November 1, 2013

It’s that time again… daylight saving time that is. Or better still, it is the end of daylight saving time (DST) which means we get an extra hour of sleep. One thing most of us agree on, except for that one extra hour of sleep in the fall, DST is just annoying and confuses our body clocks for weeks. There are even websites where you can go to register your aggravation with the whole process.

So whose big idea was it? It depends on who you ask. But here’s what turned up.

The Daylight Saving Time Story

Way back in Ben Franklin’s day, he was living in France and wrote a letter—mind you, it was tongue in cheek— to a friend who was editor of a major French publication. Franklin joked about the possibility of changing the clocks in the spring, which of course leads to changing them back in the fall. The idea was to make people get up and take advantage of daylight hours to increase productivity.

It seems Franklin noticed the French liked to sleep away the mornings, getting up to go to work when they pleased. One morning he was rudely awakened at 6am by some outside noise. But, he said, he was glad of it, otherwise he would’ve slept away many hours of daylight.

Something must be done, he opined to his friend. So he wrote up a satirical analysis, calculating how much more productive people would be if only they would get out of bed and work while the sun was shining, rather than making due with candlelight.

He took it a step farther and added punishments and requirements for those who failed to get their buns out of bed and get to work. He even went so far as to propose a tax on people who shutter their windows to keep out the sun. He also wanted church bells or cannons to sound every day at sunrise, and guards to patrol after sundown to keep all non- emergency traffic off the streets.

The rationale behind all this, if people changed their sleeping patterns they would conserve their own energy and in general feel better and get more done.  Taylor Bigler (entertainment editor for the says old Ben is probably up there in heaven having a hearty laugh at us Americans, who took his little joke seriously and still change our clocks, twice a year as though we really could “save daylight.”

A Joke that Stuck

Yeah, Franklin meant it as a joke. But hey, a lot of things our government has proposed in its history do sound like jokes. This is especially true when it comes to changing our behavior by taxing it or slapping a fine on it.  Like taxing cigarettes to deter teens, taxing single snacks but not taxing the same thing in a multi-pack, and fining TV commercials for being louder than the programs they interrupt. The list of ridiculous taxes is endless.

Actually, when you think of it, there’s little danger of a lazy bones tax in the United States. Because the lazy bones tax was meant to make people more productive, and we all know, government taxes productivity out of existence.

Photo: Earls37a