British Engineering

The English screw up a lot of things. They drive on the wrong side of the road, as do the Irish. (Proverbially, the Irish have tried for decades to break that habit by driving every Friday and Saturday night on the right. Hasn’t worked.) Granted, English food is no longer an oxymoron, and Cornish ice cream and clotted cream is to die for (literally). Brunel’s Clifton suspension bridge (pictured) was a model of design and a precursor to Brooklyn’s and the Golden Gate’s.

Britons roundly reject FrankenFoods, crops grown from genetically modified seeds, and reject the unregulated accumulation and use of personal information by public bodies and private businesses, regardless of whether it is used for profit. (Sadly, Blair and Brown’s "anti-terrorist" legislation has shot holes through that protective scheme.) The National Health Service, mocked as being as fault-ridden as Basil Fawlty’s hotel, delivers practical services to a great many people.

The Brits also gave us Dolly the Cloned Sheep and had the temerity to test their cows for BSE, found it, and roasted thousands of head without putting them on the barbecue, something it’s hard to imagine happening in Texas or Wyoming. Ranchers there think a "downer cow" is from Australia. Then there’s Shakespeare, Austen and Eliot, Inspector Morse, and Rowan Atkinson before Mr. Bean. (English musicians I leave to EW; but just for bmaz, the English invented small sports cars that were as much fun on the road as they were a pain in the shop, where they spent more time.)

And then there’s this. Thatcher and Blair’s governments aside, Britain still regulates its private businesses and considers that a good thing. A business regulator, the Office of Fair Trading, has closed down thirteen websites for providing misleading debt management advice to possibly thousands of clients. (One wonders whether they were funded by banks or credit card issuers.) Maybe we should ask the OFT to speak to Tim Geithner. Couldn’t hurt.