In 1661, Jean-Baptiste Colbert, finance minister to King Louis XIV of France, commissioned the making of golden calligraphy account books small enough to fit into his boss’s pockets. From then on, the king would have on his person up-to-date records of the expenditures, revenues and assets of the state he governed. The king carried these account books around every day for 22 years, until the moment Colbert died. Then he promptly threw them away; he spent the rest of his reign unaware of the state of his finances. "If good accounting meant facing the truth when the news was bad," writes financial historian Jacob Soll in his book, The Reckoning. "Louis, it seemed, now preferred ignorance. Speaking those famous words, ‘L’etat, c’est moi’, he apparently really meant it. No longer would a functioning state interfere with his personal will." A charmingly simple story, it sums up what matters most in SA right now. In 2009, the chief justice swore in a president who, like Louis, would throw...

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