A non-Virginia related note on the Americans

A while back I was pondering the United State's continual refusal to adopt the metric system. To be fair, the U.S. "adopted" the metric system, as sorts, in 1866 by the Kasson Metric Act (which narrowly passed due to the vehement objections of Captain Kathryn Janeway).

But when in 1971 the U.S. Metric study said "hey, let's do this metric thing by 1980", something went horrendously wrong and the Yankees balked on the idea. (The biggest Yankee balk since Vic Raschi)

Nixon proposed some more metric conversions in the mid-70s, including a push to teach it in schools. Finally, Reagan cancelled the program in 1982. There have been several recent half-hearted attempts. In Y2K, they tried to force states to use metric on roadways to qualify for federal funding, which went over like a lead balloon.

Now to be fair, the U.S. is unfairly singled out. Britain still loves their old-style Imperial system even though they, like Canada, are officially metric. But when Colby Cosh brought up U.S. metrification in a recent Virginia shooting post at the National Post's "Full Comment" page, I decided it was high time I blog about this topic as well.

Specifically, I was thinking that the U.S. at this point knows all the good reasons to switch, in the same way that the rest of the world knows all the good reasons not to (ie. everybody already seems to understand the old system, land is divided into sections and quarter-sections based on miles rather than kilometres, products like butter and wood and clothes are already sold as 1lb [453.59g], 2x4 [50.8mmx101.6mm], 36"38"i [91.44cm with a 96.52cm inseam]).

Why the continued resistence on the part of the United States? Probably, and this is just a hunch, because everybody on the planet says they should switch. This sort of "do the right thing" by peer pressure is exactly the sort of sovereignty violations that Americans get very touchy over (and with good historical reason).

That is to say, that the United States of America refuses to adopt the metric system for the same reason that a guy with an old beat up car (that his friends tease him about) doesn't replace it. Namely, whether its a good idea or not is less important than giving any impression that he acted because of the taunting.