Monday, November 04, 2019

Why do we have to change our clocks twice a year?

It's taken me all day to figure out why I'm slightly out of sorts. Sure, plenty has been going on around me, much not pleasant, but I think I'm also feeling the time change. It seems like it's only an hour, but that hour difference can throw me off, especially these days when I'm outside a lot.

Where did this strange custom originate? The warring powers in Europe's Great War (1914-1918) set the pattern, believing they could lower lighting costs by the shift toward evening light. The U.S. picked the idea up from them. Farmers hated it; they and their critters did better with more morning light year round. Changing the time became a matter of local option until Congress legislated national daylight saving time (DST) in 1966. Under the Nixon administration, the country responded to an oil shortage by trying year-round DST. That didn't go well; winter darkness became another irritant to an irritated country. Congress fixed the current schedule for the time change in 2005.

Political scientists have looked into whether ideological inclinations correlate with wanting more or permanent DST. They do.

Conservatives (and Republicans) have been more resistant to expanding DST than liberals (and Democrats). This may seem surprising given the business community’s support for DST. But conservatives’ opposition probably stems from a broader aversion to government intrusion into something as fundamental as the time of day.

Lawmakers also pay close attention to local special interests when voting on changes to DST. Specifically, the greater the proportion of farmers in a district, the stronger their representatives’ opposition to DST in Congress. Members closer to the western border of their specific time zone — where DST pushed sunrise much later into their day and thus increased morning darkness and potentially accident risks — were less supportive than those farther away from the western edge.

Given these factors, it is no surprise that last year Californians voted to ask the state legislature to approve the change and demand it from the national Congress. There's one more measure we're not likely to get out of the current Washington log jam.

I'm all for permanent DST. I like morning light.

1 comment:

Brandon said...

Hawaii hasn't got daylight saving time. The only real effect here is that some TV shows now air an hour later.

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