Accountabilism

A term coined by David Weinberger1. Some quotes:

Accountability has gone horribly wrong. It has become “accountabalism,” the practice of eating sacrificial victims in an attempt to magically ward off evil.
The emphasis on accountability was an understandable response to some god-awful bookkeeping-based scandals. But the notion would never have evolved from a buzzword into the focus of voluminous legislation if we hadn’t also been lured by the myth of preci- sion: Because accountability suggests that there is a right and a wrong answer to every question, it flourishes where we can measure results exactly. It spread to schools – where it is eating our young – as a result of our recent irrational exuberance about testing, which forces education to become something that can be measured precisely.

Accountabalism assumes perfection – if anything goes wrong, it’s a sign that the system is broken. That’s not true even of mechanical systems: Entropy, friction, and manufacturing tolerances ensure that no machine works perfectly. Social systems are incapable of anything close to perfection, so if something goes wrong in one, that need not mean the system is broken.