[OPE-L:6634] [OPE-L:95] Brickell; radicals, accountants, and economists

P.J.Wells (P.J.Wells@OPEN.AC.UK)
Wed, 9 Sep 1998 12:35:07 +0100

Three notes on recent posts about accounting:

1) Brickell

I have been to the British Library to have a look at their copy of
Brickell's work (which is, incidentally, marked as "reference only" in
the BL's on-line catalogue). For reasons which will appear below it
might fairly be described as offbeat but is, I think, worthy of further

As I had suspected from the information in previous posts about this
(Folkestone is one of the Channel ports in Kent, but has no particular
connection with the printing or publishing trades), it is obviously
self-published (probably from the author's home), the text being a
reproduction of an original which was clearly set on some kind of
golf-ball or daisy-wheel typewriter.

Besides the 500-odd pages of main text there is also a supplementary
insert containing 176 [!] diagrams.

As with the copy in the Library of Congress catalogue, the volume
describes itself as being the "test market edition"; I don't know the
significance of this -- is it perhaps something which one has to claim a
production like this to be in order to get an ISBN?

The most striking peculiarity to the professional academic's eye is that
not only does it contain neither quotations, references or bibliography
(though there is an index) but, as far as an hour's browsing could
reveal, save for a passing reference to Adam Smith in the introduction
not a single economist is mentioned by name -- not even you-know-who.

However, my somewhat cursory inspection -- I had little time and a large
headache -- didn't turn up any obvious reason to dismiss Brickell's work
as the product of some demented auto-didact (for instance, I didn't spot
evidence that Brickell has any *idee fixe*).

And there are some signs to suggest that it provides at the least some
interesting side-lights on the subject matter.

There is a rather nicely put statement of why the LTV is appealing ("the
elemental cost to mankind of making use of the matter of nature is an
expenditure of labour time and that alone, for man has nothing else to
give, and nature demands nothing more of him").

And Alan and Andrew will be interested to note that Brickell gets down
to the issue of the historic versus replacement cost of stocks very
early on (on page 18).

More generally, it looks to be the work of someone with practical
experience of accounting in a commercial or industrial setting.

2) Radical accounting

My impression is that the "Radical Accountants" were more concerned with
labour process and gender issues in the accounting industry, than with
the intellectual content of its professional activities as such.

Such, at any rate, is the recollection I retain of a session in this
area at a long-ago CSE conference.

And while the Radical Statistics people certainly do valuable work,
neither of the foregoing projects is remotely within their field.

3) Accountants and economists

More generally on accounting, (orthodox) accountants seem somewhat
bemused by (orthodox) economists' notions.

For example: "the economist's concept of income, useful when he is
rationalising in a theoretical sense about the behaviour of individuals,
is not suitable as a reportable concept for investors and others
interested in the overall operational activity of a particular business
entity." (pages 23-4, T.A Lee "Income and Value Measurement; theory and
practice" (second edition, 1980, Thomas Nelson)).

Lee has in mind the notions of Fisher and Hicks; he also speaks of "the
accountant measuring income with capital as a residue, and the economist
measuring capital with income as a residue" (page 8, op. cit.).

His text is basically directed at the problem of inflation accounting --
one might consult Grahame Thompson (RKP 1986) "Economic calculation and
policy formation" ( which consists of essays from "Economy and Society",
1977-82) for heterodox perspectives on this.

See Chapter 3, "Capitalist profit calculation and inflation accounting"
(1978), Chapter 4 (a comment by Angelo Reati), and Chapter 5 (Thompson's