While I was out, Ferrel posted a survey on loot perspectives. I find the discussion as interesting for the perspective he attacks the problem from as a guild leader as for the actual age-old debate. One of the questions posed is:
"Do you trust other players to award loot fairly or do you need to see some sort of tracking metric?"
As a player, my instinctive response to this question is that you're running with the wrong people, or at least the wrong loot system, if you think that transparency is the only way (or even an effective way) to protect yourself from being screwed over by your leadership. In the ideal case, the value that I see for a tracking metric is primarily as a tool to help make decisions more quickly and in a way that results in an effective distribution of the loot.
Based on Ferrel's longstanding interest in the leadership of guilds, I think he's coming at this from more of the administrative perspective. In the real world, perhaps having more transparency might help mitigate the inevitable questions that get asked when the distribution of scarce loot happens not to work out in the favor of individual players.
Interestingly, the survey responses are almost universally in favor of trust over accountability. This is not a scientific random sample - in particular, a fair number of the respondents are in Ferrel's guild, which appears to be relatively free of loot drama - but I wonder if this is one of those odd cases where people on a whole distrust Congress but are fine with their particular Congressman (party affiliation permitting).
Players, even when they're happy with their leadership, invest tremendous amounts of time, effort, and emotion in implementing loot systems that may or may not be any more fair/effective than using the in-game need/greed button. I wonder whether it's really the resulting distribution that matters, or merely the feeling that players have done something to address the inequities inherent in assigning the scarce and random loot that plays such a large role in MMO incentives.