It seems the latest buzzword in politics, especially in Democratic circles, is that of “accountability.” Whether it be holding the Bush Administration accountable for the war in Iraq, holding businesses accountable for their environmentally degrading practices, or holding CEO’s accountable for their insider trading scandals, it seems that accountability is in. As with any buzzword, I like to see what Webster has to say:
acÂ·countÂ·abilÂ·iÂ·ty : an obligation or willingness to accept responsibility or to account for one’s actions
According to Webster’s, accountability starts where blame leaves off. It is the obligation we have placed upon an individual or group to be responsible for their own actions. So accountability implies a positive right; that is, it imposes a moral obligation upon the individual or group being held accountable. This, in my opinion, is not a constructive means of ensuring social justice.
Critics of the Bush administration’s domestic spying programs cite privacy violations as the chief concern in the issue. They believe that the government is infringing on citizens’ negative rights to privacy. This is true. However, the same critics believe the Bush administration should be held accountable for the war in Iraq, be it by impeachment proceedings or the guillotine. While I do agree that the administration has committed crimes against humanity, removing it from power will not solve the quagmire at hand. Such proceedings will only perpetuate the negative attitude which has plagued the tenure of this administration since its inauguration in 2000.
While I do believe taking to the streets is necessary to encourage solidarity, there comes a point where the fine line between constructive protest and incessant whining is crossed. Take the labor union movement, for example. Although unions were put in place to protect the working class from its white collar bourgeois, wouldn’t it be more effective for labor unions to assemble their assets and create their own means of production? The amount of red tape unions create for businesses is astronomical. In a market economy, the prospect of a body of workers investing in their own business is not unthinkable. And yet, labor unions continue to lodge complaints against the lords they serve, not thinking to cease economic power for themselves. A lord without peasants is a peasant himself.