Wednesday, August 6, 2008

Sir Patrick Moore

I have just read the autobiography of the wonderfully politically incorrect, old-school Englishman, astronomer Sir Patrick Moore. Here are a couple of relevant excerpts. The first comes right after he said some nice things about Mrs. Thatcher. (I too admire her, even if she was elected; as politicians go, she was a giant.)

Yet even her Government did not have an unblemished record, and was guilty of the betrayal of Rhodesia. Whatever you think about 'white rule', the Rhodesia of the 1970s and 1980s was peaceful and prosperous. Left on their own, the Rhodesians would steadily have broken down the barriers between the races. Unfortunately nothing would satisfy our Labour Government except the overthrow of the régime, and the Tories to their discredit, kept up the pressure. The country was handed over to Mugabe, a thug of the worst type. Today our present Government is plotting to betray Gibraltar in the same way, but not for a moment do I believe that the Gibraltarians will surrender. After all, they didn't surrender in 1940.

If I had to select one country which had an excellent political system I would go for Liechtenstein - all 79 square miles of it. I had the whole story from one of the close relatives of the Ruling Prince (I met him in a shop in Vaduz, the capital; I had gone in to buy some camera film). There are two political parties, and elections are held every four years, but as the aims and objectives of the two parties are identical nobody bothers to vote and the Ruling Prince goes on ruling, financing the administration of postage stamps, a false teeth factory and the manufacture of cuckoo clocks. There is a police force - he's a very pleasant chap - and a prison, which I gather is used as a supplementary hotel during the tourist season. I put one question to my charming acquaintance: 'Look, you have been an independent state ever since the thirteenth century. How have you managed it?' He gave me a knowing smile. 'It is easy, my friend,' he said. 'We are no bloody good to anybody!'

Perhaps there is a moral there....

What he was saying about Rhodesia, I am discovering is the story of most of the Third World. All those "little fighting countries", as the mother of one of my classmates once put it, have been impoverished and unstable for as long as I have been paying attention to such things, so I assumed they have always been so. Only when I started reading monarchist blogs and essays did I discover otherwise! Under colonial governments and/or monarchies, they were peaceful and prosperous. In most cases, it was communist forces, or their watered-down versions of the same thing such as British Labourites, who toppled the beneficent governments they had, plunging them into chaos and leaving them at the mercy of the biggest thug on that particular block. The history of democracy is a bloody one indeed.

On a more cheerful note, he discusses his involvement in the Mars probes:

The worst blunder of all was with Mars Climate Orbiter, a spacecraft launched in 1999 to improve our knowledge of the Martian surface. During the approach manoeuvre, instructions were sent to it in Metric units, blissfully regardless of the fact that it had been programmed to work in Imperial. The result was predictable: Farewell, Climate Orbiter. As I remember saying, this was yet another case of the evil of creeping Metrication!

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