Dear Crabby, Why Hasn’t the U.S. Switched to the Metric System?

Dear Crabby, Why Hasn’t the U.S. Switched to the Metric System?

Thanks, Graham Stone


Dear Graham,

Well, we kind of have made the switch … sort of. We’ve been inching our into the metric system for a long time. Basically, we started with it … at least with our money. Thomas Jefferson was given the task of deciding what weights and measurements our new country would use. America was the first nation to use a fully decimal form of measurement for currency – our dollar is based in units of 10.

Dear Crabby sits infront of his laptop

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But the metric system was new, a French thing that developed during the French Revolution. So new, even France had trouble adopting the system. Jefferson used the decimal for our money, however, not wanting to be too French-like, he chose to use the British Imperial System for everything else.

Europe slowly adopted the metric system, and the world followed – but not us. We wanted to be a leader – not a follower. And the public didn’t want to waste the money to make the transition. Congress tried a few times. I remember a big push in the 1970s. We’ve settled on being “bilingual” when it comes to weights and measurements – we learn both and we use both now.

By the way, the original French plan also called to convert hours to measurements of 10 instead of 12, could image making that change. I’d consider it if we got more hours in the day … there never seems to be enough now.

Besides the mishap of the Mars orbiter in 1998 – when Lockheed Martin used pound-force-seconds instead of newton-seconds (as NASA wanted) – causing it to burn up in the Martian atmosphere, we haven’t had too much trouble using our system.

Just like most of the world learns English, we’ll have to use the metric system to compete and stay up on the world markets. We’ll all get there one day, even though it is miles and miles down the road. Now I’ve got to run, Mrs. Crabby has a 9-pound turkey coming out of the oven and I want to pour me a 12-once beverage to go with it and the refrigerator is at least 35-feet away from my computer.

Until next week,

Dear Crabby

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