More on America and the metric system

by Joey deVilla on February 26, 2015

To this day, one of the most-visited articles on this blog is one from 2008, titled Countries That Don’t Use the Metric System, which points out that there are only three: Liberia, Myanmar, and the United States.

Since it’s from the era when George W. Bush was president, I ended the article with this smart-ass quip: “I say we let them get some decent governments first, then worry about getting them on the metric system.” I believe it’s that line that got the article all that attention, and all the back-and-forth fighting in the comments section.

If you like partaking in debates about the metric system, you might find this passage from the novel Wild Thing by Josh Bazell interesting:


I should pick up this book!

{ 11 comments… read them below or add one }

Margot Lewis February 26, 2015 at 12:06 pm

There is one reason and reason alone the the US will never go metric. Football.

Grum February 27, 2015 at 9:46 am

Canada has football and still uses yards, so that reason doesn’t hold any (cubic centimeters) of water.

biff March 9, 2015 at 10:32 am

We shouldn’t base our policy decisions on how many other countries agree with us. How many other countries have a 2nd amendment? How many other countries have been able to resist socialism and big government for as long as we have in the US?

Should the Mexicans stop speaking Spanish and speak only English? What about the French? No, because that’s part of their culture. Similarly, feet and miles are part of our culture, and we’re not interesting in using the system of the Commies and Socialists – metric. I thought we won the Cold War?

No other country on Earth has our concept of limited government with a bill of rights – certainly not the UK, where books can be banned, and discussions that “promote terrorism” but aren’t actually calling for any immediate, specific act of violence can still be outlawed, and where any useful means of self-defense is likely illegal.

We landed on the Moon, and invented the airplane.
We invented the light bulb, the transistor, and the Internet.

Screw the piss-ant opinions of other countries trying to tell us what to do. Long live feet, yards, nd miles, onward into infinity!

John Steele March 13, 2015 at 8:49 pm

Actually, Biff, our “American ” units were imposed on us by a British king and Parliament prior to the revolution. We simply stuck with them and did not make the improvements in 1824 that the British called “Imperial.” We stuck with the Queen Anne wine gallon and Winchester bushel as defined by Parliament circa 1700. We got rid of the British king, but not his measurement system.

Daniel March 13, 2015 at 9:12 pm

There’s a problem that Margot has overlooked. Football is a very, very expensive sport. Americans need to be prosperous in order to afford to continue to go to games. As the US economy continues to weaken and Americans earn less and less money, the ability to continue to support football will come to an end.

The US needs the jobs that the use of th emetric system brings. Germany is fully metric and they are the most prosperous country in the world.

No metric, no money, no football.

Daniel March 13, 2015 at 9:22 pm

Biff… Other countries of the world don’t care if US ever metricates. The industrialised countries that use the metric system are presently outperforming the US. The US is sinking deeply into poverty. All of the great things the US did in the past are forever gone and will never be repeated. The US is a shadow of itself.

The metric system would have given the US a technical advantage over those overtaking it, but ignorance being bliss is putting the US out of business and closing its industries. Americans purchase metric goods once made int he US, but now made to metric standards elsewhere. Your great loss is everyone Else’s gain.

Dave June 9, 2015 at 12:47 am

Metric is super easy to use and diverse calculations can often be done in your head. There is little need of remembering that there is 62.4 lbs in a cubic foot of water (and try multiplying that number in your head vs. 1000 kg/m^3. American’s think Imperial makes them seem different and individualistic instead of how everyone else, without exception actually views keeping Imperial: mildly retarded. Ok, maybe profoundly retarded.

But feel free to used ridiculous units if you want. I suggest you use a standard unit of length defined by the amount that King Henry’s beard grew in 1 second and convert everything to beard-seconds instead of feet. That will really give the rest of the world a good chuckle!

Paul August 13, 2015 at 6:13 am

American exceptionalism is tiresome in all its manifestations, whether in using American versions of Imperial units, MMDDYYYY dates, or US letter size paper. Sorry but the rest of world has it right.

As for American football: it’s going to come to an end or need to change radically because of the growing recognition of the problem of brain injuries.

And the biggest joke of all: “the world series”.

Victor October 4, 2015 at 2:26 pm

I don’t mind measuring highway distance in miles and time in hours (by the way, why don’t proponents of metric system attack minutes/hours/year? it sucks to remember that an hour has 3600 secs, doesn’t it?) But I totally agree that measuring length in inches/feet sucks when it comes to e.g. getting fractions. All calculators known to me can only deal with base 10 (well, you can buy special calculator in the U.S. which can probably do it with imperial system, but it’s easier to me to just use metric system which I’m used to and do double conversion, something I suppose non-immigrants just can’t do). And it’s totally insane when it comes to science. Speed of light in miles/hour? Really? Temperature on Mars in F? What Mars has to do with Fahrenheit’s sick wife?

Rai January 17, 2016 at 8:28 am

As an addendum to Victor, we don’t remember an hour has… Uh, 3600 seconds, we remember it has 60 minutes… What we facepalm is the Month-Day-Year format, instead of Day-Month-Year.

The hours calculation is based on how long it takes for the Earth to give a complete rotation, months were originally based around the phases of the moon, and years are based on how long it takes Earth to complete a lap around the sun.

Chris Fox May 16, 2016 at 1:56 pm

Kudos to Daniel for his response to Biff. British born and living in Canada for the last 50 years I have been through the metrication system in Canada and it although many of the die-hards complained, it went smoothly.

The problem with most of the US psych is that they feel they are above others…just read Biff’s comments. There is absolutely no question that metric makes sense and some generation needs to have the balls to make the change once and for all for the sake of future generations.

The very issue of limited government in the US will be, as Daniel so accurately pointed out, eventually lead to its downfall. At times, someone needs to be in a position to make tough decisions without having to endure the rhetoric of those that don’t want change. We eventually overcame the KKK, women’s rights and many other obstacles to our evolution. This is just one more…and the longer they take to make the change, the worse it will be.

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