March 2022 Update:
Some government actions are so incredibly stupid that they argue for power limitations entirely on their own. When one makes an argument for or against a position they may take things to a logical extreme. An example is the logical argument that an arbitrarily-dictated higher minimum wage will cause unemployment. When encountering arguments that employment is not affected in any way at a $15 or $20 per hour level, the argument may go to discussing what would happen at $50 or $100 per hour. Perhaps even $1,000 per hour. Logically, at some point, very few employees will produce enough marginal value to justify their employment and many would have to be replaced by automated systems. By showing this example, we can easily argue that different workers produce different marginal value and increasing the minimum wage does limit opportunities for some to be employed. When properly applied, taking things to the extreme shows the logic of an argument or the lack thereof. However, in this case, government is taking such ridiculous step that no exaggeration is required.
It’s one thing to say that for a certain number of months out of the year we need to set our clocks ahead and do everything an hour earlier. It’s another to increase that period of time, as was done in 2005. The extreme argument would be to set our clocks ahead year-round. Strangely, this is the path the US government is already taking. A couple weeks ago the US Senate passed a bill to make Daylight Saving Time (DST) permanent. It’s as though the US Senate is trying to create more time in a day in their self-appointed roles as saviors of the
free world. While it’s true that the bill will have to pass the House of Representatives and receive the president’s signature to become law, we are forced to double-check that we aren’t reading the latest release from The Babylon Bee or reading an unusual novel like Robert A. Heinlein’s Stranger in a Strange Land, where legislation was passed to make Pi = 3.0.
Government hubris, libido dominandi, and hubris must be at an all-time high, with these senators thinking that they can force everybody in the country to go to bed earlier and get up earlier every day of the year, somehow creating a longer day for everybody with this Sunshine Protection Act. Even more strangely, the US Senate passed the bill unanimously. As I stated in the original article below, people will simply adjust their schedules to act in their own best interests. Watch what happens next: the government might need to force everybody to move their clocks ahead another hour and another hour, until we are back where we started.
The impact on you and I is rather small, and it’s admittedly an improvement over the insanity of changing all of your clocks twice a year and having your biorhythms to re-sync for a few days. However, this still highlights the utter stupidity of centralized control, giving some dopes in Washington DC decision-making authority over the rest of us. Power needs to be decentralized in our country, which was the Founders’ intent.
Do your part to pursue decentralization! Join the Libertarian Party of Ohio and join the Libertarian Party of Warren County, Ohio by attending our 2nd Wednesday meetings at 7:00 at Doc’s in Lebanon. Let’s work together to pursue liberty in our lifetimes.
The Original Article, Written in November 2021
Last weekend in the USA we all changed our clocks. “Fall back” and “Spring Forward,” as they say. Quite a few of us hate that at the flip of a switch we are driving home in the dark after work, but this is a symptom of a larger issue in American culture. The example of the completely unnecessary Daylight Savings Time (DST) should serve as a reminder for how pervasive centralized control has become in our country and what a terrible idea it is for bureaucrats and politicians to dictate so much in our lives.
First, Time Zones
For most of the 19th century and earlier local time was defined by what a sundial would show. Local noon would be when the sun reached its highest point in the sky at a given location. Solar time was what mattered. Locations along a longitude line would share the same time. However, if you had a friend in a city 1∘ to your west, their time would be four minutes behind your own. For most of human history exact time wasn’t used to set expectations about human behavior and so making a long journey and seeing a few minutes’ change in time wasn’t a big deal. With the advent of the telegraph and the locomotive, near-instant communication and high-speed transportation increased the need for coordination. According to an article by the Bureau of Transportation Statistics, the difficulty in coordinating railroads led to the creation of time zones where, regardless of local solar time, the time would be aligned regionally. Times would be shared and the differences between neighboring time zones would be exactly one hour. This made things much easier to calculate.
The railroad companies set the original standard in a proper capitalist, free-market approach in 1883. Any student of history from a liberty perspective knows that wars lead to centralization of power that is rarely, if ever, decentralized when the war ends. World War I was no exception and in 1918 this was controlled by the Interstate Commerce Commission. So, what started off as a willing alliance of businesses to allow interoperability became one more thing controlled by the Federal Government.
A Good Idea Is Dictated
Now that government could dictate what time it is, regardless of what your local sundials might read, it was decided that more tinkering could be done with time in the USA. This starts with a famous quote by a well-known statesman and founder.
Early to bed and early to rise makes a man healthy, wealthy and wise.Ben Franklin
Ben Franklin’s words of wisdom are great advice for anybody who wants to get ahead in life, but that is never enough for government. It was decided to make it a law. The idea to save energy by maximizing the use of extended summer daylight hours came from Germany or perhaps Britain, but became a standard for the durations of World War I and World War II. So clocks were set an hour ahead in the spring for this purpose, and returned to normal in the fall. After the wars some states maintained DST locally, causing some confusion until the federal government’s Department of Transportation (DOT) took the standard over again in 1966.
This Time article claims that this increased leisure time, but couldn’t private individuals and organizations simply decide to adjust their schedules to maximize their use of daylight for their own interests? It does illustrate how one-size-fits-all policies are often maladjusted because farmers lost their summer early-morning advantage for getting things done before goods needed to be delivered to market.
Politicians Can’t Resist
Politicians can’t help themselves. They have to keep tinkering with the way that DST works:
- In 1973 President Richard Nixon decided that if DST is good for the summer, it would be even better if it was permanent. It never became law but trials were performed.
- In 1986 the six months of DST were expanded to seven months.
- In 2005 the US changed to eight months of DST. (Destroying synchronization with the rest of the western world.)
- Now quite a few states are attempting to shift to year-round DST.
Isn’t it obvious that year-round DST, just permanently setting everybody’s clocks ahead one hour, will have no net positive effect on the world we live in? People will just sleep later according to the government-mandated clock settings. Businesses will open later. Schools would likely shift their hours so that kids will walk to school or wait for a school bus after the sun comes up. People will just adjust their schedules for their best interests — which they do anyways.
Further, studies have shown that the disruption of human circadian rhythms caused by DST changes result in a number of effects:
- Increased sleep deprivation, when this is already a problem of epidemic proportions.
- Increased stress hormones.
- Increased heart attacks.
- Increased car wrecks.
All while the supposed energy savings are nowhere to be found. As usual, the government solutions don’t achieve their goals while creating a host of new problems.
Free Market Approach
In a truly free market time would quickly be sorted out. We can’t predict exactly how, but some items in our daily lives already show a path to time getting sorted out without government intrusion.
Clocks on our phones and computers already sync with time standards out there and anybody who sets up a computer sees that the computer needs to know what time zone it is in because all of these machines base their time on Coordinated Universal Time (UTC), an international standard often mislabeled as Greenwich Mean Time (GMT). It is still, nonetheless, based on solar time at the 0∘ longitude. Most scheduling software packages send out meeting invitations based on UTC and most digital calendars know enough to display the time of a meeting in the user’s local time.
The internet already makes time synchronization easy and we rarely consider how our computers and smartphones already adjust automatically. In the digital world any number of time standards could be used and private organizations would take up the responsibility of building ways to convert between them in order to coordinate their businesses and allow cross-business coordination. Populations would often agree on using a time standard for convenience without coercion. Confusion about what time it is in a given location based on local rules can be fixed with automation. Individuals could also decide to simply coordinate their activities based on a single, agreed-to standard such as UTC.
In the USA the federal and state governments can’t help monkeying around with the time standard in a way that not only lacks any true purpose but is dysfunctional enough to cause synchronization issues for several weeks every year while DST starts and ends at different times in different countries. A free market would quickly develop a time standard and few would tolerate arbitrary rules about clock settings based on what time of year it is. As technology actually increases our ability to decentralize and work in an asynchronous fashion, each individual should decide when to wake, sleep, work, etc. based on the schedule that works for them. If getting up an hour earlier in the summer is helpful for your life, then do so. Nobody should be dictating a one-size-fits-all solution like DST.
I’ve always loved the wisdom found in the humorous demotivational poster that reads “Government — If you think the problems we create are bad, wait until you see our solutions.” This lesson applies to every aspect of our lives. If we are looking to government to set our standards, then we are making a fundamental error. Government is talented at creating a complicated mess that serves only bureaucratic purposes, changing the rules at their whim, and making a mess for everybody else. This is true not only for time standards, but for many private decisions in the realms of health, education, economy, religion, communication, transportation, and other issues.
Seek to decentralize. Join the Libertarian Party of Ohio and join the Libertarian Party of Warren County, Ohio by joining for our 2nd Wednesday meetings at 7:00 at Doc’s in Lebanon. Let’s work together to pursue liberty in our lifetimes.