaged by the actions of a person or corporation.
However, it’s also important to be more accountable in your own life. Own your decisions; think things through before you act so you can always justify your choices if required; and seek reparations if a poor decision leads to problems. Accountability is important on a societal level, but as with most things in life, the real work begins a little closer to home. By learning to be accountable in your own life, you are practicing a key skill that is genuinely vital to the success of modern society. Good luck.