08 November 2010

Daylight savings sucks

The EU set clocks back last week. The US is doing so this week.

No "daylight" is saved with this rubbish (read this or this). The day still has 24 hrs, and the number of light hours has not changed.

It only inconveniences a HUGE number of people. (Arizona has it right.)

Unfortunately, Japan is thinking of adopting it, to "create 100,000 jobs." I reckon that most of those jobs are the delusion of macro-economists (who have tried to "stimulate" Japan with gimmicks for 20 years) or the result of people spending time adjusting clocks and schedules and taxis making emergency trips for people who are off schedule.

Bottom Line: Governments don't need to manipulate our behavior (for safety, jobs, etc.). They need to make it easier for people to be safe (better information) or hire people (easier regulation).

13 comments:

  1. I don't think anybody credible would actually advocate that DST has the ability to save energy or create jobs. Daylight Savings isn't about saving literal daylight, but saving some for ourselves, when it can be enjoyed, when many of us are not trapped in hermetically sealed buildings at the end of the day. I think it's nice that we have this one simple thing meant to increase well-being. But I'd be just as happy to make DST permanent and never "fall back". I love the extra hour in the evening.

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  2. You do realize that we just went *off* daylight saving time, not on it?

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  3. @anon -- of course, but dumb has two sides..

    @troy -- it wold be better (more flexible) for businesses to adjust work hours, instead of facing a command and control "fix" that helps some (evening people) but not others (morning people).

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  4. I live in the Daylight-savings Bermuda Triangle. I live in California, which observes the modified DST. Our local television stations come from Arizona, which does not observe DST at all. Many of our radio stations come from Mexico, which observes the traditional DST. Depending on the time of year, we may all three be on the same time, or we may all be on different times. It can get really inconvenient when my cell phone reception is bad and I start getting Mexico cell service (and my cell phone resets its clock to Mexico time).

    I have long been an advocate of businesses releasing themselves from their slavery to the 9-to-5 time clock. Imagine the effect on traffic gridlock and pollution when 60% of the population is no longer trying to all get to and from the same parts of town at the same exact times.

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  5. I'm not all too convinced on the merits of DST either*, but I feel compelled to play devil's advocate...

    David, don't you think you are being rather too sanguine on the likelihood of individual businesses adjusting their work hours (or their freedom to do so)? Firms have to keep the same business hours as other firms to maximise their competitiveness and profitability. Once these things have become institutionalised, it's very difficult to establish the level of coordination where it would be profitable for a firm to change without some intervening force. Certainly, having worked in countries without DST, I can't really recall any companies changing hours of their own vocation. (In Thomas Schelling language, it's the whole "micromotives vs macrobehaviour" problem...)

    Without meaning to hijack your thread, I've been having similar thoughts about smoking bans. I hear all the arguments for private property and the choice for non-smokers to go elsewhere... But, again, my personal experience dictates that the market hasn't worked like this in practice. I grew up in a country where no smoking bans existed and, for example, I can't recall a single nightclub that established smoke free zones of their own vocation.

    I would be interested to hear other's thoughts...

    o-[-<

    * A slightly left-of-field example: When I first moved to a country that had DST (the UK), I was told that a major reason was to help farmers, yet apparently farm animals themselves don't take well to the (forced) change at all.

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  6. stickman,
    I really think that companies could shift without harming their business (and actually increase employee productivity in the process).

    In My Perfect World, a company would be technically "open for business" from, say, 6a until 9p or so. Employees would be allowed to work whatever schedule suited them, between those two times.

    Some employees would work 6a - 3p (assuming an hour lunch), and some would work noon - 9p, and most would work something in between.

    Clients and cooperating businesses would know that they can reach SOMEONE between the hours of 6a and 9p (6 - 7 more hours than currently). Intra-office meetings could be scheduled around mid-day, when everyone is there (the earliest workers don't leave until 3p, and the latest workers are in by noon).

    And everyone would be able to work around their own personal schedules and their own personal needs. I know that I am a zombie until about 11a, so while I might be in the office physically at 9a, I'm not accomplishing anything productive. If I could work noon - 9p, I would be much more productive overall. The same would go for the early birds who start to zone out after 3.30p, or the people with kids' school schedules to work around. If you can schedule your work time around when you'll be the most productive, it would be a major benefit to the company.


    I don't see many Fortune 500 companies going that way any time soon, of course, because it is a big change and a risk. But I think that more and more companies (typically smaller companies, younger companies and tech or creative industry companies) are allowing more flexibility in scheduling, and are seeing a great benefit from it. Eventually it might work its way into the mainstream. But I agree that it probably won't happen without some prodding and pushing. (Not that I necessarily think that's government's role.)


    As far as your smoking example goes, how long ago was that? Was it in an area (or during a time) when smoking was socially acceptable? In recent years, as smoking has become less and less socially acceptable, it is more likely for businesses to set up their own bans. Before California banned smoking in bars, I know of at least one night club in San Diego that was voluntarily smoke-free. Its success would have encouraged more night clubs to follow suit, had they not been forced into it. We were at a point in that region where the market wanted smoke-free night club options, and where there is a market, there will eventually be a product. In regions where smoking is more socially acceptable, however, you're right that it's not likely to happen.

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  7. @CRG -- good thoughts.

    @stickman -- I agree that gov't can solve a coordination problem, but WHAT PROBLEM are they fixing with DST? (The smoking ban was about public health, not competition.) I can see the merits of "no work Sundays" for owners of businesses that want the day off, but not for c'sers, which is why the US has 24/7 retail (and Germany does not).

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  8. Thanks CRG and David for the replies.

    Again, I'm not overly convinced about the merits of DST myself, so I don't wish to get dragged into arguing for something that I don't particularly support...

    However, David, my comment on the problems of DST coordination were more in response to your reply to Troy: "It would be better (more flexible) for businesses to adjust work hours..." My point is that - if it IS a problem - it's difficult to see firms doing this by themselves because of the institutional inertia underpinning "normal" work hours, etc. Again, my behaviour is too dependent on the behaviour of others and the norms in society.

    CRG, it seems that we are in agreement on the small likelihood of a DST regime ever arising "organically". I too like flexibility in the workplace, but already know what employers in most industries would tell me if I told 'em I'm going to work outside conventional office hours...

    I also think that - while obviously motivated by public health - the smoking issue is still directly related to competition. Nightclubs and bars may have wanted to switch over the smoke-free environments, but would have been nervous to lose clientèle. The problem with these places is that they represent, in effect, areas that we like to enjoy in common. I don't wish to exclude my smoking friends from the places that I frequent, and vice versa.

    To answer your last question, while I currently live in Europe, my home city is Cape Town (South Africa)... Non-smoking areas in restaurants only arose once Government had implement law and I have yet to see this translate to nightclubs, which do not yet fall under legislation. Having been back for the World Cup in June I can report that none of the - numerous :) - bars and clubs I visited had implemented smoke-free areas. It's the same for other areas of the world that I've visited where no smoking bans exist. To my mind, it's not that smoking is "socially unacceptable", but rather that these institutions have become so entrenched that we can't assume businesses will change their own rules... At least not on any significant scale.

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  9. @stickman -- I agree on smoking -- it's an example where few non-smokers are willing to leave a bar b/c of the smoke (part of the ambiance). wrt DST, the case is different: we're talking opening and closing hours, not behavior during the business day. Further, DST does nothing to force businesses to stay open later or close sooner. Many businesses have "flex time" exactly in opposition to fixed hours, esp. in the US. Thus, DST is a total waste of time...

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  10. stickman,

    (BTW, I appreciate your comments and I'm not trying to drag you into an argument. I just enjoy a good, intelligent back-and-forth debate.)

    Back on the smoke-free night clubs, I agree that existing night clubs are hesitant to change (and certainly won't be the first to do so) because they are afraid of alienating existing clientele. It would be the new clubs that would start the trend.

    The smoke-free club in San Diego was a new club that opened its doors as a smoke-free club. Several other new clubs that were in development were planning to follow suit before the law passed mandating it.

    I was in the restaurant industry there during this time and was involved in the discussions. Many existing bars (ours included) were interested in making the move to being smoke-free, but didn't want to be the first. We were watching the new clubs that were opening smoke-free, and had figured that once several new clubs were up and running and were successfully smoke-free, we would move toward making the switch, too.

    I can only speak for that area, so I really don't know what the social or business climate is elsewhere. You would be more qualified to speak for the areas where you have lived. I do know that, living in a rural area now, we don't get new establishments very often and our existing establishments aren't usually quick to jump on new trends, so I wouldn't expect the smoke-free night club trend to have made its way here very quickly at all, without the ban.

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  11. only problems with Daylight Time is that it's only one hour and that we don't use it in the winter.

    just make it 2 hours and leave it in place year round - no inconvenience, energy saved, people less depressed.

    it doesn't create more daylight, just more daylight during our waking hours (obviously).

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  12. @ David --
    You're not going to give me an inch on this DST issue are you? As a last attempt: My argument is not that cigarettes bans and DST are perfect equivalents, but rather that they are similar in terms of suffering from a problem of coordination. So, I agree that behaviour during the day isn't the issue for DST, but my main point is that it will be very unlikely for a new opening-and-closing regime to arise spontaneously... Even if many people desired it to be so. By chance, I see Karl Smith has made a similar argument here: http://modeledbehavior.com/2010/11/08/sticky-prices-and-daylight-saving-time/

    @ CRG --
    "BTW I appreciate your comments and I'm not trying to drag you into an argument. I just enjoy a good, intelligent back-and-forth debate."

    Of course, same here :)

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  13. @stickman -- I agree that DST is a mechanism for coordination (the same as clocks and time zones), but I disagree that DST has *any* use. Coordination on changing opening times for shops, offices, etc. does NOT matter. That's an existing problem, DST or not...

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