Has the Accounting Profession Lost Control of Its Destiny? D. R. Carmichael*
American Institute of Certified Public Accountants
No man of woman born, coward or brave can shun his destiny.
When Howard Stettler asked me to write about whether the accounting profession has lost control of its destiny I accepted because I was interested in the answer. Like many others who are essentially in the business of putting words on paper, I don't know what I believe until I write it. However, the answer proved more elusive than I anticipated.
In a sense, no man controls his destiny. In this sense, the question is loaded because the idea of a destiny presumes predetermination. According to Webster's, destiny means either something to which a person or thing is destined or a predetermined course of events often held to be a resistless power or agency. Synonyms are fortune and fate. However, I think the question contemplates a related word—destination. The relevant questions are: Where are we going and who's in charge of the trip?
How Do We Know Where We're Going?
A logical starting point would seem to be a prediction of where the accounting
profession is headed. However, man has not been too successful in predicting. Most predictions are merely extrapolations of present trends. We cannot know what future accidents, catastrophes, or personalities may alter those trends. As a result, predictions often tell us more about the present than the future. For example, consider these predictions from the year 1876.1
• Poor penmanship and writer's cramp no longer impede personal correspondence
thanks to the advent of the home linotype.
• Malodorous footwear will never again upset social gatherings or community
affairs as gentlemen of the next century sport pasteurized spats and gaiters.
• Gone are the days of the "Three R's." Boys and girls of the future must now be drilled in the "Five R's"—Reading, Writing, Trans-
*The author wishes to acknowledge the assistance of Brian Zell of the AICPA staff and
to point out that the opinions expressed are the author's views and do not necessarily represent
the views of the AICPA or other members of its staff.