Daylight spending more than you have

Some countries are changing their clocks this week while others will do so next week.

These changes are labeled “daylight saving” (DS) even though the number of daylight minutes stays the same. Marketing at its finest!

Indeed, there’s abundant evidence that this twice-annual ritual is useless or even harmful. As I’ve written before, it would be a triumph of global collective action to  get rid of DS and even better to move the entire planet to one time (UTC) as a means of reducing numerous problems with time zones, at a cost of losing some anachronisms (“lunch at 12 noon” as opposed to “lunch at midday”).

But let’s look into the psychology and goals of DS.

First, are you saving an hour by setting the clock forward in the Spring and then spending that hour when you set it back in the Fall, OR are you borrowing an hour in the Fall and repaying it in the Spring? In either case, there’s zero interest paid or received in this +1 – 1 = 0 or -1 + 1 = 0 calculation. So that’s why the concept is a lie.

Second (and related), you can be sure that people are happier getting an extra hour of sleep or rest when the clock is set back (as it was just now in The Netherlands) than they are losing an hour when the clock is set forward. The psychology of loss aversion (mentioned in my recent post on Marshall’s Principles of Economics) explains this while also inspiring my new, improved DS:

Daylight Savings 2.0: Advance the clocks one hour per month, every month!

DS 2.0, thanks to government genius, will constantly leave everyone better off by adding an hour of rest or leisure not just once per year (and then taking it back!) by every month of the year!

DS 2.0 is like deficit spending, i.e., governments always spending more than they collect. Citizens love extra money so why not give then extra time!

And, yes, there might be quibbles over constantly changing clocks, but we have lots of “smart” technology these days to keep the time moving. Even more important, this ritual on the first weekend of every month would cause less confusion than the current irregular schedule just as it made everyone constantly aware of how time depends on where you are in geography as well as the calendar.

Maybe you think DS 2.0 is silly but so is DS, and both are based on faulty psychology more than efficiency or convenience.*

My one-handed conclusion is more free time is better!


* If you want that, then yeah: UTC everywhere.

Author: David Zetland

I'm a political-economist from California who now lives in Amsterdam.

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