Thursday, February 23, 2006

No Computers Needed


Last week on "Real Time with Bill Maher", Iraq advisor Dan Senor defended the disappearance of billions of dollars in the early months of the U.S. occupation, protesting that if they had waited until it was possible to set up a "first world" accounting system, they would have been unable to distribute funds for many months despite the pressing need to, for example, help fund activities which might create jobs for unemployed Iraqis. He estimated that it would have taken "ten months, a year" to implement a "first world" accounting system. He argued that the "wheelbarrows of cash and no receipts" method of accounting was "inherited from Saddam's government"... which may well be true, but to me does not seem to be a good defense of maintaining that system.

I'm just wondering, what's so complicated about issuing receipts, storing them, and letting somebody count the beans at a later date? They literally had wheelbarrows full of cash which they were distributing, so it's hard to believe the concern was about space. (Mr. Senor did respond to this suggestion, to the effect of "What do you mean write it down? the government was governing over 27 million people. You don't just write it down." Um... why not?)

A first world accounting system, rather than one "inherited" from the locals? The Sumerians did better with clay tokens.

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