Why Don't the U.S., Myanmar, and Liberia Use the Metric System?

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Published: 1 year ago
Just three countries- the United States, Myanmar (formerly Burma), and Liberia, still resist the metric system. Ever wonder why? Watch Mr. Beat's video anyway.

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Footage used from:
Flying the Nest

All other images owned by Matt Beat, used under fair use guidelines, or found in the public domain

Music by Electric Needle Room (Matt Beat)







The story of the metric system begins in Belgium, where this dude, Simon Stevin came up with the idea.The British philosopher John Wilkins expanded on Stevin’s idea and helped promote it further, but it wasn’t until the French Revolution it became a reality. The revolutionaries who overthrew the French monarchy decided the time was right to get everybody on the same measuring system. Before this, it’s estimated that around a quarter of a million different units of measure were used in France. Dang dude. The idea was, that if everyone was on the same page, less people would be ripped off and everything would be more efficient.

The French philosopher Marquis de Condorcet famously proclaimed the metric system to be “for all people for all time.” And yet, it was hard for the new French government to enforce this new system. People were resistant to change, and old units were sometimes used locally. After Napoleon took over, the metric system expanded as the French Empire expanded across the continent. After Napoleon fell, many European countries decided to keep it because they kind of liked it, and it made trade easier. Eventually, as these European countries started colonizing the rest of the world, the metric system spread across the globe.

But not to the United States. After the French first established the metric system, Americans thought about doing the same. Thomas Jefferson, the secretary of state at the time, straight up rejected the metric system, saying it was too French. And here TJ was a France fan. I should note that he actually was cool with a different standardized decimal system that used traditional names for units. Regardless, even as the metric system spread, this precedent set by Jefferson held. Sure, there were still plenty of attempts to adopt it later on. Congress even passed The Metric Act of 1866, in uh, 1866 to legalize use of the metric system in the United States.

In the early 1900s, famous people like Alexander Graham Bell testified before Congress, urging them to adopt it. In 1927, Americans sent over 100,000 petitions to Congress begging them to officially adopt it. That year, those countries who had officially adopted the metric system were still in the minority.

But most Americans resisted, calling metric system proponents elitist and thinking the rest of the world should follow them, not the other way around. And besides, the United Kingdom used the imperial system, too, so nah nah nah nah nah nah. But in a shocking turn of events, in 1973 the UK officially required the country to use the metric system to help their economy.

Partially in response to this, President Gerald Ford signed the Metric Conversion Act into law in 1975. This law declared the metric system the best for trade and commerce and set up the United States Metric Board to help transition the country into the metric system. And yet, because the law was voluntary, the United States has yet to fully implement it, which is why there is only one random highway in Arizona that has all metric road signs. Surprisingly, by some estimates, half the country does use the metric system in some form or another.

So why don’t all Americans get on the same page? Basically because the transition would be a pain in the butt. It would cost a lot and take a lot of time to transfer everything over, and the infrastructure and many industries within the country rely on the imperial system. Momentum is a hard thing to reverse.

Myanmar resisted the metric system and used more traditional forms of measurement for so long due to their isolation. Now that they are more open, that’s changing.

What about Liberia? Well, Liberia was founded by Americans, yo. It was settled by thousands of free African Americans during the 1800s, and they brought American culture and traditions with them, including the imperial measuring system.

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When do you think the United States will finally adopt the metric system?

1 year ago


2 days ago


1 week ago

+Otto Lehikoinen GO PISS UP A ROPE-!!!

1 week ago


1 week ago


1 week ago

Shit the fuck up metric system🇺🇸

4 days ago

Metric system is communist.

4 days ago

I don't know what you heard but what ever it is Jefferson started

4 days ago


1 week ago

Disappointed I expected more of Myanmar and Liberia but not USA.

1 week ago

Myanmar also has a 45 Kyat and 90 Kyat note as well as a 30 minute time offset compared to neighbouring countries. Trumpy like?

1 week ago

we only measure one thing in Imperial, TV/smartphone screen diagonal in inches

2 weeks ago

USA and Liberia = Imperial System

2 weeks ago

The UK uses a mixture. We use miles and yards on roads still (with speed limits) capacity and weight are usually done in metric however there are some exceptions such as scales using stones or pounds and pints on milk. Height is done in feet and inches and almost nobody says their height in metres. Will probably go back to all imperial after brexit aha 😂

2 weeks ago

What's Dr thunder

2 weeks ago

Myanmar tiny? It's about the size of Texas!

3 weeks ago

The US should mess with the rest of the world by adapting only Metric time.

3 weeks ago

I'm an Australian born in 1960. In my early school years I was taught the British Imperial System of Weights and Measures, and still remember my class chanting in unison (another thing of the past): "22 yards, 1 chain; 10 chains, 1 furlong; 8 furlongs, 1 mile" . . . the Grafton Sisters of Mercy were thorough to a fault. In 1970 the decision was taken to convert to the Metric System, and planning commenced immediately. The implementation phase was exceptionally rapid, starting on New Years Day 1972 and being fully completed by the same date in 1974. I learned "metric" thoroughly too, so I'm right in the middle of a narrow age band that became "bilingual" and can move effortlessly between the two systems. This was never quite the case for my parents' generation, many of whom—certainly the less-educated ones whose work didn't necessitate Metric System proficiency on a day-to-day basis—took decades to become comfortable with some less-used aspects of it. (My grandparents' generation, approaching or already at retirement age, really never embraced it.) On the other hand, people born only seven years after me never encountered the old Imperial System at all at school, so its pounds and ounces, and yards, feet and inches are a foreign language to them. More than once I found myself acting as interpreter between an older and a younger person. So I suppose what I'm saying is that, like all change, metric conversion (the term that was used in Australia) will be easy for some Americans, harder for others and very difficult for a few, although they'll learn to live with it. Once started, there is no going back.

Actually until 1966, when we converted to decimal currency (yes, I remember that too), the United States was more metric than Australia. In the States, 100 cents (the very name says so) equaled one dollar. But Australia's former currency followed the old British standard of pounds, shillings and pence. There were twelve pence (pennies) in a shilling, while twenty shillings made up a pound. This often made counting up money a less than instant mental procedure, as you can imagine. There was some opposition to the change from traditionally-minded people, with complaints of "Americanisation" and the like. (Mainly the same people who a few years later would decry "Napoleon's revenge" and the "soulless cosmopolitanism" that the metric system was allegedly going to wreak.) But because everybody has to handle money every day, even they quickly appreciated the greater ease that came with the new order (not that the odd die-hard would ever admit it of course).

3 weeks ago

I always like to remind people we have 12 months in a year so that we can have quarter years aka seasons. That's why inches to feet to yards is way easier to work with than centimeters to decimeters to meters. Then there's temperature, where 0-100 Fahrenheit is the scope of the comfortably livable and 0-100 Celsius will kill you on the upper end, and just be a bit chilly on the lower end.

Americans are often closed minded, so its easy to act like our system is all hubris, but it actually works very well for daily functions.

3 weeks ago

I measure the distance by sights
1 sight =5km =1 league plus a little bit more
I invented because I don't know I'm God or something....

Ok I was getting bored

3 weeks ago

The uk is using the imperial system again.

3 weeks ago

Remind me never to visit Arizona

3 weeks ago

Notice Liberia's flag looks like the U.S flag

3 weeks ago

I know this all "horrible" in all, but I think the world has bigger problems. I don't think switching from Imperial to Metric is needed right now. I mean by all means, use whatever system you want, I just don't think it is a priority.

3 weeks ago