This issue takes as its theme the need for a paradigm shift. But first a warning! The content contained is more dense, hard-going and technical than readers may expect. However, this is intentional. The theme considered is in fact vital to all initiatives seeking to embrace a new way of practicing economics. None will successfully attempt to co-ordinate their efforts, or evaluate their actions, without a common language based on the principles of double entry bookkeeping.
The Sign of Our Time article sets the scene with its call for a device capable of shifting one away from the reductionist view of inputs and outputs, towards a more inclusive process. Its suggestion of spreadsheets as windows is explored throughout this issue, in terms of double entry bookkeeping and its use as a ‘device’ that has its own inherent logic.
To place this in context the Archive piece traces the evolution of single entry techniques through double entry bookkeeping to the possibilities offered by analogy to the multi-perspective nature of cubism. This is included to suggest that what is required is not a widening of the window but a change of perspective, from one to many – what am I viewing, what is perceived by others, and what is seen if one looks through the window the other way.
In effect, this issue is a ‘how to’ in finance when guided by the logic of double entry bookkeeping. The first Feature piece, Double Vision, though technically tough going, is a necessarily full explanation of the link between spreadsheets, more sophisticated accounting software such as Sage and Quickbooks and the method of double entry bookkeeping the logic of which underpins both. It demonstrates the possibility of implementing change using everyday software packages, such as Excel, by relying on little more than the technique of double entry as outlined by Luca Pacioli way back in 1494 – a technique that is universal in nature and so free from normative influence.
The second Feature on Financial Planning shows how this again uses double entry bookkeeping to enable interested parties to co-ordinate their behaviour to the benefit of each involved as well as the greater whole, be it local community or worldwide economy.
Again the aim is to demonstrate that this is no wishful thinking, but a fully formed, thoroughly thought through method for presenting information to both oneself and one’s peers, which is implementable right now.
As a ‘device’ all emphasis is placed on the will of the individuals involved and their ability to co-ordinate their activities, as evidenced by the simple techniques explored in detail in the previous articles in the issue. As such it is a subversion of the first article’s original call for an external influence to free the consciousness of those caught in what its author calls a ‘vice-like trap’. Instead emphasis is placed on the need for participants to just do it; to share their individual perspectives, co-ordinate their efforts and then walk their talk.
The AEX Page includes a conversation replicated to illustrate the kind of dialogue and mutual learning about economic events, whether micro or macro, that double entry makes possible.
In response to the complex and technical suggestions that the Sign of Our Time piece culminates in, Victor’s View concludes the issue with observations on whether we need anything other than, or more complicated than, double entry bookkeeping.