So I’m talking to a co-worker named Phil, and he tells me that he’s frothing mad. He’s been writing Cecil at The Straight Dope for months and never saw his question appear in print. The question in question is…..
“If intelligent space aliens were to land on Earth and present themselves, is it likely that we would find them using double entry accounting”
I had pretty much the same reaction that you’re probably having right now. He’s a bit odd, wondering about the way our new galactic overlords keep track of accounts recievable. But he clarified it and I realized that it was a very serious question indeed.
“Is double entry accounting just one of any number of equally good methods for managing scarce resources-or is there something that makes it uniquely fitting for the task?”
“Could it be that it’s prevalence in the business world owes only to the desirability of using a universally understood method? If not, is it superior to all other known methods? Could it even be thought of almost like being a law of nature?”
The main thing that I know about double entry bookkeeping is it’s historical impact. Used with the new Arab numerical system, it allowed businesses to expand during the latter part of the Dark Ages. In fact, some people even say that this accounting method spelled the end to the Medieval Period by promoting trade.
So are there equally effective methods out there? If so, why aren’t they better known? And, of course, is the system so tuned to basic reality that it could be thought of as a reflection of basic accounting truths?
I’ll leave it up to you guys. There’s got to be someone who knows this accounting stuff who’s also writing for this blog.