Open Book Accounting

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"Open-Book Accounting is an aspiration, a set of ideals for the truly transparent corporation.

Every ledger, every account, every transaction held or made by a transparent corporation should be open and auditable by the world. Commercial confidentiality be damned: we have a right to know." (



"Imagine open-source ideals applied to every aspect of human existence. Since “every aspect of human existence” is a pretty hard thing to describe in less than 100,000,000 words, I'll start with a random starting point and branch out. Let's say I have an on line Book store, and I want to make it into an OpenBusiness. To do this I have to meet a number of license criteria:

- Publish all current and past financial information on line, giving my customers a verifiable break down of what my expenses are and what my revenue is. It is verifiable due to the fact that the customers themselves can see their own transactions appear and can post corrections and objections on line for everyone to see (think ebay feedback) - Publish all business related communication on line (emails, instant chats, VoIP conversation recordings) - Publish all client names and contact information - Publish all source names and contact information ... in general I have to open up my business just as if it was source code.

Of course, by now your heart is pounding either with fear: this guy is naked – he'll get robbed out there ... or with greed: this guy is a moron – let's put him out of his misery before he hurts himself. I say that if you find yourself naked in the middle of the city (and refuse to put your clothes on), then the only other way not to feel naked and/or like a moron is to get your self to a nudist beach.

If a critical mass of business around me adopted the same OpenBusiness model all this fear would disappear. We would all be on a level playing field. All the hassle of having to hide information or to paint a nicer facade for the clients would disappear as well. OpenBusiness would now deliver greater value to the customers just like the open source movement has done for software. When buying a book from the OpenBusiness bookstore you could easily see very interesting information that could guide your buying decision. The usefulness of the information would be intensified by the fact that many OpenBusiness would be linked together.

For example:

- How much profit is this company making on the book compared to some other company? - How many children-man-hours were required during the production of the book? - How many trees were cut down to produce the book? - How much recycled material was used to produce the book? - How much money is going to the author of the book?

All this information would be available by querying the OpenBusiness information interface. Bookstores would stop competing on the basis of who has the lowest price, and start competing on basis of what's most important for their clients. The classic “bottom line” would be replaced by a holistic re-evaluation of value ... this would increase efficiency and cooperation between the OpenBusiness bookstores.

As you can well imagine all this would hinge on absolute trust in transparency. To achieve this OpenBusiness would have to be only one small component of the whole picture. OpenGovernment, OpenNGOs, OpenPoliticalGroups, OpenTaxation, OpenLaw, OpenPolice, OpenArmy, OpenEducation, OpenFamily, and OpenRelationships would all have to follow soon.

And what about the obvious counter examples of things that just can't be made “Open”? Will we have OpenTerrorism, OpenWar, OpenConflict, OpenTheft, OpenAssasination, OpenAbuse, OpenRape? No. My theory is that when the Open movement reaches a critical mass it will make many of the negative realities of human existence obsolete. Lies and mis-information will become obsolete. Would you lie if everyone could read your mind? Would you care that someone can read your mind if you could read everyone else's mind also?

I think everyone would like to tell the truth but it's way to scary if you are the only one talking. Ohh, you like to tell a nice evil lie once in a while? Me too, that's where the game industry steps in with the "Grand Compulsive Liar" game series." (

More Information

  1. T Corporation
  2. Open Book Management
  3. Transparent Accounting