For no good reason at all we collectively changed our clocks back one hour this weekend. If you’re still adjusting to having the sun rise and set an hour earlier than you are accustomed to and wondering why in the world this clock adjustment is foisted upon us every fall and spring, welcome to the club! The Texas Legislature had an opportunity to put an end to the madness in the form of Rep. Dan Flynn’s HB 150 which we encouraged the legislature to pass. In what may have been the lengthiest bill analysis we published during the 84th Texas Legislature, our analyst Gregory Weeks made what can only be considered an iron clad case for abolishing Daylight Savings Time. Unfortunately, the legislature remained unconvinced. Perhaps Rep. Flynn will resurrect his legislation in 2017. We would most certainly support it again. Our full analysis of HB 150 is republished below for your enjoyment.
HB 150 is one of the best bills being considered by the legislature this session as daylight savings time (DST) is a highly problematic and duplicitous practice. Hopefully Texas, by following the paths taken by six other U.S. states and territories, can reverse the sickly and problematic fad of DST, which has been used by so much of the world, at one time or another, for almost 100 years. There are at least ten distinct reasons to oppose DST, each of which will be discussed in turn.
1: Daylight cannot be saved. Perhaps the most fundamental problem with DST is that the entire line of reasoning used to sell DST to the public is, in fact, a lie. Daylight cannot be saved, nor can it be wasted. The position of the sun, and the light received by the Earth as it completes its annual revolution are beyond affection, especially merely adjusting the hands or dial faces of clocks. Daylight cannot be increased or decreased. Reception of solar radiation is independent on social convention. We are merely “taking” an hour from the evening and “giving” it to the morning.
The amount of lighted time remains the same. The process is akin to taking a drink in a shallow dish and pouring it into a tall glass, and then claiming that the volume has increased because the latter container is taller. Or, it is akin to being asked to pay $2 and refusing, instead paying 200¢ claiming that one is being generous because the number of the latter is larger. DST is a dishonest scheme.
2: The system is outmoded. Contrary to popular belief, DST was implemented not to help farmers (more on them in the next point) but rather to conserve fuel resources, namely coal. As such the original raison d’etre for DST no longer exists. Modern electrical infrastructure operates independent of any sort of distribution and delivery system which could possibly benefit from “saved” daylight. To defend the system on these ground is to claim that Twenty First century Texas has a similar industrial makeup as Middle Europe did in the First World War.
3: Ultimately the real solution to the “problem” is one of alarms. DST advocates claim that changing clocks is the solution to waking earlier and “saving” daylight. A better solution is simply to use an alarm. Maintenance of a single time all year does not restrict individual use of alarms. If one normally wakes at 6:00 and would like to wake earlier, set an alarm for 5:00. It is an odd and twisted line of reasoning to say that a better solution is to leave the alarm for 6:00 (or whatever other time one chooses) but change the number on the clock.
The apocryphal story is that DST was introduced to help farmers. While untrue, this belief can actually intuitively explain why the system in unnecessary. Roosters crow at sunrise, not at a nominal time. Alarms serve an identical function. One can easily adjust an alarm to go off at sunrise or any other time. Adjusting clocks is a totally unnecessary process.
4: DST is a patronizing form of social engineering. DST was originally proposed in the nascent progressive era. It was first implemented in 1916 by Germany and Austria-Hungary. The milieu was one of wartime planning and regimentation. There is something rather distasteful and insulting about importing such a system into the United States (codified in law in 1918) and evident from the state-sponsored DST propaganda of the time.
5: DST is ultimately a biased system. DST is of utility only in the mid-latitudes. Adjustment of clocks is of little use near the Equator given the lack of seasonal variation in sunlight. Nor is it of use at the Poles where shifts in daylight are so dramatic as a year progresses that the gains from a single hour of change are of very marginal utility. Why such a parochial system should be adopted is somewhat questionable.
6: DST is a potential navigational hazard. Nautical navigation, when conducted without the aid of a global positioning system unit, relies on accurate timekeeping. Longitude can best be estimated with an accurate chronometer and an awareness of local time. DST is not observed on the sea, so it is questionable why the system should be in place on land, potentially causing dramatic time shifts.
7: There are empirical and practical reasons to oppose loosing sleep due to time shifts. Generally most people, businesses, and other parties prefer to operate according to nominal time. As such sleep patterns are interrupted (which if habitual can cause serious health issues). Given that DST yields no practical benefits, even small costs such as these become unacceptable.
8: DST is a form of crony favoritism. There has been much discussion about the supposed costs and benefits of daylight savings time, and the results are essentially inconclusive. Ultimately though, by ordaining shifts in nominal time, the state is engaging in a form of manipulation which favors some parties at the expense of others and this is not acceptable. Again, lighted time is being “moved” not “saved” and this nominal time shift creates economic biases. Nor would this biases in one direction be evened out by a counter-bias in the other direction, as the two DST adjustments are seasonal and thus are made under different circumstances. The parties which gain and loose are generally ties to both daily and seasonal trends.
9: DST is ultimately an irrational stopgap measure. Part of the rationale behind DST is the notion that the nominal display on a clock should match the natural environment. Noon, on a clock ought to (or so we are told) correspond to the time of day when the sun is directly overhead. DST does compensate for annual variations, but only twice a year. If one were really so concerned about the issue of discrepencies between clocks and the sun, one would need to adjust clocks literally every day to compensate for seasonal changes. In the same way, a clock can only be totally accurate (in the sense of 12:00 corresponding to the sun being directly overhead) in an extremely narrow band of latitude. Even on the day of adjustment, most clocks in Texas would be inaccurate in this sense anyway, demonstrating further the irrationality of the system.
10: DST is not a legitimate roll of the state. Of course, if government agencies wish to operate under a non-standard time they are free to do so (as was the case at the Greenwich observatory and some other limited locals for a time). However the notion that clock adjustment is a function of the state is misguided. The notion that it is legitimate under the weights and standards power of congress does not hold water as the standard itself is a twenty-four hour day and not the calibration to a local sun.
Independent of these reasons though, we support HB 150 as an institution because the bill would lead to a de facto increase in individual liberty, by freeing Texas from having to worry about the DST regime. More importantly, the bill is a form of anti-cronyism as it would end practical industry favoritism, and would restrict, in a small way, some of the unnecessary functions which various levels of government have taken upon themselves. Messaging wise, the bill also sends a message that individuals are to take responsibility for their own lives through time management and not rely on government manipulation. We strongly support HB 150.
UPDATE: Another benefit of HB 150 is the possible expansion of the system. Given that six U.S. states and territories already have abandoned DST (including Arizona) Texas could be on the forefront of a national, and possible international trend. Texas has the opportunity to be on the forefront of abolishing this nasty regime.
UPDATE: There seemed to be some confusion as to the relationship between DST and time zones. These are distinct institutions and do not directly affect one another, though both are related to timekeeping. What time zone Texas should occupy, if DST were abolished, is a related, though distinct issue, and is not addressed by HB 150.