Friday, 17 September 2021
Weighed and Measured
We await much taking of the opportunities of Brexit to pursue an egalitarian economic policy by harnessing the powers of the liberated British State. Or, it turns out, any taking of the opportunities of Brexit to pursue an independent and peaceable foreign policy.
But it will once again be legal to sell things in imperial measures, not that anyone will. Most of us depend for food on huge corporations that certainly will not. Still, no one should be prosecuted for doing so. And now, they no longer will be. That they ever were was pursuant to an Act of Parliament, enacted by the Conservative Party.
Nor will imperial measures be taught again in schools, because who would teach them? But Britain is the only country in the world where the use of two completely different systems of weights and measures for all official and all unofficial purposes could result in anything other than total collapse. We should cherish the fact that in ordinary conversation everyone gave their height and weight in imperial measures when only the metric system had been taught in schools since before most people had been born.
Whereas Canada, New Zealand, and even Australia all gave up the imperial system decades ago, the never threatened pint of milk or beer will always be readily available in the Irish Republic, which will never leave the EU. Our own and so many other traditional weights and measures survive for the sale of bread or beer all across Europe because they are perfectly adequate, and even ideal, for the sale of bread or beer. They are, however, at least arguably too imprecise for anything much more than that, and an international scientific and technological culture simply could not function without a universally accepted system of weights and measures.
Unlike, I believe that it is correct to say, any part of the imperial system, the metric system was invented by an Englishman. It has a very long history in this country. Even leaving aside how long ago Imperial Britain's industrial zenith was, making it irrelevant to the present day, the bald claim that that was achieved entirely by the application of the imperial system does not stand up to the slightest analysis.
The Americans' system of weights and measures is their own, for all that some shared vocabulary might give rise to confusion. And it does ring true that the United States went to the Moon using non-metric units. If, for the sake of argument, that were the case, then it was more than 50 years ago. But there is no way that the Americans are doing anything remotely comparable in anything other than the metric system today, even if they were doing so in the 1960s, which itself strikes me as highly unlikely.