How Intelligent Accountability Can Stop Bureaucratic Excess and Improve Governance

Over the last years of financial disasters on a global scale, we often heard the mantra “we need to build trust in the institutions” – this being the very essence of our economic and political systems. Professor O’Neill, a leading moral philosopher, member of the House of Lords and Chair of the British Equality and Human Rights Commission, argues that the new culture of accountability – promoted as a way to reduce untrustworthiness and to assure control of institutional and professional performance – is fundamentally misguided: “The technologies that spread information so easily are just as good at spreading misinformation – and with misinformation, we get distrust”. We need more intelligent approaches to accountability than many regulatory approaches permit, and more relevant standards of communication than a focus on transparency typically demands. Too much intrusion and oversight limits people’s ability to make judgments. Observing the problem both as an issue of ethics of communication and political philosophy, the prolific author of books and articles on justice, bioethics and Kant’s Practical Philosophy presents her enlightening analysis of what the culture of bureaucracy has destroyed over the past 25 years, and proposes an alternative mindset.

Onora O’Neill

Cambridge University, UK

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