and the
Citizens Economic Research Foundation

Barbara's Column
November #2

Standard or daylight-saving?
Time to make up our minds
by Barbara Anderson

The Salem News
Thursday, November 8, 2007

I spring forward in the spring, and fall back in the fall. I don't want to do this anymore. I think it's time for a revolution, putting an end to the two-timing system.

Sunday morning, I was explaining to my new cat that I wasn't getting up to feed him for another hour because we'd moved to standard time, but he just couldn't get the concept.

Chip next door was carrying his watch and various instruction booklets from machine to machine only to discover later that he'd set the coffee percolator for p.m. instead of a.m. A co-worker missed Jon Keller's weekly political interview. A friend was sitting in a parking lot waiting for a meeting that wouldn't start for another hour.

Minor inconveniences, sure. But at 2 a.m. Sunday, Amtrak trains were stopped for an hour to avoid accidents while time was being adjusted.

In Arizona, aside from the trains, life went on as usual, because that state doesn't do daylight-saving time -- except for the Navajo Nation, which goes along with the other two states that its territory includes. Having no trains, Hawaii probably didn't notice the time change, except for whatever adjustments have to be made for airplanes landing.

Here's the truth of the matter: There is no daylight saving. Daylight is caused by the earth traveling around the sun, and tilting on its axis, and stuff like that. The sun will be up as long as it's going to be up each day -- no matter what you do with your clock.

This might seem obvious to you, but it wasn't obvious to some Floridians back in 1966 when the state was discussing the adoption of DST. Because I was living there then and listening to the discussion of how grass would burn and crops dry out with all that extra sunlight, the confusion over butterfly ballots and hanging chads didn't come as a big surprise to me in 2000.

One argument that we hear for the return to standard time is that without it, children would be walking to school in the dark for most of the year. Children still walk to school? Why are all those SUVs lined up twice a day in my town? Can't they just turn on their headlights?

The idea of daylight-saving time is attributed to Benjamin Franklin. According to Wikipedia, it came as part of a satirical essay in the spirit of his proverb, "Early to bed and early to rise, makes a man healthy, wealthy and wise." Franklin was living in Paris when he suggested that "Parisians economize on candles by arising earlier to use morning sunlight," and wake the public by ringing church bells and firing cannons.

Can't you imagine him slapping his knee up there in heaven, laughing uproariously at us moderns halting our trains, changing a dozen household clocks, and getting up early to feed our cats, all because of his little joke?

During World Wars I and II, we adopted a formal DST to save electricity. In fact, though my birthday is in February, I was born during DST, because President Roosevelt made it permanent for the war years. I wonder if my astrology chart reflects this anomaly? Maybe I don't have Libra rising after all, despite what I used to tell the press when they asked if I was a libertarian.

Anyhow, I'm all for saving energy, but during the dark winter evenings, can't we just turn off the lights while we are watching television?

In 2001, in the House Subcommittee on Energy, Congressman Roscoe Bartlett pointed out that "our patterns of energy use have changed considerably ... so that it is not a foregone conclusion that significant energy savings will result from extended daylight savings today. Indeed, incandescent lighting is no longer the primary use of electricity and its use does not always peak after sunset. Peaks are now likely to depend on weather-related heating and cooling, and vary from one region to another."

According to testimony at this hearing: In addition to parents' concerns about the increased risk to school-age children of DST in winter, apparently parents of young children found it difficult during the transitional periods to get their children to sleep. Members of some religious faiths objected, because their observances were tied to sunrise and sunset. And farmers preferred earlier sunrises in part because if they can't start working until an hour later, it cuts into their ability to work a second job in the evening.

Hey, parents should just tell the kids to go to bed now, "because I say so." For religious observances, sunset is when God makes it, regardless of what a clock says. And why exactly can't the few remaining family farmers milk their cows in the dark?

The linear time on which we base our common reality says that noon ("12 o'clock high") is when the sun is highest in the sky. Wouldn't it be good for children as well as the rest of us if we just lived with the reality, and woke everyone up at real dawn with church bells and cannon? To be healthier, wealthier and wiser -- that's what we really need.

Barbara Anderson is executive director of Citizens for Limited Taxation. Her column appears weekly in the Salem News and Eagle Tribune, and often in the Newburyport Times, Gloucester Times, and Lowell Sun; bi-weekly in the Tinytown Gazette; and occasionally in the Providence (RI) Journal and other newspapers.