Top 10 Reasons the United States Should Use the Metric System (or SI)

(Notice: Now through the end of November 2014, I’m running a small fundraising campaign. Please show you care about this issue. Every little bit helps. Includes a two-minute video. Thanks! Linda. Link to project here: Main Street Crowd)

1) It’s the system 95 percent of the world uses
(It’s not standard in the U.S.,  Burma, and Liberia)
2) It’s easier to make conversions
(You just move the decimal point right and left)
3) Teaching two measurement systems to children is confusing
4) It’s the language of science
5) It’s the language of medicine
6) Human conversion errors are inevitable
(We lost a Mars orbiter that way and pharmacy mistakes are common)
7) It’s the language of international commerce
8) Many hobbies and sports use the metric system
9) Its use is necessary for travel outside of the United States
10) So we look less foolish and ignorant to the rest of the world
 
And a few more for good “measure..”

11) Less clutter since you don’t need liquid and dry measuring cups and teaspoons and tablespoons
(Just a scale and liquid measuring cups)
12)  It’s much easier to conceptualize 1 gram verses 1/28th of an ounce or 1 milliliter verses 1/29 of a liquid ounce (rounded measures)
13) There are fewer measures to learn. Most people will use meters, liters, and grams verses more than 10 for liquid and dry measures alone
14) It was designed to be easy to learn and use
(In 1790s Europe the literacy rate was around 60 percent)

[This post was updated on 10/6/12 to reflect more accurate information.]

22 thoughts on “Top 10 Reasons the United States Should Use the Metric System (or SI)

    • My understanding is that every country, including the United States, has “officially” adopted the metric system. The problem comes with “adopting” verses “using.” According to a presentation I have from the National Institute for Standards and Technology, that three countries haven’t adopted is a metric myth: every country has.

      The link you included links to another source that says:

      “At a meeting on the development of wholesale centres held in Magwe last month, participants agreed in principle to the government’s proposal to adopt the kilogram as the basic unit for commodities trade in all townships.” and

      “Despite agreeing to consider the proposal, traders who participated in the meeting told The Myanmar Times afterwards they thought there was little chance of it being implemented in the near future.”

      That’s kind of where the United States has been for the past 200+ years and look where we are today.

      Still, I’ll do some checking around in case something has changed.

      Thanks for wanting to keep me honest.

  1. Maybe you can add some of these reasons to your list.

    Why is the metric system easier than USC? The most frequently given answers include:
    1…Because Metric is simple and consistent. There is only one meter and one kilometer and one liter..Unlike the mile (3 miles, international mile, US Survey mile, nautical mile.) and two gallons (Imperial gallon and US gallon) Metric is simple and less confusing, fewer errors, less cost.
    2…Because it dramatically reduces conversion factors in calculations. Less time doing calculations, fewer errors, less wastage in material and time, less cost.
    3…Because Metric prefix’s enable whole numbers only. Avoiding decimal fractions and missinteruptation and errors.
    4…Because Metric offers units from very large to very small.
    5…Because Metric dimensions are easier to divide by three.
    6…Because it has links between related measurements.
    7…Because it uses logical symbols.
    8..Because it is the only properly maintained system.
    9..Because practically everyone uses it. For more than 95% of the world population, the Metric system is the customary system of units, and for more than half of the industrialized world, it has been for at least a century.

    Regards from ..wjong..

  2. We just don’t have the time or interest in converting everything over to an entirely new set of measurements just because the cool kids are doing it. Inches, feet, miles, etc, those are the measurements we use, and it’s always worked just fine for us 300+ million people. Like the term “soccer”, the rest of the world just has to accept that we don’t simply cave into everything just because of “Well, that’s how WE do it over here”. We’re happy with our method of measurements, just like I’m sure you’re happy with yours, thanks you for all of your concerns but we respectfully decline it’s use. We may have supposedly “officially” adopted the metric system, but that’s just window dressing. Not one person here uses it and probably never will.

    • Thank you for taking time to express your opinions. I appreciate that we don’t agree and won’t try to convince you otherwise. However, I think it’s interesting that you use “we” so much in your comments. If by “we” you mean Americans, then I am part of that “we” (was born here and have never lived anywhere else) and I don’t agree with your assertions. I would also propose that if you research a little more you may realize that your statement that no one uses the metric system in this country is incorrect. It is the language of science, medicine and international trade everywhere, including in the U.S. I agree that if we use “football” instead of “soccer” no real harm is done. However, if we lose a multi-million dollar spacecraft and people are poisoned due to medicine and other conversion errors, that makes it more than a problem of semantics. I could go on but I’ll leave it at that. Having responded, I defend your right to disagree with me.

    • “If ignorance is bliss.. then why aren’t more people happy?”
      I’m guessing you don’t use calculations much or else you would know how easier it is to use the metric system. (If you even know the metric system, or the Imperial honestly). Also, by worked fine, you mean managed to get along with it? It has been a problem and still has been with regulations to other countries. Science is major, and U.S. will convert. I just hope soon.

  3. OMG, just trying to convert my recipe for 7200′ again today. So hard to figure out 9% of 1/4 (2 liquid oz?) cup to reduce the amount of oil in the banana bread. Can we not just use ml?!
    The math is not just more tedious for conversions, just the manipulating of the units themselves is a major math headache that would disappear.
    Switching to metric would not solve all my baking-at-altitude problems, I still have to increase the eggs by 15%…. (my current solution is to use extra large eggs)

    • One cup of flour is 250 grams. If I use 90 grams and you have to convert it in cups and measure it, good luck with that. If I get a recipe that asks for 1/4 cups, it will take me 10 seconds to figure out how many grams that is and my scale can measure the exact number of grams. Conversion is only a problem for people that use non-metric systems.

  4. Pingback: Pharmaceutical Prescriptions, the Metric System and Your Safety |

  5. I believe that everybody in the world should adopt whatever system the Americans have. It would be easier for everybody else to just change than to try to reason with them. They are retarded and stubborn and will fight it every step of the way. I don’t mind using pounds. If they mind using grams, fine, I will change, but let’s just make it the same everywhere because I am so tired of every single recipe page to have a comment like “how many cups is 100 grams, why can’t you use normal English”.

    • To be fair, it’s the Americans’ fault for being so damn stubborn and stupidly nationalistic that they won’t give up the standard system, just for the sake of being the hipster of units in the world.
      There’s so many reasons to use metric instead of standard as explained in the post, but people like you disagree for no good reason, proudly declaring that every country in the world should be like America with all its flaws as well.

      And this is coming from an American too, mind you.

  6. The fundamental issue is that it’s easier to calculate in decimals vs. fractions. Can you do 13 1/4″ + 6 13/16″ – 9 5/8″ faster than 12.4mm + 56.9 mm – 22.6 mmm? Not only that can you tell me how many cubic feet are in 73 cubic yard without a calculator?

  7. I think some things should be switched to the metric system, but other simpler measurements can always be left alone.

    For example, these should be switched to metric in my opinion:
    distance (vehicles)
    volume (2L versus half-gallon)
    temperature (C)
    and scientific and medial should always use metric.

    But other things I would like to leave alone, mostly when measuring dimensions with items I use or clothing. For example,
    measuring in fractions when working with furnature or wood
    measuring clothing items
    height (6 feet versus 182cm)
    teaspoons and tablespoons for cooking

    Though maybe there could be metric equivalents of those measurements and I would be fine with that

  8. #1 – You’re arguing that Americans should abandon their traditional systems of measurement just because a majority of other countries don’t use them. Well, so what? By that kind of logic, we should all stop speaking English, too — indeed, everyone on the planet should stop speaking whatever languages they now speak — and we should all learn Chinese instead, since that’s what a plurality (1/6) of the world speaks. The argument is specious — and what the rest of the world uses is irrelevant.

    #2 – Nonsense. First of all, one generally doesn’t need to convert units anyway — in the Imperial OR the metric systems — because the different units all serve different purposes. Who *cares* how many inches (or centimeters) there are between New York and Los Angeles? One measures such distances in miles (or kilometers) for a reason — so the ease or difficulty of conversion is not an issue. Secondly, any given Imperial/US customary unit of measurement can be expressed with decimals just as easily as any metric unit — for example, 15 inches is 1.25 feet — and if you genuinely consider that more difficult to convert simply because you have to remember how many inches there are in a foot, then that says more about YOU than about the system of measurement.

    #3 – That is akin to suggesting that learning two languages is “confusing” — when in fact, children raised bilingually are demonstrably more intelligent than children who are taught only one language. You underestimate children, and overestimate the difficulty of conversion.

    #4 & #5 – Medicine IS a science, so that’s only one reason, not two, and it is the only reason you offer that has the slightest validity — but it’s still not a *sufficient* reason, since A) non-scientists are not obliged to adopt a system just because scientists use it, especially when another system already exists in common usage that is every bit as efficient and useful, and B) if *consistency* of usage in America mattered (which it does not), then one might just as easily argue that our scientists ought to use the Imperial system.

    #6 – False, and poorly reasoned. False, because conversion errors are NOT “inevitable” — and if they were, then the shifting of decimal points in the metric system would be just as likely to cause errors as conversion to or from Imperial units. And poorly reasoned, because (again) you think you are arguing for the metric system, when you are actually arguing for *consistency* — which (AGAIN) could just as easily be achieved by everyone using the Imperial system.

    #7 – This is, for all practical purposes, functionally identical to reasons 1, 4 and 5. And it’s *still* irrelevant.

    #8 – To whatever extent that this might be true, it too is irrelevant; but many hobbies and sports *don’t* use the metric system, so it’s an invalid argument anyway.

    #9 – This is a cross between reasons 1 and 3 — only this time, you are assuming that even *adult* Americans are too stupid to be able to handle the metric system when they travel abroad, apparently because you think people can’t have two systems in their head simultaneously.

    #10 – This is just an incredibly obnoxious way of restating reasons #1, #7 and #9 — which remains irrelevant — and now your entire argument is tainted by your contemptuous attitude.

    #11 – Rubbish.

    #12 – Absolutely absurd. The ability to conceptualize any unit of measure is entirely determined by one’s *familiarity* with that unit, and has nothing whatsoever to do with the system to which that unit belongs. Ask any average American which they can visualize more easily: 5’10”, or 177.8cm. For that matter, ask *100* people chosen at random off any American street — and if you get more than *1* who claims to be able to visualize the latter measurement more easily, then I guarantee you’ve stumbled across some foreign tourists.

    #13 – Most people don’t even use all those Imperial units that YOU think are so difficult to learn — and most of the people who DO use the rarer units don’t seem to have any particular difficulty doing so. (And by the way, the word is spelled “versus,” not “verses.”)

    #14 – The fact that the metric system was “designed” is one of many reasons the metric system is so widely despised by Americans — the vast majority of whom are obviously quite content to keep using units of measure that naturally *evolved*, rather than a system “designed” (arbitrarily) by elitist snobs who thought they knew better.

    And I would add this: Perhaps the greatest reason that most Americans have no interest in the metric system, and will *never* accept it, is that those who advocate it — such as YOU — are so thoroughly pompous and stuck up about it.

    You think children are too stupid to learn two ways of measuring things? You think even *adults* are too stupid to be able to perform simple conversions? (Or for that matter, too stupid to just feed the numbers into their cell phones?) You think Americans are “foolish and ignorant” just because we don’t use the metric system?

    Well, congratulations. Keep telling yourself how much better and smarter the “rest of the world” is than Americans. And keep deluding yourself with the belief that you’re somehow more enlightened too, even though YOU can’t handle two systems at once — or if you CAN, then by what colossal arrogance do you assume it’s beyond the rest of us?

    The rest of us will keep right on using our Imperial units, AND the metric system whenever we must — such as when we’re traveling abroad in countries full of people who can only handle ONE system of measurement — and although it will come as a surprise to you, we’ll experience no mysterious difficulties doing so.

    While we’re at it, we may also learn multiple languages, or maybe even wholly different systems of mathematics, such as binary or hexadecimal — Oh no! We may encounter numbers that don’t divide evenly by 10! Whatever shall we do? — and we’ll do it all without a single cerebral stroke, or even a strained muscle.

    And you can waste as much time as you want to, evangelizing the gospel of universal metric conformity in America. By all means, keep dreaming. I invite you to hold your breath waiting for the mass conversion.

    • The last sentence above: “By all means, keep dreaming. I invite you to hold your breath waiting for the mass conversion.”

      If this person is so sure metric system adoption will never happen, why respond at all?

    • To “Knight Owl”:

      #4
      Electrical outlets in my American home provide 120 Volts. Since this unit named “Volt” is part of the metric system, please tell me: what is this in Imperial units? For example, the metric system has these relationships:

      1 Watt (power) = 1 Volt (voltage) x 1 Ampere (current) = 1 Newton (force) x 1 meter per second (speed)

      so there the electrical and mechanical units all nicely fit together. What do these relationships look like in the Imperial system, and is it really better than this? Why don’t our batteries have two voltage labels: first in Imperial units, and then (maybe) in Volts in parentheses? We already do this for volumes, so why not for voltages as well?

      Why do we impose these (metric) Volts on Americans instead of using our own traditional units?

      ——————

      #2
      You may not care to measure large distances in unsuitably small units, but your GPS gadget does. Nailing down the position to a few meters (or feet) from satellites placed thousands of kilometers (or miles) above us really does require that level of precision and unit conversions. Let’s say US troops surround a terrorist compound and call in an air strike – we wouldn’t want that missile to hit our guys instead, would we?

      ——————

      #5
      I see no problem with keeping using yards in football – and other essentially frivolous things like that. But if you ever need prescription glasses or contact lenses, you’ll be happy having those diopters (another metric unit: inverse meter) work well for you.

      ——————

      #14
      Many American cities were “designed” on a grid from scratch, as opposed to European cities which “naturally evolved” from their medieval roots. Perhaps you’d enjoy living in a place like Cairo, which seems to have no design to it at all. Both the American Declaration of Independence and the US Constitution were designed by elite/elitist committees. So on this point too you are simply wrong; but that is not surprising from a person like you, who cannot admit that, on occasion, America could actually learn something useful from abroad. The Chinese made that same mistake in the 1400s when they disengaged from the rest of the world out of their sense of superiority. It did not work out well for them during the next five centuries, so let’s hope that we can learn from that.

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