Time and Tide


This weekend marks another of the great annual rites of spring: it’s time to “spring” ahead to Daylight Savings Time.

There was an article in the Wall Street Journal yesterday about this annual event written by Michael Downing, author of the book Spring Forward: The Annual Madness of Daylight Saving Time. In my mind, madness is too kind a description.

According to Downing, we have a Brit to thank for coming up with this less than wonderful idea. In 1907 William Willett, an avid outdoorsman and, evidently, an eccentric, got the notion while riding through London at dawn on a spring morning. It seems he noticed that, remember this was at dawn, most windows were shuttered against the early summer sun. While I think this is an eminently sensible thing for most people to do at dawn, Willett thought it a crying shame. It entered his head that if clocks were set an hour ahead people would have extra time to use “for rifle practice.” Were I around when Willett came up with this hare brained idea I might have suggested him for a target for my rifle practice, but, in any case, his idea was quickly shouted down in Parliament.

Then came WW I and, in the spirit of all-out warfare, the Germans got wind of the idea and adopted it in 1916. Seems they were under the mistaken idea that later sunsets would reduce the demand for electric lighting. Of course, the Brits fell into the trap and adopted in soon after. The U.S. entered the war in 1918, war fever took hold, and the first Daylight Savings law passed in March of that year.

The law was repealed in 1919, after the end of the war, and it wasn’t until 1942, with the onslaught of WW II that Congress passed another DST law which was repealed in September, 1945.

Various U.S. cities adopted their own versions of Daylight Savings time after the war, mostly the large cities with major league baseball teams. Downing writes that “By 1965, of the 130 cities with populations over 100,000, 71 did and 59 did not [have a DST law in place.].” Obviously, at least to a Congressman, Federal action was needed, and in 1966 the first Uniform Time Act was passed. The law, which as Downing notes, displayed a certain wisdom lost on future Congresses, mandated that each state either adopt a state-wide six-month period of DST or stay on Standard Time. In 1986, believing a Department of Commerce estimate that extending DST into the winter months could save up to 100,000 barrels of oil a day to be God’s truth, Congress extended the measure to seven months a year. This Congress also promised that this idyllic seven month annual foray into never-never land would also see reduced traffic accidents and crime, must have been an election year. Finally, last year Congress again fiddled with the clocks so that in 2007 we will see DST started in early March and continue until sometime in November.

As Downing points out, Daylight Savings will mean that in November, 2007 in large parts of the country, the sun will not rise until 8:30 in the morning and will set by 5:45 PM. He also points out that this fiddling with the clock has for too long substituted for coming up with an intelligent national energy policy. DST seems to be Congress’ way to demonstrate action while really doing nothing. He quotes Representative Charles Rose who is reminded of a Native American’s definition of DST, “The white man cutting an inch off the bottom of his blanket and sewing it to the top to make it longer.”

I think it might be wise to remember the great prayer of Psalm 74

Yours is the day, Yours also is the night;
You have prepared the light and the sun.
You have established all the boundaries of the earth;
You have made summer and winter. (NASB)

Maybe, the Good Lord knows what He’s doing.

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This page contains a single entry by Ron Moffat published on April 1, 2006 8:06 AM.

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