College of Liberal Arts & Social Sciences Theses and Dissertations

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Metric System, Standards, Public Policy, FHWA, Public Comment


Using letters written to the federal government in opposition to conversion to the metric system, this paper examines the phenomenon of fierce opposition to standards change, focusing on the types of reasoning used. I evaluate the presence of both economic and normative reasoning and identify six core themes of argument that describe the overall nature of the opposition. The influence of path dependence and historical context are also examined, but yield inconclusive results. I also compare letters to the federal government to a sample of newspaper items to conclude that complaints to the government represented a disproportionately vocal segment of the population. My findings identify directions for future research in the study of standards, including the study of standards as cultural symbols.