The US was one of, if not the, first country to adopt a decimal monetary system, way back in 1786-1792. So why are we the very last industrialized country on the planet still using a pre-18th century system of weights and measures?
Decimal currency systems have swept over practically the entire world. (The only exceptions in Wikipedia are two African countries whose currencies are purely local.) Why is that? Because it’s far simpler to deal with a currency that uses base-10 arithmetic! If you need to add up the total cost of several items, just add them up! No hassling with base-12 (Brit. pence per shilling) or base-20 (Brit. shillings per pound) or other non-decimal systems.
Americans have been using decimal currency for centuries, so perhaps we take the simplicity for granted. But why are we putting up with the ludicrous, arcane system of weights and measures we have been saddled with? 3 teaspoons per tablespoon, 2 tablespoons per ounce, 8 ounces per cup, 4 cups per quart, 4 quarts per gallon (wow, some consistancy!), followed by various multi-gallon measurements. This system is crazy! It uses bases 2, 3, 4, and 8, just for volume! I admit, you can divide a gallon into integral thirds, but you have to go all the way to teaspoons to do it! (4 qt*4 cups*8 oz*2 tbsp*3 tsp/3=256 tsp=1 qt+1 cup+2 oz+1 tbsp+1 tsp) That took me a while to figure out, and I don’t even want to think about actually measuring such a quantity!
We are stubbornly holding on to this messed up system due to cultural inertia, and because the US still uses it, several other countries that do business with the US are still supporting it in their import/export markets. We have committed (several times!) to convert to the SI units that the rest of the world uses. It will greatly simplify life for Americans as well as the rest of the world when we finally accomplish this goal. Not only that, but it will also be good for the import/export business of this country.
I can already hear somebody complaining, “What about my recipes? They use teaspoons, et al.” To this, I have only to point to my wife and kids–whenever they want to multiply or divide a recipe, they come ask me how many tablespoons are in a cup. I’d be willing to bet that many people under ~45 couldn’t give all the basic units of the American system, along with how many sub-units (and sub-sub-units, etc) comprise them. It might be an interesting online quiz. Hmmmm…