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Trust in NumbersThe Pursuit of Objectivity in Science and Public Life$
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Theodore M. Porter

Print publication date: 2020

Print ISBN-13: 9780691208411

Published to Princeton Scholarship Online: January 2021

DOI: 10.23943/princeton/9780691208411.001.0001

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Experts against Objectivity: Accountants and Actuaries

Experts against Objectivity: Accountants and Actuaries

(p.89) Chapter Five Experts against Objectivity: Accountants and Actuaries
Trust in Numbers

Theodore M. Porter

Princeton University Press

This chapter assesses objectivity in accounting. The drive for rigor and standardization arose in response to a world in which local knowledge had become inadequate. Beginning in the late nineteenth century, the elite of accountants in Britain was to be found in independent accounting firms. Independence provided some assurance of impartiality. It was important also for accountants to have a wide reputation for probity and skill, and this came to be guaranteed by the names of a few large firms. These firms spread also to the United States, a more challenging setting in which to maintain a gentlemanly profession. The shift away from elite disinterestedness toward standardization as the basis for accounting objectivity began in earnest in the 1930s. There was much disagreement among prominent accountants about the desirability of standardization. The balance of opinion, especially at the most elite levels, was against it. The chapter then studies actuaries.

Keywords:   objectivity, accounting, standardization, accountants, Britain, impartiality, United States, actuaries

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