Friday, July 09, 2004

Demanding with rod, obedience in all things…

Lord Howe, the attacks from whom were famously described by Labour Chancellor Denis Healey as "like being savaged by a dead sheep", is on the attack again – this time over Britain's sloth in embracing the metric system.

Fronting a report from the Metric Association, he paints a picture of woe about how the use of the "old" imperial units is "damaging to British companies' competitiveness and is confusing consumers".

But, despite the fact that metrication has been imposed on us by successive EU Directives, namely 80/181/EEC and 89/617/EEC, Howe and his sheepish cronies are, according to today's Times, anxious to "sever the link between metrication and the European Union" – on the basis that "a Commons committee unanimously recommended the adoption of the metric system as early as 1862.

Be that as it may, the EU's enthusiasm for the Metric system and, more importantly, a uniform measurement system throughout the EU, is no accident. Howe could do no better that read the definitive history of the Metric system by Ken Adler (The Measure of All Things, London, Little Brown), where he happily acknowledges that the system was used as "a tool of political unification".

One also has to enjoy Napoleon's description of the inventors of the system, after his exile to St Helena:

The savants had wanted to overturn every custom, rewrite every rule, remake every French citizen into an image of themselves, and all for the sake of a miserable abstraction. They had behaved like foreign conquerors, demanding with rod, obedience in all things, without regard to the interests of the vanquished.
Good man that Napoleon. He could well be describing the contemporary European Union, in all its glory.

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