31 Oct 2009

Does Anyone Really Know What Time It Is?

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Jeff Hummel passes along this op ed by William Shugart on daylight saving:

Although daylight-saving time was sold politically as an energy-conservation measure, it does no such thing. Studies conducted in Indiana prior to 2006, when that state operated under three different time regimes, show either no difference in energy consumption or a small increase in power usage during the months after clocks were moved one hour ahead.

Yet the costs of switching between daylight-saving and standard time go far beyond the hassles of “losing” an hour in the springtime and “gaining” it back in the fall.

A Swedish study…reports increases in the incidence of myocardial infarction (heart attack) after the beginning of daylight-saving time and the subsequent return to standard time. Depending on whether the shift occurred in the fall or spring, men and women were found to vary in the extent to which their heart attack risks were increased, but the study’s authors concluded from the clinical evidence that time change triggered more myocardial infarctions in the two groups overall than they would have suffered otherwise.

It would be cold comfort were only a small fraction of the population subject to the untoward health consequences of time shifting. That is because, as the Swedish study notes, more than 1.5 billion people around the globe are exposed to the transitions demanded of them at the beginning and ending of daylight-saving time. Many of the companies located overseas that provide technical support or other services to U.S. businesses operate on New York time. Workers in Manila, Mumbai and elsewhere therefore must adjust their clocks twice a year even if their own nations have not officially adopted the institution of what in some places is called summer time.

Adding to the bill, some students of daylight-saving time suggest that accidents involving pedestrians spike immediately after the return to standard time as well, because drivers have not yet adjusted to commuting home in the dark.

There are few, if any, measurable benefits from switching to daylight-saving time in the spring and back to standard time at the end of October. But time shifting imposes some very real costs.

Those costs, we now suspect, are not limited to feeling out of sorts temporarily or investing effort in adjusting clocks rather than doing something more enjoyable or productive. The twice-a-year ritual of time travel actually kills.

I cannot prove it, and I suspect no one ever will, but I think the primary reason for the “daylight saving” nonsense is that it reinforces the notion that the State is omnipotent.

“We are the government. We certify your birth, marriage, and death. Any amount of the paycheck with your name on it, that you get to keep, is a ‘tax expenditure’ on our part. If you fail to pay sufficient property taxes–the amount being decided by us, not you–then we take our rightful property away from you. We are the State. You don’t even know what time it is until we tell you.”

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