Sunday, April 02, 2006

Sunday morning, 2 AM

[Note: Cross-posted at Times & Seasons.]

Once a year, after enduring a grueling six hours of church, on a Saturday no less, I lay down to sleep knowing that during the wee hours of the night I will be robbed of one whole hour. It is time to forever abolish Daylight Saving Time.

I must confess, I do love falling back. But I hate springing forward a lot more. Gaining a free hour once a year is simply no compensation for losing an hour once a year. A lot of other people I know feel the same way. Why is that? One explanation might be the status quo bias (derived from prospect theory). The basic idea is that we tend to value things more if we think of them as something we own, rather than something which we don't. So, my resentment in April at losing an hour that is mine is greater than my gratefulness in October at gaining an hour as a gift. This suggests to me that there would be a lot of support for eliminating the system, so that we can all keep our hour in April instead of springing forward.

(Of course, another application of prospect theory might be that Americans have become used to the idea of daylight saving time, and would perceive its abolition as a loss. One thing prospect theory teaches is that the way any issue is framed or presented has a great impact on its popularity. So I am confident that this could be sold, one way or another.)

Daylight saving was, not as is commonly believed, instituted to help farmers. It was first enacted in the United States during the first world war, primarily to conserve energy. If people got up earlier, it was believed, they would use more natural light and less artificial light. Studies in the 1970s indicated that this resulted in Americans using about one percent less electricity each day, during daylight saving.

However, our lifestyles have changed dramatically since then. For one thing, our daily schedules have become less closely tied to the clock. Many more people are self-employed and make their own hours. For another thing, our useage of electric appliances is also less closely tied to the clock. For example, it is much more common now to have air conditioning running twenty-four hours a day during the summer, or in other words during daylight saving time. (And many more people have moved to the sun belt in recent decades.) More recent data suggests that the decline in electricity usage during daylight saving time is less than half a percent, or less. Even Kazakhstan has figured out that the economic benefits are insignificant.

Nevertheless, thanks to the Energy Policy Act of 2005, daylight saving time will begin thre weeks earlier and end one week later next year. Well, if we like it so much that we want to extend it, why not just extend it through to the whole year? We did it during World War II, when year-round daylight saving was referred to as "war time." Or, we could just get up earlier. Right?

As for myself, I don't really care which way they change it. I just want it to stop changing. One time, one world, one love. End the imperialist rule of morning people! ABOLISH DAYLIGHT SAVING TIME!


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