Friday, October 21, 2005

Harriet the Bookkeeper

I was just reading at Carpetbagger about Harriet Miers and her law license suspensions.  Not only has she lost it to unpaid dues once, but twice.  And Carpetbagger contrasts this with the image we’ve been given of Miers as a meticulous person who takes care of all the details.  And let me just give my perspective of this.

As an accountant, I’ve had lots of involvement with these detail-oriented people.  The accounting profession is literally teeming with them.  In fact, they really give the rest of us a bad image.  But the thing is, I don’t count those people as being accountants.  Because it’s not about your job title, but about the way you think.  I’ve always broken the profession into two categories: accountants and bookkeepers; but this applies outside the profession too.

Accountants are the smart guys who not only know the rules, but also know why we have the rules.  And it’s that second part that is so important.  If you don’t know why you’re doing something, you won’t know if you maybe shouldn’t be doing it, or how to find a better way of doing it.  And that’s the problem with the bookkeeper-types.  They know the rules and they know that rules are to be enforced.  So that’s what they do.  They enforce rules.  

But they have no real concept of the bigger idea behind the rules and have no idea when the rules shouldn’t apply; nor do they think that they should know such things.  They know rules and they like to enforce them, and they don’t really care where the rules come from.  All that matters is that they’ve got their rules, and by god, those rules will be followed.  And that’s what you want from a bookkeeper; someone who enjoys enforcing your rules.  But because higher-ups mistake this anal tunnel-vision as dedication and devotion, these people inevitably get promoted to positions beyond their abilities and eventually end up as my boss.  That’s why I’m self-employed.

Anal Analysis

And the reason for this analness is simple.  These people are just plain dumb and so they institute rigid rules and hierarchy on the world in order for it to make sense to them.  If things weren’t simple, they’d just collapse into a ball and die.  Complexity boggles them, so they simplify everything down to unbendable rules.

But life isn’t simple, so they’re always bound to fail.  Rather than learning big overarching principles behind everything, they insist on internalizing millions of little rules.  And sometimes these rules are contradictory, and too often they’re completely arbitrary; and yet the bookkeeper will continue to insist that there is no contradiction and that obedience is mandatory.  These are just unimaginative people who can’t perceive a world with different rules, even for the rules that they invent.  The rules are the rules; and that’s what we’re stuck with…unless a superior says otherwise.  But for an underling or outsider to even question the rules is a clear violation of the rules.  Rules exist for the sole purpose of having rules which exist.

But that doesn’t apply to themselves.  Sure, they’d prefer to be perfect in every way, but they aren’t.  And like most people, these bookkeeper-types are great rationalizers.  And so they find their little excuses and ways out.  They slip-up, screw-up, and fuck-up; and they do it as regularly as the rest of us.  We’re just less likely to catch them at it because we’re not like that.  Plus, we’re less likely to rub it in than when they catch us (Personal Disclaimer: I have never actually made a mistake).  And even worse, they hate mistakes and imperfections so much that they’re far more likely to blame you for their screw-ups.

But they screw-up and they’re careless and they forget things.  Everybody does.  That’s part of life.  You know, fuck it.  I really don’t feel like finishing this section.  I kind of know what I’m trying to say, and I think it’s pretty obvious to you too.  But I’m getting tired and this damn post has been sitting on my computer all day.  And sometimes, you just gotta say “fuck it” and just finish the damn post.  So that’s what I’m doing.  I know that I’m slightly lacking in this one section, and it really is a key section; in fact, it’s the crux of my argument.  But if it upsets you so damn much, why don’t you fill it out your own damn selves.  I’m drunk and I’m just not going to take any more crap from any of you.  Continue reading.


And so that might explain Harriet Miers and her meticulous ways which allowed her to forget to pay her own law license dues.  Were these bills for Bush’s subscriptions to Boys’ Life or Maxim, she would certainly have made sure that they were taken care of.  But for herself, that’s just not very important.  Besides, she didn’t have a boss to tell her the rules about that one, so it’s understandable that she wouldn’t know the importance.

And of course, this is all speculation and perhaps I’m being mean.  Perhaps there was some other reason why she didn’t pay her dues (maybe she’s on a tight budget).  Or whatever.  But I really think that this explains Miers very well.  

And if it’s true, then it’s obvious that she’ll make a very lousy Supreme Court justice.  For them, it’s all about overarching principles.  Even the “originalist” justices and their supposedly unbending view of the constitution must invoke greater principles to justify their decisions.  I’m a smart man, but the complexity of constitutional law just baffles me.  And a bookkeeper-type like Miers will be completely lost.  

A regular judge can base everything on specific rules and rigid obedience to the law.  But it’s the Supreme Court’s job to determine what should be law; not to enforce it.  And it just doesn’t look like that’s really Ms. Miers’ strong suit.  The Supreme Court is all about the big picture, not haggling over details.  This just isn’t the job for her.  I wonder if she does taxes.

1 comment:

coturnix said...

As usual, I agree with you.....