The metric system: Make your case for it and why we should switch to it. (As if we haven't already)

It’s outdated, not obsolete. It’s outdated because it doesn’t incorporate numerous lessons that more modern systems have (in particular, coherency in the sense that Chronos used).

It doesn’t follow. Nevertheless it is already true that the US government mandates which system(s) you must use. Depending on the application, you are obligated to use US customary units, SI, or both. You do not get to use UK imperial units, or traditional Indian measurements, or any of a zillion alternatives (at least not without also providing the legal units, with requirements about size and visibility).

So, why do you get worked up at the idea of being forced to use a certain system units when you are already being forced to use a certain system of units?

That’s my point. When the government adopted pounds, inches, feet, and miles they were doing so because that is what people used, and they were doing so as servants of the people. When they mandate centimeters, Celsius, and kilograms, they are acting as overlords and forcing people to change. Surely the difference can be seen.

I went through high school totally in Imperial. Then, things changed overnight, and I (and my friends and my parents and pretty much every other Canadian) were totally lost.

By the way, a mile is 5280 feet, or 1760 yards, or 8 furlongs. :slight_smile:

320 rods.

The status of your law license is under review. :slight_smile:

If that were true, there would have been no need for standardization, because everyone would have already meant the same thing by those names. It’s precisely because everyone had their own idiosyncratic versions of those units that standardization was necessary.

You have it exactly backwards in another way as well. Americans aren’t genetically predisposed to using US customary units. They learn them because that’s how all their stuff is measured. And all their stuff is measured that way because the government has regulated it in a certain way.

At some distant point in the past, maybe we could say that some extremely fuzzy and variable definition of the pound, foot, etc. arose “naturally”, and not by government fiat the way it is now. That time is long past and there is no reason why the current generation has to suffer from the stupidities that got baked in when they collapsed all of those other systems into the current one.

You are also conflating “people” with “what I personally learned as a child”. Maybe most people grew up with US units, but certainly not all. Suppose a British person wants to escape the brutal oppression of Europe and immigrates to the US for our freedumb. He grew up with UK gallons and wants to operate a gas station. Why are you forcing him to use US gallons instead of UK?

I’ll be sure to file my Statement of Defense on 8 1/2" by 11" paper. :grinning:

I know when my wife turns the thermostat from 68 to 70. Your Celsius is a blunt tool.

But other than that, I work in machining and besides metric and American, I routinely use all manner of ridiculous size measurements for a parade of related tools. Going full metric would make my life so much easier.

I don’t know how carpenters in America can stand it.

oooo - that’ll get @Princhester upset!

@Northern Piper, I’m not completely uncaring about the world and those in it, but frankly the older I get the more I tend to just say “meh, if they want to go to hell in a handbasket, who am I to stand in their way?”

This is just so much of picking nits. Regardless of the history of how we got to the pounds, miles, and inches, you would agree I hope that by 1970 we had a standard.

And the government proposed, and DID enforce in non-US countries the proposal that we don’t care what you want, you WILL buy meat by the kg. That is not what a government should do in a free country.

Maybe in the past, people did argue over what an inch was, so what. I know what it is now. Others do as well.

And here you will buy meat by the pound. And not just any pound, but a very specific one.

A “free” country, by your standard, would have no such regulations. The free market would be left to come up with a standard, or more likely, every company would have their own, which might change based on the phase of the moon or whether the last quarter was profitable or not. Consumers would have to figure out on their own if they got shortchanged.

At any rate, aside from Spoons’ somewhat improbable anecdote, I see no evidence that you can’t buy meat in whatever unit you can get the butcher to understand in metric countries. The scale will read in kg, and the price will be in units of kg, and the label will show kg. But you can still ask for whatever you want, including “the usual”, and the butcher will put some amount on the scale which you can accept or not. It’s not like you ever got exactly a pound of meat anyway; you got 0.91 lbs or 1.12 lbs and if it’s not quite what you want you can ask them to adjust it.

I’m not understanding this. You are saying that we either have the metric system or we have Mad Max, Lord of the Flies, or the Walking Dead. The United States of America is proof that this isn’t true. Nobody in this thread is arguing for an unregulated system of weights and measures wherein people can be cheated. Absolutely nobody.

The customary system, far from being forced upon people, is an enactment of the system that people already use. Metrification is telling people that we don’t care what system of weights and measures you would like to use. You will use this system simply because we say so.

You, unique among all humans, were apparently born with innate knowledge of the US Customary System, like the Kwisatz Haderach of weights and measures.

The rest of us, however, had to obtain our knowledge the hard way. We know what a gallon is because that’s how milk and gasoline are sold. We know how fast a mph is because that’s what’s printed on our speedometers and on speed limit signs. We know pounds and ounces because that’s how meat and flour and potato chips are sold. And all this stuff is the way it is because that’s what the US government mandates.

The same principle is true elsewhere. People learn what a liter is because that’s how milk and gasoline are sold there. They know what a km/h is because that’s how the road signs are marked.

Furthermore, your view that US customary units are just what Americans use is, well, false. Tens of millions of Americans use the metric system on a daily basis–are virtually obligated to due to its superiority and international compatibility–and would easily and happily drop the customary units given the chance. But we can’t, because the US government forces them on us, in just the same way you fear them forcing the metric system on you.

Of course, Americans familiar with US units outnumber those familiar with the metric system. But you’re the one saying this shouldn’t happen in a “free” country, and yet it is.

This is demonstrably untrue. This ad I have for $8.99/lb roast beef could just as legally price it by the kilogram. Nobody forces anything on anyone. It is advertised in a price per pound because that is what is the custom in the United States.

What you propose is forced pricing. Using the power of law to make it illegal to price something by the pound and demand that people use kilograms, no matter their free choice.

Maybe advertising has looser requirements (I can’t find the laws), but packaging sure doesn’t. If I sell a box of cookies I am absolutely mandated by law to put US customary units on the package. See here.

  1. Should the net quantity of contents be stated in both grams and ounces?
    Answer: Food labels printed must show the net contents in both metric (grams, kilograms, milliliters, liters) and U.S. Customary System (ounces, pounds, fluid ounces) terms. The metric statement may be placed either before or after the U. S. Customary statement, or above or below it.

Or if you want something closer to the source:
https://www.accessdata.fda.gov/scripts/cdrh/cfdocs/cfcfr/CFRSearch.cfm?fr=101.7

(b)(1) Statements of weight shall be in terms of avoirdupois pound and ounce.
(2) Statements of fluid measure shall be in terms of the U.S. gallon of 231 cubic inches and quart, pint, and fluid ounce subdivisions thereof, and shall:

(p) A separate statement of the net quantity of contents in terms of the metric system is not regarded as a supplemental statement and an accurate statement of the net quantity of contents in terms of the metric system of weight or measure may also appear on the principal display panel or on other panels.

You seem to be under the misapprehension that the US customary system is used purely by custom, when in fact it’s legally mandated in most cases.

You’d still notice if the thermostat read c wouldn’t you?

Somewhat improbable? You’re kidding right? No, it happened. The nice little old church lady said “Fuck.” Not once, not twice, but three times. Out loud. In front if the rest of the store. I was there; I saw and listened to it happen. I don’t think you understand just how hated the metric system was, when Canada adopted it. My anecdote is true; there is no “somewhat improbable” about it.

This was what, around 50 years ago? Sure, it’s possible that over that span of time you’ve retained every detail, every nuance of that encounter, with perfect clarity. I tend to think human memory isn’t that great (mine certainly isn’t) and also that our ability to really understand what’s going on in some given situation isn’t infinite.

Nevertheless, suppose it did happen as you describe. It’s still much more likely that the clerk, or church lady, or both, had some confusion about the mechanics of the transition and that was the source of the frustration. Perhaps you can point me to the actual law that said it was not legal to ask for the meat in pounds (I mean really: it’s illegal for the customer just to ask?). If there was no such law, then the clerk was mistaken and the lady had the right to be frustrated.

What’s a thousand times more likely however is that the lady could have asked for her half-pound of salami, and the clerk measured out what looked like a half pound, and then said he didn’t know if it was exactly a half pound but the scale said 219 grams, and in any case it came out to the same price as usual and looked to be the same quantity. And despite this, perhaps because the kilogram price visually looked worse than the old pound price, the frustrated church lady didn’t like the answer and unloaded her obscenities.

I had to smile at that. In the UK, milk (and draught beer) comes in Imperial pints and petrol in litres. Road signs are in miles, but footpaths in km.

When we switched from pounds, shillings and pence to Pounds and Pence, the main concern was that vendors would use it to mask price increases. The same applied to some extent with the switch to metric weight/volume. There was some justification for both.