The United States, in all its power and reach, remains behind its societal fellows in many ways. We spent more and get less out of healthcare than any other modern country, our incarcerated population is the largest in the world, and the system we use for measuring length was developed with the distance between cricket wickets in mind. Cricket wickets, although exceedingly useful for impromptu rap battles, are not altogether that prudent a choice for creating a modern measurement system, yet we continue to use the wicket based Imperial System over the universally recognized and scientifically commonsense Metric System.
The length between two cricket wickets is one chain, one chain is equivalent to 22 yards, and 80 chains make up a mile
Efforts of Metrication in American are not a new phenomenon. Metric was authorized by Congress in 1866 and internationally recognized by the United States in 1875. 1975 saw Congress pass the Metric Conversion Act, a voluntary adoption policy for states. The Omnibus Trade and Competitiveness Act of 1988 sought to make Metric the default system for American trading policy. Most recently, former Rhode Island Governor and presidential candidate Lincoln Chafee called for Metrication in his campaign platform. Every attempt of adoption has fallen somewhere between “poorly executed” and “completely ignored”. Regardless of reason, Metric has never been able to pick up wide spread traction in the United States.
Thankfully, we are not completely alone. The economic and political powerhouse states of Myanmar and Liberia stand strong behind the inches and yards owned by Monday Night Football. Temperature is no better, with the Bahamas, Cayman Islands, and Palau rounding out the Fahrenheit users list. The scientific, economic, and academic communities all use Metric. Publications from the U.N. are in Metric. Hell, even the United States Military uses Metric for simplicity and accuracy. The rest of the world has come together in adoption of systems that make sense, so why can’t the American public bite the bullet and make the switch?
Imperial Usage Around the World
Detractors of Metric use in the States argue that the transition process would be costly, arduous, and generally unaccepted. That is simply not true. Mexico, Australia, South Africa, and Kenya, just to name a few, have all adopted the system within the last 50 years. As recently as 1970, Canada, our largest trading partner and esteemed neighbor, made the switch to Metric — and also Celsius to boot. Americans have a notion that change is simply impossible at the societal level, that Imperial units are interwoven in our culture. Perhaps if we stopped laughing presidential candidates out the door for discussing systems of measurement, the rest of the modern world might stop laughing at the dumb Americans and our precious miles.