## Why hasn’t the United States switched to the metric system?

Question
6 months 1 Answer 130 views

1. Originally Answered: Why did the majority of Americans never want to use the metric system?
Americans use the metric system, every day. They buy two liter bottles of Coke and 750 ml bottles of wine, they monitor their electrical usage in kilowatts, take pictures with 35 mm film and they run 5K races. All Americans learn the metric system in school. The question isn’t why do the majority of Americans never want to use the metric system. The question is why would they want to stop using the units they customarily use?

The answer is simply that there is very little benefit to Americans to stop using the United States customary units. People make choices based on incentives. There is no tangible incentive for the average person to surrender their way of life to adopt a new system of measurement.

Many American companies that conduct business outside America have incorporated the metric system into their processes and products because that outside business created an incentive to do so. American scientists publish in metric because there is an incentive to do so. But there is little to no incentive for the typical person or for many forms of use.

America has more road than any other country, by a significant margin. It has over 4 milłion miles (6.6 million km) of road – fifty percent more than even China. That means there are a lot of mile markers. In what way would it benefit the American taxpayer to replace all of those markers with kilometer markers? It would be a massive and confusing project, not least of which because exits are named after their mile. There is no good reason to do that.

America’s neighbors, Canada and Mexico, may talk about the weather using Celsius, but that isn’t a good enough incentive for Americans to start doing so. Can you think of a reason why Americans would be better off saying “#&\$% it’s 33 Celsius today!” instead of saying “#&\$% it’s 92 degrees out there!”

Can you think of a reason why Americans should throw away all of their measuring cups and spoons and buy new metric ones that don’t work with grandma’s etouffee recipe? What is the incentive for them to do that?

All systems of measurement are arbitrary. One is not inherently better than another. There is nothing inherently better about saying I wear a size 47 shoe in Europe than saying I wear a size 13 shoe in America. People like to spout silly sound bites they’ve heard or read, like “but metric makes conversions easier” without ever stopping to think whether that is true or is even a benefit they’ve ever actually used. I’m an engineer who uses metric and customary units every day and I haven’t needed to do a mass to volume conversion since chemistry class. Normal people don’t have to do such things. So, again, where is the incentive?

If you want to imagine a scenario in which Americans would want to completely swap to metric, you have to imagine incentives that would create that want.