Wednesday, January 9, 2013

The Shadow Metric System

Americans are spoiled. Yes, we still weigh things in gallons instead of liters, use pounds instead of kilograms, and feet instead of meters.Even after more than ten years of having a dual labeling system -- which is a completely unnecessary expense and drag on innovation and productivity. eHow says "The meter has been adopted by virtually every major nation except the United States. The metric system is also used by scientists worldwide."

Oh, we could attribute this to the lobbyists who are pushing its continued use, or to the legislators who refuse to change it. But it comes down to polls and comfort. Polls, because most Americans don't want to change, they're too familiar with it, and legislators who have given up trying to change it.

We even teach the metric system in schools, along with "our" system of weights and measures. This is emblematic and demonstrates clearly a central fact of human nature. We don't like change. However, that's too bad. There comes a time when it becomes critical for survival. Okay, so use of the metric system doesn't seem like such a big thing.

Tell automobile manufacturing companies that in the U.S. Almost 8 million cars and trucks produced annually, yet only a small fraction are "American" i.e. 75% or more of the vehicle is made from American parts.  Many American cars use nuts and bolts, for example, measured in inches. (I think) There was a time when this was true for all American vehicles. Those days are long gone. All foreign cars use metric sizes.

I got my first metric socket set from Sears in 1969, after I bought my first vehicle, a 1962 VW Bus. I had to change the alternator on the bus, and needed the right tools -- metrics. Soon after Janet and I were married in June 1971, we inherited an old Rambler American from her parents, We called it "The Tank," because it was so big and awkward. I had to buy an American-sized ratchet and socket set to work on it. It probably only cost me $10. In those days I was able to do oil changes, gap and change spark plugs, adjust the carbeurater etc. Of course, it's tough just doing an oil change now.
But on a very minute scale, you can see that more expense is involved with maintaining two standards. Multiply this millions of times, and the need to maintain and make machines that can produce both types of products etc. and you see my point. I don't believe in change for the sake of change, but changes like this have a tipping point (see Malcolm Gladwell's book of the same title).We have passed ours when it comes to metric many years ago.
So let's save time, money and effort and adopt the metric system formally. It really will make life easier, and it won't take us that long to get used to it, I promise.

Rodney Richards copyright 2014

Check out my bipolar journey with happy interludes in my memoir Episodes available no from, as well as my other longtime blog, ABlessedLifeinAmerica on Google's Blogger!

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