116 3rd St SE
Cedar Rapids, Iowa 52401
There was something unfamiliar at the bedroom window when I woke up Monday morning to write this column — daylight at 7 a.m.
A couple days prior it would have been dark at that hour. Daylight saving time ended over the weekend, part of a semiannual clock-changing tradition nobody seems to like but almost everyone does anyway.
Most states, including Iowa, are looking to abolish the time switch. Across the country, at least 350 bills to do that have been introduced since 2015, according to the National Conference of State Legislatures.
In the state Legislature this year, a bill to make daylight saving time permanent in Iowa earned unanimous bipartisan approval from a Senate committee but failed to advance further. Under the proposal, the change would only become effective if all six of Iowa’s neighboring states adopted daylight saving time in the next decade.
“We couldn’t be an island of Daylight Saving Time in the Midwest here. This gives all bordering states 10 years to come on board with this, pass their own legislation,” state Sen. Jeff Reichman told Radio Iowa in February.
But Iowa could indeed be an island of daylight saving time. It would be fine.
The sun is real but the time on the clock is made up by the government.
Reformers are worried that different times across state lines would lead to mass confusion. I have a little more confidence in Iowans’ intelligence.
There already are many Americans whose lives span multiple time zones and they are able to manage, increasingly so with the rise of remote work in the past couple years. For those who aren’t good at adding and subtracting small numbers, we have cellphones and calendar apps that automatically account for the differences.
It’s a common myth that daylight saving time was crafted to accommodate farming, but farmers historically opposed the practice. Of course, you can’t really squeeze more sunshine out of the day by changing clocks, you can only reallocate it to the morning or the evening. Farmers, uniquely attuned to the changing seasons, will get up when their livestock and the field conditions demand it.
The real justifications for daylight saving time have usually been energy conservation and war mobilization. The ways we use energy and fight wars have changed radically over the past couple centuries, but we’re still using a model that resembles a joke Benjamin Franklin made in 1784 about sleeping in late.
The United States instituted daylight saving time during World War I and World War II. Some states and localities subsequently kept it in place but there was no national standard for when changing the clocks.
Then in 1966, the federal government nationalized time. The Uniform Time Act signed by Lyndon Johnson preempted state daylight schemes and required all participating states to start and end on the same dates.
Since 2018, more than a dozen state legislatures have passed measures to end the twice yearly time change, including Minnesota this year. Instead of defying the federal government, they are waiting for Congress to pass a bill.
The sun is real but the time on the clock is made up by the government. In our personalized, on-demand, work-from-home world, do we really need Washington, D.C. to tell us what time it is?
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