More Than a Numbers Game: A Brief History of Accounting



"More Than a Numbers Game is a revelatory history of how accounting conventions have shaped business reality, for good and ill."
—Justin Fox, Editor at Large, Fortune

"Mr. King's book should be of interest to both those who have lived through the accounting debates and debacles of the past half century and those just beginning their business careers. By focusing on a dozen or so major developments, particularly those with negative consequences, the book helps explain why good financial information is so critical to capital markets. Equal doses of insight and humor make this an easy-to-read, but hard-to-forget summary of an important business topic."
—Dennis R. Beresford, Ernst & Young Executive Professor of Accounting, The University of Georgia, and former chairman of the Financial Accounting Standards Board (1987–97)

"More Than a Numbers Game is a must-read for accounting students looking for a supplement to traditional textbooks. It offers a business perspective to accounting, providing readers with a holistic overview of taxes, cost accounting, regulation, as well as more traditional financial reporting topics."
—Philip A. Laskawy, retired chairman and CEO, Ernst & Young

"Tom King provides even the non-accountant a fascinating look at how accounting rules and practices have evolved into the way corporations are valued today. He is particularly effective in analyzing the 'earnings game' and the growing role of intangible assets in the valuation process."
—Louis M. Thompson Jr., President and CEO, National Investor Relations Institute

"Tom King takes a very important topic in today's world, accounting, and puts it into a perspective that sheds an entirely new light on the importance of accounting and the intrinsic shortcomings of the profession. Whether you use GAAP accounting, do quarterly earnings, or are a private company, there is more than meets the eye to the accounting profession. King's book is an invaluable piece of work to demystify what tends to be a mystery."
—Jeff Joerres, Chairman and CEO, Manpower Inc.

THOMAS A. KING is treasurer of Progressive Insurance, which is regarded as one of the most innovative companies in the insurance business. He grew up in Racine, Wisconsin, and studied liberal arts at Harvard College. King worked for three years on the New York audit staff of Arthur Andersen & Co., earned an MS in accounting from New York University, and obtained CPA and CMA certification. After receiving an MBA from Harvard Business School, he joined Progressive Insurance in Cleveland. King spent ten years in marketing and general management before returning to accounting. Since then, he has served as corporate controller, investment strategist, and treasurer. At Progressive, King helped craft financial policies that support business objectives and managed investor relations when the company became the first to report monthly financial results.


List of Figure and Tables.

1. Double-Entry.

2. Railroads.


4. Costs.

5. Disclosure.

6. Standards.

7. Science.

8. Inflation.

9. Volatility.

10. Intangibles.

11. Debt.

12. Options.

13. Earnings.

14. SOX.

15. Epilogue.




About the Author.

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