The metric system is used around the world with the exception of the United States and a few other countries. The metric system is being adopted in the United States and hence it is a good time to explore its pros and cons.
The Pros of Metric System
1. Conversion of units, higher to lower and vice versa, is made simple with the use of decimals. One doesn’t need a conversion tool, one doesn’t need a chart or be deft at math to convert millimeter to meter or liter to kiloliter. One can simply move the decimal adjusting for the zeros and the smaller or higher unit will be attained. 1 kilometer can be easily brought down to 1000 meters. 1 meter is 100 centimeters or 1000 millimeters. 1 centimeter is 10 millimeters and henceforth. It is all a simple toggle of zeroes in the same unit.
2. All units in the metric system are seamlessly connected with clear indication of what kind of value it possesses. Kilo means a thousand. Any unit that has kilo as the prefix is thousand times the base. If meter is the base unit which is pegged at 1, then kilometer is 1000 meters. Likewise, the prefix ‘centi’ is a tenth of the base unit. So centimeter is 1/10 of meter and centiliter is 1/10. You can refer to all the prefixes, such as milli, deci and deca among others where you would easily get to know the corresponding value in regards to the base unit.
3. Metric system allows units to be very precise. Let us presume a scenario where a rack of lamb is falling just short of 1 kilogram. One doesn’t have to use 1 kilogram or kg. One can use grams and be as precise as one has to be. If the unit gram is not impeccably accurate and situation warrants more precision then one can use milligrams. The metric system allows you to go as high as you practically need to and as miniscule as you must.
4. The metric system is the simplest form of measurement there is. This is why the SI metric system uses kilometers and not yards. It is easy to use meters and kilometers instead of yards, acres and hectares. The simplicity of the metric system ensures there is no confusion. Also, it being the internationally accepted and used system, there is no room for ambiguity or variations. There is a sense of semblance and uniformity.
The Cons of Metric System
1. The metric system seems logical and practical but in reality it doesn’t emerge as helpful. Rarely does one use any scale of measurement at home or even at office. Stores and manufacturers can always use scales to measure but when you have to cook or weigh something, it is not always easy to know how much is what you need. If you are slicing onions at home or making dough, how do you know how many onions you must take or how much flour you should use based on the metric system. One cannot measure 200 grams without a scale. This is a problem with other units as well, as opposed to how human scale measurements had originated such as with cup, foot or thumb.
2. The metric system is quite vast. It is a little too wide ranged for efficient use in reality. The metric system works fine when you are working on math or science in theory or on paper. It doesn’t really help that a base unit is gram and its subsequent higher unit is kilogram which is a thousand times in value. There is 1 gram which is essentially a bit of salt on your finger tip and then you have 1 kilogram which is the weight of a whole spring chicken. There is no unit in the interim. This creates a vast range. Although manufacturers and scales have made it simpler, yet there is a lot that can fall into this range and be quite perplexing.
3. The metric system has some rather quaint names or prefixes. Liters and meters are not problems but deca, deci, milli and centi are some work for the tongue. Imagine pronouncing milliliter, millimeter, centimeter, deciliter, decameter and centiliter. For those who have grown up studying the metric system and its prefixes may have gotten accustomed by now but those who have no exposure will struggle, at least initially.
4. The metric system is also criticized for being too scientific and arbitrary as a result in the real world. Consider what meter is: it is the distance traveled by light in vacuum in a time of 1⁄299,792,458 of a second. This may not be relevant for those only looking at packaging or measurements but when you need to delve deeper these complexities will come to the fore. The arbitrariness is stark when you consider time. 1 second is the base unit, 1 minute is 60 seconds, 1 decasecond is 100 seconds so it is 1 minute and 40 seconds, kilosecond is 10,000 seconds but it is not a 1,000 minutes, instead it is 2 hours 46 minutes and 40 seconds.
Natalie Regoli, Esq. is the author of this post and the editor-in-chief of our blog. She received her B.A. in Economics from the University of Washington and her Masters in Law from The University of Texas School of Law. In addition to being a seasoned writer, Natalie has almost two decades of experience as a lawyer and banker. If you would like to reach out to contact Natalie, then go here to send her a message.