Thursday, April 07, 2005


accounting :: software :: society

So, I'm preparing for taxes (after my extension, of course). I've been
using this open source software called SQL-Ledger (written in perl,
unfortunately) to do my books this year; it's a double entry accounting
package. It's ugly as hell (I've made improvements -- css and python),
but I love it. I emailed my accountant with some double entry questions
(checking to see if the lights really are dawning), and I decided to do
some checking on the internet, where I found this gem I thought I'd
share ;-)

This is the first thing I've ever read that has made me not only feel
good about accounting, but want to participate in the process :-)
We'll, the second thing, actually. The first thing was starting to use
SQL-Ledger to it's capacity.

It's kinda fun:

3.1 The history of double entry accounting

People had been tracking money (to pay bills, collect taxes) for
thousands of years, but it wasn't till the 1400's that the Italians
invented double entry accounting. This made banking reliable, enhanced
trade and commerce and very quickly Italy became the banking capital
and wealthiest country in Europe. It was the 1400's equivalent of the
invention of the internet and the dotcom boom. They had buckets of
money to spend. They spent it on paintings of Adam talking to God done
on black velvet. Well they would have but velvet hadn't been invented
yet. They made do with what they had, which was plaster ceilings. They
spent money on painters, sculptors and people like Leonardo da Vinci.

In grade school this period is called the Renaissance, a flowering of
art and intellect, that appeared in Italy for no obvious reason and
then spread to the rest of Europe.

Quite why all these geniuses suddenly appear without any warning is not
explained by your history teachers (who spend their life pondering deep
questions like this), but Jared Diamond (Guns, Germs and Steel, Pub:
Norton 1997) is happy to tell you. He says that geniuses like
Michealangelo and Einstein are rather commonplace. Most of them are
oppressed and are living in abject poverty, and are busy surviving if
they even do that. Give them a good feed, treat them well, put them in
the company of peers and pretty soon they'll be coming up with all
sorts of things you hadn't dreamed of.

The Renaissance then was a result of the invention of double entry
accounting, not (as we've been told) a flowering of intellect and art
that happened for no reason at all.


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