Mises Wire

Daylight Saving Time: A Government Annoyance

Daylight Saving Time:  A Government Annoyance

On March 13 Americans will, in their tolerant nature, acquiesce once again to a government initiated (and hardly popular) loss of one hour, and the setting of clocks out of sync with our planet’s celestial rhythm.

After an earlier (unpopular) 1918 trial of Daylight Saving Time and its later repeal in 1919, it was re-enacted nationwide under Nixon under the “Emergency Daylight Saving Time Energy Conservation Act of 1973.” It’s now a relic of inappropriate interventions of the early seventies that included wage-price controls and the 55 mph speed limit. It represents what we don’t need. Consider some of the reasons for repeal:

Nature: It unbalances what is naturally harmonious. High noon should be when the sun reaches its apex, or as near as this can be, given the use of time zones.

Sleep Cycles: The (circadian) sleep cycle need not be disrupted twice a year, even if accomplished by a show of hands. In truth, the legislative process should be called out for its shortsighted habit of running roughshod over established peaceable social order. Here it smacks of social engineering with a disregard for workers, not to speak of an insensitivity to children losing sleep in the adjustment.

As reported at telegram.com “The Fatal Accident Reporting System found a 17 percent increase in traffic fatalities on the Monday after the shift.” This article cited findings in a University of Colorado at Boulder study of an increase in fatal motor vehicle accidents the first six days after the clocks spring ahead. This study suggests that the time change may even increase the risk of stroke.

Freedom: If those in a workplace agree to change their hours of work they are free to do so. Such “emergency” legislation imposed by the Federal government, on the other hand — however minor they seem — mandate conformity at the expense of basic freedoms.

Efficiency: Moreover, with the advent of LED-lights, the old cost-of-lighting argument has faded, especially because the start of the day has already been advanced about one hour as mentioned above. In fact, with more air-conditioning, the bias is for increased use of electric power under the time-shift, as people come home earlier in the hot season and turn up their air-conditioning.

Inconvenience: One has the annoyance of twice a year resetting clocks. This may take only 10 minutes, but over a 60-year span it’s 20 hours.

We all know what it feels like to arrive at work on time to find that everyone else had dutifully changed their clocks, so that we turn out to be one hour late.

There are real-world effects on major industries as well. Train and transport schedules cannot be easily adjusted. Amtrak, for instance, idles trains (and passengers) for one hour to keep on schedule in the fall and then tries to make up an hour in the spring by hurrying. More hourly work schedules need adjustment now that more businesses are open 24-7.

Affrontery: Perhaps worst of all is the fact is that there is no gain whatsoever in the number of minutes of sunlight in a day. It is hence presumptuous to maintain that the culture and habits of the people, as expressed by their arrangements and choices, were in error before the change. The benefit of the doubt should logically rest with conventional time.

Principle: Resetting clocks and watches not once but twice a year, is less a compromise of effort than of principle. It contributes to the habituation of interference by the state. We already prostrate ourselves filling out 1040 forms that tax the sale of our labor, including a required signature in disregard of the Fifth Amendment protection against self-incrimination. If we ever want to undo such an affront to freedom, annoying impositions such as time-shifting are a good place to start.

Sunset Old Laws: Thomas Jefferson suggested an automatic sunset provision for legislation: “… every law, naturally expires at the end of nineteen years.” In an April 2016 Reason article by Veronique de Rugy: “What Government Can Learn from Moore’s Law,” is suggested a sunset provision (that could be retroactive) in all Federal statutes and regulations to require an updated renewal within two years. Even better, might be a required supermajority for renewal. In Jefferson’s day, by the way, clocks were known as “regulators,” but such regulation stemmed not from legislation, but from social convention that produced efficient governing without the state.

As with a plethora of interventions some may be minor inconveniences, but like time-shifting, they share in a disrespect for the principle of simply leaving people alone. Mandated time shifting affects everyone while standard time imposes on no one.

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Image Source: Daniel Novta via Flickr https://www.flickr.com/photos/vanf/
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