The United States Should Switch to the Metric System
One crucial, yet widely unnoticed issue plagues the United States of America today: the country simply faces a stubborn unwillingness to convert to the metric system. America spends millions of dollars on keeping the U.S. customary system in place. The refusal to convert hinders the country’s progress in the global economy. A conversion failure even sent a poor satellite hurtling towards destruction on the surface of Mars (Wheeler). The United States needs to convert to the metric system as soon as possible. The metric system consists of a decimal system containing units of volume, mass, temperature, and length in liters, grams, degrees Celsius, and meters. It stands as, by far, the most widely used unit system in the world. Gabriel Mouton of France created the original metric system in 1670 (MacLeod). The system spread through most of Europe by the mandate of Napoleon Bonaparte during his reign as Emperor of France (MacLeod)(Appendix A). Since the beginning of America, people campaigned to use the metric system instead of the Customary System, which the United States inherited from Britain. Two of America’s presidents, Thomas Jefferson and John Quincy Adams, endorsed the metric system in the early years of the United States, but despite their efforts, they never managed to convert the country (Chapman). Later, in the 20th century, movements such as the Metric Conversion Act of 1975 and the Omnibus Trade and Competitiveness Act of 1988 were passed with the intention of enforcing the metric system. Today, the metric system has still not been established in America, despite multiple attempts to do so. The fight for the metric system has been occurring for hundreds of years, which seems like enough time for congress to pass at least one piece of legislation regarding the issue. Two hundred years ago, George Washington, the first president of the United States, articulated his desire for “uniformity in currency, weights and measures” (MacLeod). Since then, not much has changed. However, politicians in the past have given it their best effort. In 1975, the U.S. Metric Conversion Act, which encouraged the voluntary transition to the metric system by companies, was passed by Congress, but it faced the intense scrutiny of Americans who thought it was a gambit by Russian Communists to weaken America (Garfinkel). In 1988, the Omnibus Trade and Competitiveness Act was passed, requiring all government agencies to use the metric system, though only 22 of 37 complied (Chapman)(Appendix B). This law, however, is still in effect. This means that not only is it foolish not to use the metric system, it is also illegal in the public sector. Most other countries in the world mandated the metric system years ago, but when they did it, their citizens actually listened. Why does the United States still cling to the U.S. Customary System of Measurements, while all the other countries in the world, excluding Liberia and Myanmar, follow the metric system (Bohren and Strauss)? Credence can be lent to the assumption that if everyone else is doing something, then there is very likely a good reason, and it is best to follow suit. Most of the world uses the metric system; therefore, in order to keep up with the world, especially in terms of trade, it is necessary that the United States convert to the metric system as well. As Michael Chapman said, “international trade involves metric-sized products.” Applying the metric system to U.S. trade will create new jobs for the new markets created and increase trade by an estimated 20% (Chapman). Metric-sized exports will particularly increase trade with Canada, Mexico, and many European countries, which have already mandated the metric system and have no need for the current U.S. exports measured in inches and feet (Chapman). Currently, such countries do not like trading with the U.S. due to the complexity of its measurement system and the conversions...
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