Editor's letter: Bring back the clown

14 February 2017 by Vincent Huck

In October 1980, French stand-up comedian, Coluche, announced his candidacy for the French presidential election in those terms:

“I call all the lazy, dirty, drug addicts, alcoholics, homosexuals, women, parasites, young, old, artists, prisoners, lesbians, trainees, blacks, pedestrians, Arabs, French, hairy people, crazy, transvestites, former communists, those convinced in election boycott, all those who don’t count for the politicians, to vote for me, go register and carry the news.

All together to kick them in the ass, with Coluche.

The only candidate who has no reason to lie.”

It was a joke of course. But one that quickly became reality. Suddenly Coluche was credited with 16% of the votes in the polls.

To be an official candidate in France, one has to receive the endorsement of at least 500 town mayors. While it is not confirmed, it is widely accepted that Coluche had enough support and could have run. But he revealed his bluff before that and after having received death threats.

I have often thought of him in the last few weeks, for two reasons. First, he would be a great asset in today’s world, to call out this growing trend in the western world putting at risk democracy, a trend clearly identified by former USA President Barack Obama in his farewell address:

“For too many of us, it’s become safer to retreat into our own bubbles, whether in our neighborhoods or on college campuses, or places of worship, or especially our social media feeds, surrounded by people who look like us and share the same political outlook and never challenge our assumptions. The rise of naked partisanship, and increasing economic and regional stratification, the splintering of our media into a channel for every taste — all this makes this great sorting seem natural, even inevitable. And increasingly, we become so secure in our bubbles that we start accepting only information, whether it’s true or not, that fits our opinions, instead of basing our opinions on the evidence that is out there.”

And the second reason, far less high level, is that Coluche reflecting on his presidential bid once said that while he was campaigning he would receive visits from representatives of all parties, from the far left to the far right.

They all wanted to see what was happening in his headquarters, and test the seriousness of his bid while trying to convince him to withdraw. “They all said the same things,” Coluche recalled. “You know you have nothing to fear from us, but we can’t say the same for all the other parties...”

In a way it is very similar from all the calls and emails International Accounting Bulletin receives around the time of the publication of the World Survey, when everyone tell us the same things along the lines: “We really are giving you the real figures without lying, but other participants… there is a lot of creative accounting going on there… but we are really the honest ones.”

As mentioned in my editor’s letter of last year’s February issue, we know where the figures are dubious and which participants are more transparent than others. And we know that our rankings might not be perfect but they are as close as they can be - and as close as participants allow it to be.

So here is the latest International Accounting Bulletin World Survey, taking the whole of this month’s  issue. Hope you enjoy the read and we look forward to your feedback.