Decimal Currencies, Weights and Measures

August 26, 1964

Report Outline
Changeovers to the Decimal System
Development of Measurement Systems
Task of Converting to Metric System

Changeovers to the Decimal System

New Currencies in Commonwealth Countries

Technological Advances in science and industry and increasing international cooperation in those fields are spurring new interest in decimal systems of currency, weights and measures in countries still using non-decimal systems. It appears to be only a matter of time before Great Britain puts its currency, now peculiarly baffling to foreigners, on a decimal basis. Great Britain and other English-speaking nations are paying some attention also to the possibility of adopting the metric system of weights and measures.

There are two basic arguments for adoption of decimal systems, whether of currency, weights or measures: (1) simplicity and ease of computation because of constant ratios of 1:10:100; and (2) uniformity, facilitating international trade and other exchanges. Changes in weights and measures are more costly to effect than currency changes and therefore arouse more opposition. The weight of tradition is great in both cases. Decimalization has been under intermittent consideration for more than a century in countries that still adhere to non-decimal systems. However, there has been a marked speedup in currency change-overs since World War II.

Numerous countries that have attained independence from Great Britain have freed themselves, sooner or later, from the complex British currency system. The United States led the way when it established the dollar as the national monetary unit in 1792, 16 years after the Declaration of Independence but only three years after the formation of an effective federal government. Canada adopted a dollar decimal currency in 1871, four years after attaining dominion status. Rapid acceleration of the transition from empire to commonwealth since 1945 has brought a series of similar changes. Decimal currencies were adopted by the British West Indies in 1955, by India in 1957, by Pakistan and South Africa in 1961, and by Sierra Leone in 1964. Australia plans to convert to a decimal currency in 1966 and New Zealand in 1967.

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