What is the role of accounting? Typically, accounting is viewed as a technology to inform business decisions, such as allocation of economic resources within the marketplace. In contrast, public interest scholars emphasize the social role of accounting. For example, accounting mediates relationships among various parties, impacts social outcomes, and justifies the distribution of economic rewards. This paper contributes to the public interest perspective by exploring the origin of double-entry accounting (DEA) as a form of personal apologia. To develop the thesis that DEA originated as a form of personal apology, this paper draws from modern and medieval scholars. During the medieval period, profit seeking and markets were deeply suspect and, thus, medieval merchants occupied a precarious social and moral position. The Catholic Church was active in determining the “just price” for goods. Personal morality and just, balanced relationships were primary factors in the development of DEA. Confession and penance, sacraments of the Catholic Church, may have provided the model. The thesis that DEA originated as a form of personal apology is plausible. The contemporary, widespread use personal carbon-offset accounting (PCOA) illustrates that accounting retains the power to help construct the moral self and to mediate the individual's status within the community.

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