Have you worked on ecommerce where you've been given such detailed specs? I have worked on ecommerce, I never have been.
I don't even understand exactly what you mean by "implementing detailed specifications about how to calculate each operation every step of the way" with ruby BigDecimal. Can you provide an example? Ordinarily, you just use ruby `+` and `*` etc operators with BigDecimal values. (Or SQL/postgres arithmetic operators with postgres money type). I don't even know what a "specification about how to calculate each operation every step of the way" would look like. This is something you've had to do with basic ecommerce apps?
I'm not sure what solution you are suggesting could be characterized as "simple stuff that are proven to work and not change over time"
Seriously, most everyone just uses something like BigDecimal or postgres Money type, and it's fine. (IEEE-754 float is NOT though. Neither, probably, is the rational type that you initially suggested... )