Daylight-saving time is good, so stop complaining

Sunshine, giver of life, we want to conserve you.

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Sunshine, giver of life, we want to conserve you.
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Flickr/Dru Bloomfield

  • Daylight-saving time began in the US on Sunday.
  • People love to hate on the practice, but Josh Barro argues it’s actually a good thing.

Today is the first day of daylight-saving time, which means the sun will shine until 6:58 p.m. in New York.

Yet every year, when the clocks change, people whine. Why is the government making me change my clock? What was wrong with standard time? Or worse, they propose to adopt daylight time as standard time, leaving the clocks rolled forward an hour all year.

This is stupid. Seasonal daylight-saving time is a very good system. It’s designed to minimize the waste of daylight hours by adjusting the clock so people roughly tend to wake up shortly after sunrise, all year. We should keep it like it is.

Full-year standard time wastes useful daylight hours

Suppose we listened to those who oppose daylight time. They say, if you want that extra daylight, just get up earlier in the summer.

You could do that, but let’s be honest: You wouldn’t. You’d sleep through the sunshine.

In part, you’d sleep in because what you really want are daylight leisure hours that come after work or school. A few masochists like a 5:30 a.m. run before work, but you probably don’t.

Daylight-saving time takes that low-usefulness prework hour of daylight and transforms it into an hour of light that comes after work, when you might actually use it.

That’s really all daylight-saving time is: an organized system under which people agree to start the business day one hour earlier during the summer than the winter.

In theory, workplaces could choose on their own to shift to summer hours, but how annoying would it be if your work made its annual schedule shift three weeks ahead of your kids’ school? By changing the clocks, we ensure that we all make this shift on the same day.

Contrary to Matt Yglesias’ complaint that daylight-saving time is anti-family, the government is doing parents of children a solid by keeping everyone on a synchronized time-shifting schedule.

All-year daylight-saving time would force you to start work in the dark

What about calls for permanent daylight-saving time? I like daylight in the late afternoon as much as the next guy, but let’s not go overboard.

A policy of permanent daylight saving time would mean the sun wouldn’t rise until 8:17 a.m. on December 21 in New York. Who wants that?

A large majority of the population in the northern US would have to get out of bed in the dark for much of the winter, and in many places, children would start the school day in the dark for weeks.

I realize this already happens in Alaska, but at more moderate latitudes, we have a system that lets us avoid it. It’s the system we have now, which produces reasonable sunrise times in the winter and pleasantly late sunsets in the summer.

It’s seasonal daylight-saving time, and it’s good. So stop whining.