Open Accounting

I tried to make the “why” part of this short but failed. Feel free to skip to “implementation“.


Privacy is the very foundation of being an individual. Unfortunately, many organizations, governments, and corporations exploit privacy as a means to conceal the truth from customers, owners, shareholders, and others. The aim of Open Accounting is to create an accounting system that disables corrupt people from hiding their sins while still protecting individual privacy.

The best way to understand why we use open accounting is to ask an organisation why they don’t. A lot of time and effort is spent on secrecy or privacy. For an individual, that can be common sense, and often a healthy thing. Organisations are not people, though; they’re supposed to serve people.

When a group of people get together to do something, what they do together shouldn’t be private because they each need to know what the other is doing. If an individual in the group doesn’t know everything all the others are doing, he cannot be sure that his work is contributing to his own intent, the reason he is cooperating. He can believe it is, but he cannot know it. This makes everyone vulnerable to having their efforts directed towards a goal that is not theirs.


Most people who work for a pharmaceutical company don’t intend to release a product known by the company to be useless or even toxic to its users, yet this happens frequently. Most people who work for a weapons manufacturer don’t want those weapons to be sold to an enemy and subsequently used to kill their countrymen, yet this frequently happens too.

Secrecy allows a small group of people to manipulate an organization to suit their own goals, regardless of the wishes of the others whose time and energy they direct. It might not always happen, but it can and does. Openness—complete transparency in an organization—doesn’t automatically stop it, but it does discourage it and if it still happens, it’s completely visible to all.


When you design a company, you have a set of priorities. Take, for example, a publicly traded company. It’s “prime directive” is to make a profit for the shareholders. It has to have this priority by law, and any director who is not following it is open to prosecution, fines, and even imprisonment. If this company wants to sell stuff to the public, it has to present a caring image. It has to say “we produce the finest quality foods, our priority is the health of our customers” (OK, you can see I’m not a marketing professional, but you know what I mean).

They need to make customers think that their chief priority is not profit, but the benefit of the customer. That’s what selling is all about. If everything the company does is completely open to the public, its priorities will be clear. Anyone who understands accounts can know all they need to know about a company if they have full access to the accounts. That’s why police forces always go for the accounts in an investigation.

The accounts have to be kept private, because they contain evidence of true priorities, among other things. As a designer, no matter how much you might want the company to be all the things you put in the public-facing part of it, you are working within the legal restrictions of obligations to shareholders. You’re caught up in a mess of corporate institutions—government, the corporation you registered, all the different institutions that hold most of the shares, partner organizations and so on. There’s no humanity there, no conscience, yet somehow you have to make a public presentation of “corporate responsibility”.

Non-profits are no different. Instead of working for profit, they are used for peddling influence and an agenda. If they help someone a little along the way, that is a bonus. The rank-and-file workers and the donors may have the best of intentions, but the people at the top are using their efforts for things other than what they presented in the advertising.


Individual shareholders might have a conscience, but intermediary institutions—non-human entities which have no conscience and a legal obligation to maximize profit—hold the vast majority of shares. They lie or hide the uncomfortable truth from the shareholders because they have to. There are no people in this system; all interactions are between psychopathic entities created by collective human imagination.

People use these appendages to interact with each other, but humans are not the ones interacting. Our corporations don’t care if we live or die. They don’t care if they poison us with fake food and drinks, destroy our world with radioactive waste and toxic spills. They only care about profits. And the people who are most suited to operating them are also psychopaths. The system automatically filters out those with a conscience and prevents them from having influential positions.

Those who rise to the top of these institutions have an addiction to power and constantly engage in power struggles with each other to gain more power and influence. They abuse all the corporations they get involved in like a gambling addict abuses every personal relationship to get more money for gambling.


Informally sharing seed with a neighbor who gardens down the street is illegal in multiple states in the US. The penalty for violating this ridiculous law is a fine of up to $7,500 a day.

In Minnesota, unless you buy an annual permit and submit each lot of seeds for germination testing, you are defying the law. You even have to attach an appropriate label, even if you just want to give them to your daughter-in-law for her new garden.

If you think this smacks of Big Agriculture infiltration, you aren’t alone. Just 6 companies in the world have patented most of the seeds grown in the entire global agricultural market. Our food diversity is crumbling, and it’s largely because corporations, not people, are in charge of the supply.

-Patented Life: Sharing Gardening Seeds Illegal in 30% Of US States (, archived pdf below.)

Why is it this way? Because that’s how we made it!

In their own articles of incorporation (literally, made into a body – a legal “person”), we tell corporations that they must put profit first, and instruct their directors which direction to steer in, under threat of imprisonment. This is entirely from fear-based thinking. We create these entities, then run around protesting about them when they manifest in the likes of Monsanto, Westinghouse and Union Carbide!

They create wars, famines, pestilence, and death; fulfilling our deepest fears that were programmed into us when we were too young to say “get away from me, you creep!” to the teachers we looked up to. They call themselves educators (Latin: educare -to draw out), and indeed they draw out the very worst in us. But they also put in their own fears.

These corporate horsemen are the manifestation of our fear and can only be defeated by our love. I don’t mean we have to love them, just we have to love. If we create entities using love instead of fear, we will start to see angels again instead of just devils.

Our lives are not our own; from womb to tomb, we are bound to others, past and present. And by each crime, and every kindness, we birth our future.

David Mitchell, “Cloud Atlas”

Fear and Love

It’s difficult to know when designing these corporations of ours how to eliminate corruption. We introduce all kinds of programs, oversight committees, inspectors, and so on as ways to “combat” corruption. They don’t work and so we keep making up new “laws” and they keep getting broken, worked around, or changed by politicians paid by our corporations. The combat begets more combat. A far simpler solution than combat is not to build the things that enable corruption. The fear of the shareholders (losing their money) is what dictates the direction of the entity. Non-profits have no need to contend with this fear, and yet we still construct them in exactly the same way as the for-profit ones, except (ostensibly) for the profit part.

It’s simple. Leave fear behind and explore love.

Simple isn’t necessarily easy. Fear is easy because we’re used to it and it’s already prevalent. Society has trained us to be oblivious to the essence of love, making it difficult for us to understand. We get vague flashbacks of people humping in movies and smiling multicultural people singing soppy songs and drinking Coca-Cola. Yet somehow we have to replace fear with love, because fear is just an absence of love.

To do this with Direct Sponsor actually meant re-designing and re-building the system completely. After removing everything that could facilitate corruption or was based on fear, along with all the wasteful parts (many of which were the same, interestingly…), there wasn’t much left, just sponsors and recipients, and love is sure enough found there. Why else would someone send the fruits of their labor to someone they don’t even know, with no expectation of ever getting it back? Now we have got down to a real foundation.


Given the opportunity to be honest without being penalized for it, most people will be honest. The few who will not are quickly identified in an open system, and are easily either ejected or persuaded to be honest. This allows us to experience a very different way of doing business.

If you are ever required to “trust” someone you don’t know well, it’s a sign that there is something wrong in the system you’re using. We look at the people who run the big charities, and we assume that they must be honest because their reputation depends on it. In logic, this is called an “appeal to consequences”. John must be honest because if he was not, he would stand to lose his reputation, and his income depends on that. It’s fallacious thinking, it isn’t necessarily true, and we frequently come across examples where it was not true.

In our system, you don’t need to trust anyone you don’t know, because you have access to all the data. You can trust people if you want to, but you don’t have to. Having this choice is the crucial difference. Genuine trust can only happen when there is a choice, an option not to trust.

Trust is something people feel is part of their humanity, something people want to be able to have. It’s also what con men prey on, and what every dishonest person relies on totally. Without it, they can’t operate.

Think of someone you really trust. Why do you trust that person? I’d wager it’s because you know them well, and your trust is based on previous experience, i.e. data. Having data available doesn’t destroy the possibility of trust, in fact, it enhances it.

Trust is, by definition, a voluntary thing. If you have no choice, if the data are not fully available to you down to the last detail, it’s impossible to actually trust. Well, ok, it’s not technically impossible, but it’s meaningless without choice.

So, by doing this DS project, we actually do everyone a favor, including all the other orgs and their sponsors, because by existing we provide them with that choice, so they can now really trust their chosen charity!


We should ask users to choose their username carefully. If they wish to maintain their privacy, they can choose a username to appear instead of their real name on their posts. They will also get a user number which will show in the accounts, but will have no public connection to their username. Only they will know this number.

Imagine you’re a sponsor. How do you know that your recipient is not receiving loads of money from an unknown number of people, like a Nigerian spam scam (sorry, Nigerians!)? If you can look through the accounts without logging in (all of the accounts, not just your bit) then you can see your payments, and who else is paying to your recipient, and how much. You can see all the sponsors and recipients. If you can’t do this because of “privacy issues” then you can’t verify anything at all and have no way to be sure it isn’t a scam. (More on the verification page.)

By telling users this as they create an account, we make a really simple way to use open accounting without compromising privacy, while also giving users the choice to be private or not. The only thing the system has to keep private is the actual email addresses. If users wish to create an even higher level of privacy they can create a special email address just for their Direct Sponsor activities. Then even we don’t know who they are.

Other than this, all we need is a “normal” accounting system that is made public (read only!). Recipients would obviously have to be identified by their sponsors but that’s easy enough to do. There is no need at all for sponsors to be identifiable to anyone but themselves.

See also Verification page