Western Europe: One Nation's Tuck Is Another's Drag

When it comes to common measurements, just about all the world has been able to agree on so far is the 60-minute hour and the earth's longitudes and latitudes. The search for standardization, which grows more vital to national industries as the world grows smaller, has been frustrated by interminable discussions about inches v. centimeters, dollars v. pounds, and Fahrenheit degrees v. Celsius. A recent meeting of 35 nations in New Delhi to study standards spent the entire session before agreeing just to standardize the metric screw —a process that will take many years.

Even among nations that use the...

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