Monday, March 13, 2017
In the past, I have sometimes wondered if abolition of Daylight
Savings Time might be an early indicator of cultural change in the
direction of properly limited government. I think not, and to begin to
appreciate why, it's worth it to consider a recent article about
evidence against the practice:
Some of the last defenders of daylight saving time have been a cluster of business groups who assume the change helps stimulate consumer spending. That's not true either, according to recent analysis of 380 million bank and credit-card transactions by the JPMorgan Chase Institute.There is not a single whiff here of indignation about the fact that the government is imperiously compelling everyone to make these switches. All we see are (1) the assumption that that's one of the "things government does" and (2) arguments about the costs and benefits of the practice to the main pressure groups keeping it alive.
The study compared Los Angeles with Phoenix in the 30 days after the March and November time changes. Arizona is a natural test case since it's one of the two states, along with Hawaii, that doesn't do daylight saving. In the spring, according to the consumer transaction data, the additional hour of evening daylight in Los Angeles managed to slightly boost card spending per person, compared with that in Phoenix, although by less than 1 percent. That spending uptick is swamped by the negative impact of the November time change, which sees the darkened population of Los Angeles spend 3.5 percent less at local retailers. [link omitted]
If there were such indignation, particularly regarding a universally-despised, top-down decision of dubious merit, this silliness would go away in an instant (and we wouldn't need to worry about the government forcing us to accept other dumb ways of keeping time, either). But there isn't and it won't. Indeed, the article mentions a great deal of inertia -- aside from the fact that the federal government is behind this -- in favor of keeping DST. This has thwarted efforts in nineteen states to pick a time, standard or daylight-savings, and stick with it. And even if all the senseless clock-setting were to stop in any of these cases, the government would still remain in charge of everyone's clocks. So the "disappearance" of DST in any of these cases would be for the wrong reason (enough pressure groups to make the government adopt a new central plan) and so the real problem (that the government tells everyone how to keep time in the first place) would remain.
All that said, this is hardly one of the most important priorities en route to a properly limited government, but it seems to be low-hanging fruit. So government clock-setting (and with it, DST) might be an early casualty of an improved political culture, but that would be a function of the idea coming at an opportune time against a backdrop of more fundamental reforms -- if it weren't a simply by-product of one these.