Yesterday was the start of Daylight Saving Time, and if anyone would like to form a SuperPAC to destroy politicians who jack around with my circadian rhythm I'll gladly chip in a few bucks. The twice-annual timepiece adjustment is outdated and irritating. States should pick a time zone and commit.
Let's first dispense with some of the myths behind Daylight Saving Time (DST). Many people assume we enacted DST to help farmers. That's nonsense. Most of my relatives who aren't in prison are farmers. I have no idea what time they wake up in the morning because whenever I visit they've already eaten lunch by the time I'm mixing a hangover cure. They rise before dawn to feed the cows, mow the corn, construct scarecrows, etc. All without directives from Congress.
Daylight Saving Time came about because of World War I. Germany, the United Kingdom, and the United States all pushed our clocks forward to better coordinate waking hours with light bulb use, thereby conserving electricity. The program lapsed until World War II, when President Franklin Roosevelt instituted "War Time Zones," which were basically the same thing, only with a cooler-sounding name. Astonishingly, despite originating as a temporary FDR government program, War Time Zones actually ceased at the conclusion of the war. Thereafter time zones defaulted to municipalities until 1966, when Congress enacted a permanent annual Daylight Saving Time, in part to standardize the plethora of discordant clocks across the nation.
Today all of these reasons are outdated. We probably won't go to war with Germany again for another 20 or 30 years. And all of the economic benefits seem to cancel each other out. While we saved about 1 percent on electricity when first enacting DST, that figure is now offset by an increase in air conditioning. The idea that we'll all revert back to discordant municipal time zones set by the sundial in our mayor's front yard is utter nonsense. Everyone I know owns a smartphone, set automatically by a clutch of nerds in Cupertino.
Each year a dozen or so state legislatures consider ending Daylight Saving Time, only to drop the measure and return to squabbling about transgender bathrooms or determining what the official state reptile should be. (The Mountain Boomer, of course.) Legally, if a state decides to drop Daylight Saving Time, it must then procure an exemption from the U.S. Department of Transportation. It's possible Secretary Elaine Chao would enforce federal time regulations with an iron fist and scream "this is the hill I will die on!" but I think we could probably win her over.
There's a healthy debate about whether places like California should scrap DST and permanently move an hour forward or backward. Television companies consider darkness their ally, and know that the earlier the sun sets the quicker viewers drop irritating habits like family picnics or soccer games and return to the vital activity of watching The Big Bang Theory. Conversely, the Chamber of Commerce and its chorus of retailers lust for delayed sunsets, because shoppers will stay out later buying The Big Bang Theory paraphernalia at malls.
I'm a devout evening person and also a shill for the Chamber of Commerce, so I'd prefer we postpone sunset until around 11:30 at night. If nothing else, to punish all of you sanctimonious morning people for bragging about what you accomplished before breakfast, such as mowing your corn, constructing scarecrows, watching an episode of The Big Bang Theory, and so forth.
That said, I think I speak for most Americans in saying: Just pick one! If Arizona and the territory of Guam can figure out how to commit to one time zone, surely the rest of us can.
Start your day with Reason. Get a daily brief of the most important stories and trends every weekday morning when you subscribe to Reason Roundup.