This Metric / Imperial map lacks resolution

Here’s from the Wikipedia article above:

However, conversion was not mandatory and many industries chose not to convert, and U.S. customary units remain in common use in many industries as well as in governmental use (for example, speed limits are still posted in miles per hour). **Unlike other countries, there is no governmental or major social desire to implement further metrication

That’s the bottom line no "major social desire to implement further metrification. Posting explanations or arguments on this forum is not going to move the needle on social desire. It’s just a waste of time and energy.

Metric system is taught to students in school - so it’s not a matter of lack of understanding:

math standards calls for teaching U.S. customary and metric units side by side in grades 2, 3, 4, and, 5 under the category of “Measurement & Data.”

This is my point here; to look at that map in the OP someone might assume that metric units are not being taught in the U.S. But that’ s not correct.


A post was merged into an existing topic: Metric vs Imperial systems

Mao once said; “To obtain true Communism will take 20 generations and each generation have to have their own revolution”

Having followed the discussion here I’ll paraphrase that: To obtain metrication will take at least 20 generation, where each generation have to have their own:

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I don’t know why this metric / traditional divide apparently bothers people outside the U.S. so much more than inside but the augment this article raises an interesting point; the U.S. is leaving the choice of standards to the free market rather than government decree.

Why Metric Snobs Are Wrong - Foundation for Economic Education

the GAO noted, “Worldwide usage of U.S. customary standards is still much greater than that of metric standards.” Although U.S. usage accounts for much of this, customary standards persist internationally in numerous forms, ranging from any use of latitude and longitude, to industry-specific units such as troy ounces and carats, to any production whose actual dimensions are tooled on customary units.

To clarify the last, the most successful photographic film format continues to be manufactured to its original specification of exactly 1-3/8 inches in width. The customary standard of this American invention has been eclipsed by its subsequent relabeling as “35mm,” an approximate metric equivalent. This kind of soft conversion succeeds in giving the appearance of metric prominence, of greater precision, and of foreign industrial clout, but it doesn’t alter the hard reality that about two-thirds of global industrial output remains based on customary specifications.

That article is from 20 years ago but would explain the map shows England as “mixed” evidently they are back-sliding, letting free markets work.

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Metric snobs :rofl: I wonder who on this forum fits that description. At least our elite overlords are local and not in an entirely different country like Belgium.

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“Metric fundamentalists” is a good term: That three-color map reflects the desire to oversimplify the world, to map the world as we wish rather than the way it is.

The aesthetic appeal of a standardized and orderly system like metric is driven by a tendency to seek order and symmetry rather than practical considerations.

To the metric fundamentalist the messiness and chaos in the real world results in demands that the government impose order. What the fundamentalist miss is the hidden order that results in leaving system to optimize using market forces.

Is this some form of advanced irony?

If I assume good faith it’s difficult to understand why this topic keeps coming up here. Part of the reason must be just non-U.S. members not knowing the situation here in the States.

Metric has been part of the school curriculum here since the 50s or 60s so there’s really no need to post “explainers” or charts etc., that’s not likely to convince many.

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One aspect of the metric/imperial divide that alternately amuses or annoys me is when a manufacturer/seller does an arbitrary conversion — example: small electrical connectors labeled”2.54mm spacing” — when “.1 inch” is what those parts were born as.
Lawmakers do it, too - they say “1,852 km” instead of “1000 miles”

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Maybe time to make it the official system of measurement then? That would save a lot of confusion, costs and accidents caused by having a different system in USA from the rest of the developed world.

No need to convince MANY, only those in the US. (4.25% of the world’s population)

There is another problem; why do we need different Voltage, Hz and standards for electric plugs in different countries?:

When I was travelling widely I carried multiple adapters to fit the plugs wherever I was.

PS> Luckily I don’t have that problem any more, since I don’t travel much these days.

Now there are Universal Travel Adapters available:

But it still don’t solve the Volt & Hz problem.

One that amuses me is the ratchets for metric sockets have drives measured in English units. And tires have rim size in inches, and width in mm.


The U.S. is a big country, my view doesn’t have much weight in the matter, yours even less.

I don’t have an opinion as to which approach to change is better, government decree or free market forces. Both arguments seem to have merit.

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Looking at the history of measurements the trend is toward increasing abstraction and standardization. Did it matter if a pound in Bruges matched a pound in Milan? For many the answer might be “what does it matter; Milan is far from here and it’s for the trader to know the difference”.

If I’m building a bookcase at home, there’s no need for a tape measure; I can simply use a story stick and mark off lengths as was done in olden times. Once I’m selling bookcases, it becomes useful for customers to know the size, and not encounter mix-ups due to one party using the Dutch foot and another the Paris foot.

There’s also the case of re-usability: if you have one yard used by weavers, and another used by engineers, each might think there’s no issue, and simply a bit of maths to be done on the rare occasion the two might need to interact.

In the end, conversion is a source of friction and potential error. Thus, there’s an ongoing (and often unseen) economic cost of not standardising. One would think that would lead to change, but that discounts the human element…

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Theoreticians love their perfectly spherical elephants of uniform density. The real world is messy, and many flaws in otherwise tidy economic theories arise due to the humans in the mix. Humans, like most animals, often dislike change, exhibit herd behavior, and employ heuristic thinking far more than they realize; and free markets are composed of people.

Often the simplest way to kill off a significant change is to argue for a gradual approach, knowing that reversion to instinctive habits will finish the job. Going “cold turkey” can be critical to the success of any large change, even if the economic arguments would seem to argue for the change in any form.

Setting weights and measures for trade is also a classic role for governments, along with coinage and national defense. This is not to say that governments should arbitrarily impose standards; it would be folly not to consult with industry and experts before doing do. What government does have is the ability to overcome the “activation energy” needed for change.


Many years ago I took a new build out of the yard in Ulsan. Had some steel rules from the yard and some supplied with owners stores. Were both calibrated in inches, but different.
Found yard supplied were in Chinese inches.Company supplied in British inches.

How many chinese inch in 1 inches? The answer is 0.762

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Of course they do, in theory, what about in actual fact? Remember these?

There’s a good article here: Metrication in the United States.

The U.S. Metric Study recommended that the United States implement a carefully planned transition to the principal use of the metric system over a decade. Congress passed the Metric Conversion Act of 1975 “to coordinate and plan the increasing use of the metric system in the United States”. Voluntary conversion was initiated, and the United States Metric Board (USMB) was established

Because of this ineffectiveness and an effort of the Reagan administration—the USMB was disbanded in the autumn of 1982

The EU accepts a pint of beer as a measurement

Here’s the political situation as of 2019:

it’s clear that cultural objections are as potent as ever. In a segment on Fox News in 2019, the notoriously xenophobic right­-wing host Tucker Carlson and his guest, New Criterion editor James Panero, romped through some of the greatest hits of the anti­metric brigade. Carlson derided metric as a “weird, utopian, inelegant, creepy system that we alone have resisted,” while Panero praised customary measures for their derivation from “ancient knowledge, ancient wis­dom.

From here: The battle of the standards: why the US and UK can’t stop fighting the metric system

Of course that was 4 years ago, perhaps the political climate now is more sane :upside_down_face:

Here’s another article: Why doesn’t the US use the metric system?

So, for those who long for the U.S. to see sense and ditch ounces for grams — be careful what you wish for, Alder said, because more often than not, the transition is accompanied by more drastic political change.

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