What’s Wrong with the World

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End the Abomination

Of Daylight Savings Time, that is, a horrid inconvenience inflicted upon the American people by government, originally acting on behalf of corporate interests hoping to ensnare us further in the nets of consumerism, and to gain extra time for trading on London markets. John J. Miller explains:

I recently wondered exactly why we observe Daylight Saving Time (DST). For some reason, I had harbored a vague notion that it had to do with farmers.

Well, it turns out that DST had nothing to do with farmers, who traditionally haven't cared much for it. They care a lot less nowadays, but when the first DST law was making its way through Congress, farmers actually lobbied against it. Dairy farmers were especially upset because their cows refused to accept humanity's tinkering with the hands of time. The obstinate cud-chewers wanted to be milked every twelve hours, and had absolutely no interest in resetting their biological clocks—even if the local creameries suddenly wanted their milk an hour earlier.

As Michael Downing points out in his new book, Spring Forward: The Annual Madness of Daylight Saving Time, urban businessmen were a major force behind the adoption of DST in the United States. They thought daylight would encourage workers to go shopping on their way home. They also tried to make a case for agriculture, though they didn't bother to consult any actual farmers. One pamphlet argued that DST would benefit the men and women who worked the land because "most farm products are better when gathered with dew on. They are firmer, crisper, than if the sun has dried the dew off." At least that was the claim of the Boston Chamber of Commerce, chaired by department-store magnate A. Lincoln Filene. This was utter nonsense. A lot of crops couldn't be harvested until the morning dew had evaporated. What's more, morning dew has no effect whatsoever on firmness or crispness.

Perhaps farmers should take one for the team—i.e., put up with DST even though they don't like it because it keeps city cash registers chinging into the twilight. Yet the contention that DST is good for business is doubtful. It may help some businesses, but it also stands to reason that other ones suffer.

The only reason I have heard given for the perpetuation of this inanity, once the absurdities of the original justifications have been cleared away, is that people simply like returning home during daylight, or enjoy the later sunsets, which afford the illusion of extra time in the evening. To this, I say: Get up earlier; go to work earlier; and come home earlier. In doing so, you will reap all of the benefits of DST, without inflicting a needless inconvenience upon others, whose biological clocks, and those of their children, are not your playthings.

Ecrasez l'Infame!

Here is the link to Downing's book, Spring Forward.

Comments (12)

Downing's book is another book for the flames.

There's no public orthodoxy on the point of how we set our clocks. We can spring them forward if we wish, put them back when we will. The soul of the nation is not at risk; no one is making a plaything of you or of anyone just because the clocks aren't set the way you wish.

If the clocks were set as you wish, would you be making playthings of other persons and their children?

I didn't think so.

Neither are they.

Get up earlier; go to work earlier; and come home earlier. In doing so, you will reap all of the benefits of DST

No I won't. I work afternoons and nights, and have no choice in the matter. My sleep clock ain't normal. I need those daylight hours to complete certain tasks, like mowing the yard. Of course, if it's bad for society, I'll yield to the majority's wishes.

Golly, I have a feeling there are as many theories about this as there are people. I remember asking about this as a little kid and being told that it was set up so the children would have more light for walking to school in the fall in the morning. At the moment I'm a little fuzzy-headed (because I haven't adjusted to the new time yet), so I'm not sure if this even makes good nonsense. But as it seems a bit _darker_ after the change now in the mornings, perhaps turning off DST in the fall does make it seem a bit lighter in October in the early mornings. Since I did, in fact, walk to school, I accepted this explanation. But I disliked the whole process anyway.

What was the express rationale given for this last time around's change, where it's no longer an even six months on either side? (Later switch in the fall; earlier switch in the spring.) There must be some pretty recent legislative history at least on this part of it.

I forget if Indiana has come 'round yet. I think now they do DST, but up until a couple of years ago, one of those odd little bits of American political trivia was the fact that DST was one of the only pieces of federalism left, in which states decided quite independently, and Indiana did not do so and I believe even left it to separate counties to decide, which of course made it a bit odd to travel to Indiana. I approve of the federalism in principle, but Indiana's time oddities did once cost me a chilly and embarrassing hour or two sitting in an Indiana parking lot with the kind young men who had driven me part of the way home from college at Christmas break, waiting for my parents to drive over from Chicago and pick me up at the agreed meeting point. They and we had forgotten that Chicago and Indiana are on different times at Christmas.

By the way, I don't think there's any conspiracy to all of this, but I can heartily agree that the younger your children, the more troublesome DST is. It's like suddenly traveling to some place that has its time an hour different, which parents of toddlers and babies understandably hate. As the kids grow older, it matters much less, but there are some babies that seem to take forever to adjust to each change, twice a year.

Of course there is a public orthodoxy, one established by the Federal Government, acting from all manner of dubious, busybody motivations, ranging from the desire to stimulate consumerism to the promotion of energy conservation (on which the actual evidence is decidedly mixed, though weighted towards indifference/slight-but-appreciable increases in consumption). Early campaigns in favour of the measure associated it with victory in WWI, bizarrely. The recent extension of DST, earlier in the Spring and later in Autumn, was advanced on the same dubious and controverted bases, and backed by a consortium of retailers and convenience stores. Of course, though this orthodoxy is nominally mandated by the government, states, localities, and eccentrics are at liberty to opt out of the statist scheme, though, owing to those same governmental and corporatist pressures, comformism reigns, and most of us are compelled to acquiesce, as this is a decision which must be made at the collective level. And, as the calculable costs seem to outweigh the touted benefits, I'm confident in the judgment that DST is merely an exercise in pointless nannyism.

I can heartily agree that the younger your children, the more troublesome DST is...there are some babies that seem to take forever to adjust to each change, twice a year.

At this very moment, being in charge of bedtime of a 2-year old, I'm more than willing to say that scant few words have ever been more true.

And on that note, I'm going back to bed. Again.

As the father of a three-year old and a two-year old, I can attest to the veracity of those words. It's even better when you get to go to bed an hour later, owing to the biological clocks of the children, but must report to work at the same nominal hour the following day.

I too loathe DST. The rationales for it have always seemed spurious, and the futzing about with the clocks just offends me. It has the smell of hubris about it, somehow, and no, I don't have a well-articulated, eloquently-stated, and logically airtight exposition of that prejudice. DST is just overly mechanical, overly regimented, and gratuitous. In our era of universal electric lighting, its consumption-encouraging effects or energy-saving effects would both appear to be obviated, and the idea that children walking to the bus stop in darkness this morning are safer than children who walked to the bus stop in the light last week is absurd. Finally, as an IT professional, keeping up with the 2007 and 2008 changes in this execrable practice have imposed one more headache, because all the computers need to be patched. Microsoft has released three separate DST patches for Windows since last year, and patches for Office as well. What a pointless pain in the neck.

My only practical recommendation for little kids is a gradual change. And the younger they are, the more gradual. Get them up twenty minutes earlier (or later); put them to bed that many minutes earlier (or later). Until it's done. By age 4 or 5 they usually do pretty well with just a half-hour movement for a couple of nights in a row, provided (in the spring) you have the hardness of heart to waken them deliberately in the morning and from any nap they still take at that age.

I found DST actually easier to deal with when the children were small; they stayed on exactly the same schedule except the clock was an hour off. So, during the winter they went to bed at 6:30 pm, and then in the summer at 7:30 pm. During the winter they napped at 1 pm, during the summer at 2 pm. Mind you, I was a full-time stay-at-home mom, so I didn't really have to get them anywhere at any particular time. It must be awful for moms trying to get little ones to daycare during the timechange.

Of course this whole system broke down when they got older and started having to be places at specific times, like school; and fugheddabout at all now that the older ones can tell time...no way are they going to bed one second before 8 pm!

What about church on Sunday mornings? No getting around that.

it screws up my blackberry - for that DST should be cast into the inferno!

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