It's not a mistake, and conventional current is not wrong or backwards.

The labeling of one polarity of charge as "positive" and the other as "negative" is totally arbitrary.  It could be done either way and everything would still work out the same.  Franklin didn't choose wrong; he just chose. Labeling protons as negative and electrons as positive wouldn't change anything.

[Electric current][1] is often defined as a flow of electrons, but this is wrong.  Electric current is a flow of [electric charge][2]. Charge can be positive (protons) or negative (electrons), and *both* types of charged particles can and do flow in electric circuits:

- In metal wires, carbon resistors, and vacuum tubes, electric current consists of a flow of electrons.
- In [batteries][3], [electrolytic capacitors][4], and neon lamps, current consists of a flow of ions, either positive or negative or both (flowing in opposite directions)
- In hydrogen fuel cells and [water ice][5], current consists of [a flow of protons][6].
- In semiconductors, the current can consist of [holes][7], which are [not quite the same as an absence of electrons][8].

(The [Hall Effect][9] can be used to show whether a [charge carrier][10] is positively charged and flowing in one direction, or negatively charged and flowing in the other.)

When a Lithium-ion battery discharges into a load, for instance, there is no electron flow in the battery, but there is still a current flow:

[![Lithium-ion battery discharging into resistor][11]][11]

(Source: [Center for Sustainable Nanotechnology][12])

If you considered only the electron flow as current, your calculations would be wrong.  You need to consider the net flow of charge, no matter what the charge carriers.  Conventional current abstracts away the different charge carriers and represents all of these different flows as a net flow of positive charge, simplifying circuit analysis.

**Conventional current is *not* the opposite of electron current**, so if they were defined to flow in the same direction, it would be even easier to confuse them and go through life misunderstanding what current is.  Electron current is a *subset* of conventional current.  Conventional current combines the effects of electron, ion, proton, and hole flows all into one number.

[Wikipedia agrees][13]:

> In other media, any stream of charged objects may constitute an electric current. **To provide a definition of current that is independent of the type of charge carriers flowing, *conventional current* is defined** to flow in the same direction as positive charges.

Also see [Ben Franklin should have said electrons are positive?  Wrong.][14]


  [1]: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Electric_current
  [2]: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Electric_charge
  [3]: http://hyperphysics.phy-astr.gsu.edu/hbase/chemical/electrochem.html#c2
  [4]: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Electrolytic_capacitor#Electrolyte
  [5]: http://www.life.illinois.edu/crofts/bioph354/lect12.html
  [6]: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Proton_conductor
  [7]: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Electron_hole
  [8]: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hall_effect#Hall_effect_in_semiconductors
  [9]: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hall_effect
  [10]: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Charge_carrier
  [11]: https://i.stack.imgur.com/pdBeC.png
  [12]: http://sustainable-nano.com/2013/10/15/how-do-lithium-ion-batteries-work/
  [13]: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Electric_current#Conduction_mechanisms_in_various_media
  [14]: http://amasci.com/miscon/eleca.html#frkel