Open main menu

Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 49.djvu/757

This page has been proofread, but needs to be validated.
733
THE METRIC SYSTEM.

commercial arithmetic none is comparable to that of expressing shillings, pence, and farthings as decimals of a pound. The rules are thereby put almost upon as good a footing as if the country possessed the advantage of a real decimal coinage," He then proceeds to develop rules by means of which any sum of English money may be expressed in pounds and decimals exactly as our money is always expressed in dollars and decimals, so that any required operation may be easily performed by the common rules of arithmetic. After this the decimals of a pound must be reduced back again to shillings, pence, and farthings. To show how the English system lends itself to easy calculation, I quote his rule, which is only approximately correct, for making the latter reduction: "A pair of shillings for every unit, in the first place; an odd shilling for fifty (if there be fifty), in the second and third places; and a farthing for every thousandth left, after abating one if the number of thousandths left exceed twenty-four." Can anything be more charmingly simple and easily carried in one's head than this?

I must be content to stop without reference to a few other points raised by Mr. Spencer, for they are essentially all of a kind. There is a sentiment underlying much of his argument, to which I must briefly refer, however, because it has shown itself in other recent discussions of this subject. I refer to an anxiety lest the "poor man*' be in some way injured by the proposed reform. It has come to be the fashion in all political or economical controversies to exhibit a consuming interest in the poor man's welfare; indeed, one marvels that there should continue to be any poor, so universal and so intense appears to be this anxiety to shield them from all harm. Fortunately, the so-called "poor man" is not so blind to his own interests as some would have it appear, and he is quite alive to the fact that the proposed metrological reform is fully as important to him as to anybody.

Finally, it ought to be understood that the advocates of the metric system do not assume that it can come into use immediately or without considerable hardship. It took nearly a century to fairly establish our decimal money system, which no one would now think of giving up. During all this time old units and denominations continued to be used in a lessening degree, although not authorized by law. Something of the kind must occur in the transfer from our illogical, brain-destroying, time-consuming system of weights and measures for the more perfect system for which it is sure to make way. Furthermore, they heartily welcome and desire the presentation of all arguments against or objections to the metric system, believing that the more widely it is known and discussed the more supporters it