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If Time Is Money, Should Daylight Saving Be Saved or Scrapped?



We’ve been working 25/8 to come up with a joke about Daylight Saving Time (DST), but from a commercial standpoint, ongoing efforts to alter daytime twice a year fail to amuse. DST is good for business — or at the least, does it no harm — so we’re mounting a defense, here and now.

Synchronize your wearables. Oh, wait … they synchronize themselves. Let’s review instead.

Signed into U.S. law in an attempt to conserve electricity after watching the Germans introduce the idea two years earlier, the Standard Time Act of 1918 had payments underpinnings, as it was first left to the now-defunct Interstate Commerce Commission to determine the time.

So popular was this idea that the Feds dropped the Standard Time Act in seven months flat.

Not exactly a rousing endorsement. But that didn’t stop us from burning daylight on the idea.

FDR reinstituted DST in 1942 during World War II, calling the clock shift “War Time” (no pun intended), but it was the Uniform Time Act of 1966 — clearly devised by the Doctor (of “Doctor Who” fame, not Doc Brown of “Back to the Future”) — that finally enshrined DST into current law, although several states (Arizona, Hawaii) simply ignore it.

Some want to end the practice altogether. Others feel it should be universal. Who’s right?

Depends on how you feel about Ben Franklin. Although he is often credited as the genius behind DST, his famous essay, “An Economical Project,” was really an open letter “To the Authors of the Journal of Paris,” and went into excruciating detail about the cost of lamp oil and wax being wasted.

Franklin calculated that Parisians burning candles and lamps during extra-long nights, multiplied by the cost of wax at the time, “makes the sum of ninety-six million and seventy-five thousand” French pounds, which he called “An immense sum! that the city of Paris might save every year, by the economy of using sunshine instead of candles.”

Franklin’s flaming frugality, paired with U.S. farmers’ desire to make the most of their workday, have been core arguments for keeping DST. Bear in mind that the Founding Father is the same guy who had his son go out in a lightning storm to fly a kite hoping it would get struck.

Grain of salt. Just saying. But he was onto something about business and time.

See also: Could This Be the Last Time We Change the Clocks?

Taking Our Time Deciding DST’s Fate

Knowing that not everyone loves the biannual rise-and-shine reset calls for an investigation.

As Liz Brown, founder of bedding firm Sleeping Lucid, told Reader’s Digest, “A major con that comes with DST is that it’s very costly for companies, since business hours and operations need to adjust every spring.”

The same article added that the “time change costs the United States around $430 million every year. The increase in heart attacks, workplace injuries and lowered productivity all account for the added costs.”

Perhaps our favorite takedown of DST comes from Kurt Rankin, economist and vice president at PNC Financial Services Group. In a widely cited PNC blog post, Rankin rained on DST’s parade, saying, “In theory, reducing energy consumption is the most compelling argument for an economic benefit to Daylight Saving Time. But it has not proven to achieve that.”

The post noted that “some Daylight Saving Time proponents argue that increased daylight in evening hours provides more time for consumers to shop.” Rankin says there is no current evidence to support that claim – but the businesses most likely to benefit from an extra hour of daylight in the evening would be the ones offering products or experiences for outside recreation. Outside of those select retailers, Rankin hypothesizes that the effect of Daylight Saving Time on businesses is unnoticeable.

Ouch.

Just don’t tell Big Candy. Back in 2005, the shadowy snacks lobby was successful in its bid to have DST moved from October to the first Sunday in November. One word: Halloween.

And besides, as NPR reported on Monday (Nov. 1), “Daylight saving time is a moneymaker.” The late Michael Downing, a Tufts University professor and author of “Spring Forward: The Annual Madness of Daylight Saving Time,” once said, “What we don’t tend to know as Americans is that the biggest lobby on behalf of daylight saving since 1915 in this country — and to this very day — is the Chamber of Commerce.”

DST is good for business, but not ideal for humans. In other words, quintessentially American.

That’s not stopping the forces of daylight (or is it nightlight?) from trying to end DST.

On Thursday (Nov. 4), USA Today quoted Jim Reed of the National Conference of State Legislatures: “In the last four years, 19 states have enacted legislation or passed resolutions to provide for year-round daylight saving time, if Congress were to allow such a change, and in some cases, if surrounding states enact the same legislation.”

Will this effort turn back the clock on turning back the clock? We’ll find out … in due time.

*For the uninitiated, the TARDIS is a spacecraft/time machine that appears in the BBC sci-fi series “Doctor Who.” It looks like an old-fashioned London police telephone box. Those of us on this side of the Atlantic will probably never get it. Here ends the explanation.





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