They sit in boardrooms, audit schools, make government policy and pull the plug on failing companies.
And most of us have our performance measured.
The history of accounting and book-keeping is largely the history of civilisation.
Jolyon asks how this came about and traces the religious roots of some accounting practices.
Jolyon Jenkins traces the religious roots of some accounting practices.
He goes back 5,000 years, to ancient Mesopotamia, to examine controversial theories about how accountants invented writing.
The first written records do not record great stories or noble thoughts but show whether or not people had paid their bills to the state authorities.
Accounting started off as the exercise of political power.
Jolyon Jenkins goes back 5,000 years to see how accountants invented writing.
Jolyon hears how a corrupt Roman governor was tried in court using his own forged account books, and how the ancient Greeks inscribed the accounts of public expenditure on walls for all to see.
How a corrupt Roman governor was tried in court using his own forged account books.
How the emergence of double entry book-keeping in medieval Italy paved the way for the rise of capitalism.
Some people claim that the new system, known as the 'Italian method', arose because of the need of medieval merchants to square their desire to make money with their need to save their eternal souls.
Was double entry a way to fudge an outbreak of conscience?
The rise of double entry book-keeping in medieval Italy.
Jolyon examines accountancy fraud in the Middle Ages, brought about by the Black Death.
He hears how 16th-century merchants didn't try to hide the evidence of their smuggling in their double entry books and how the Exchequer collected taxes by chopping sticks in half.
Jolyon Jenkins examines accountancy fraud in the Middle Ages.
Jolyon finds out why Josiah Wedgwood began to use accounting to run his business, and hears the debate about how similar Wedgwood's 18th-century cost accounting system was to our modern management accounting.
Why Josiah Wedgwood began to use accounting to run his business.
How the 'railway mania' of the mid-19th century led to dodgy accounting and outright fraud.
Investors demanded 10 per cent returns on new lines, even when the profits just weren't there to pay the dividends.
The only way to keep everyone happy was to cook the books.
But then, no-one was ever going to look at the books - or were they?
The role played by accountants in the Holocaust, the Irish Potato Famine and the Highland Clearances.
The Nazis stole money from the Jews, and were meticulous in recording the theft - by accounting for it they hoped to cleanse it.
Accountants may have a reputation for dullness, but can that mask a moral agenda?
The role played by accountants in the Holocaust and the Highland Clearances.
He examines the military's sometimes uncomfortable relationship with accountancy, from the 17th century to the present day.
In the Crimean War, 90 per cent of the near 20,000 men killed died from starvation and exposure.
Soldiers were allocated one coat to last them three years, even though there were warehouses full of replacements.
Accounting decisions were being made in Parliament rather than on the battlefield.
Jolyon Jenkins on the military's sometimes uncomfortable relationship with accountancy.
Jolyon Jenkins investigates how accountants shaped the modern world, and looks at accountancy as obfuscation.
Jolyon Jenkins looks at accountancy as obfuscation.