I have lived in a variety of countries, and one thing that I have noticed is that, even with the language barriers, it is easier to find out how tax dollars are being spent and what the government is doing. Partly this is because some governments put more effort into communicating with their citizens.
And partly it is because the math is easier elsewhere.
I was originally going to start my first post by comparing irrigation calculations. They are easy using metric measures and insanely hard in US customary. But I can't find the U.S. calculations. Neither the US Department of Agriculture nor the Colorado Agriculture Extension office have any basic information on irrigation. Large parts of Colorado, especially in the south east, are currently experiencing severe drought conditions. And farmers have no easily available source of information about how they are using water.
This unwillingness to believe that some basic things can be understood has deep roots in our history. Evidence (via The Metric Maven) comes from hearings on the metric system that Congress held from 1904-1906. Herbert Davidson, a metrication supporter, represented a company that made library supplies, and he had the following exchange with Rep. John W. Gaines of Tennessee:
Mr. Gaines. ….when I went to school my teacher very properly, I think, skipped me over the metric system, and they did not teach it then. Would we not all have to go to school and learn the metric system before we could know whether or not we were getting true measure according to the old standard?I think that fact that Rep. Gains thought you had to go to college to understand metric and that basic information about irrigation is hard to find are related. If you believe that ordinary people cannot understand ordinary things, then it does not matter if basic information is not available to those people.
Mr. Davidson. I think that a person of ordinary intelligence who gave five minutes to the subject of the metric system would be able to comprehend it. [Laughter.]
Mr. Gaines. How long have you studied it?
Mr. Davidson. I must say that I never spent fifteen consecutive minutes over it.
Mr. Gaines. Well, you are an expert by nature.
(Mr Davidson then attempts to explain the metric system to Mr. Gaines)
Mr. Davidson. Why, I chose to use the metric system is because it impressed me as being simpler.
Mr. Gaines. When did you first undertake to study the metric system?
Mr. Davidson. I say I never studied it.
Mr. Gaines. ….. The people of the United States, at all events would have to first learn the metric system before they could use it. Now, this is what I am trying to find out—they would have to learn the difference between a foot and a meter and a yard and a meter and a pound and a meter, and so on. They would have to do that certainly.
Mr. Davidson. They would have to gain some knowledge of the metric system; but it all appeals [appears?] to me, sir, as being so exceedingly simple that I cannot comprehend the intelligence that can not understand what a meter is, what a liter is, and what a kilo is.
Mr. Gains. But you must remember that we are not all college graduates, unfortunately for us; and I take it that you are.
Mr. Davidson. Neither am I.