Rumor Has It

… that Daylight Savings Time exists to benefit farmers.

Does anyone still believe that?

Most of us apply the sniff test to that and realize that no, farmers, especially ones of the early nineteen hundreds when DST started, are the people who’d benefit least from DST. They wake up when the sun rises, work all day, and go to bed when it ends. The longer days of summer are a huge benefit, if exhausting, but moving the clock around doesn’t actually change the amount of daylight. And moving the clock confuses the animals, who want to be fed based on the position of the sun, not what some idiot human says is the correct time.

The people who actually benefit from DST are mostly children going to school; it’s safer to wait for the bus or ride one’s bike along the road in the daylight. And in the past, before widespread cheap electricity, it made sense to have the office or shop open during daylight hours so you didn’t have to have the lights on as much. So there is some benefit to it, but it has nothing to do with farmers.

In defense of the myth, one of you pointed out in another venue, that the correct phrasing might be ‘Daylight Savings Time was done to farmers,’ by some government bureaucrat who didn’t know a darned thing about farming and assumed that since he ran his life according to the clock, so did everyone else.

That, I can totally believe.

My personal view on DST is that we should move to permanent Standard Time, in which ‘noon’ is approximately when the sun is directly overheard, because that’s logical and based on historical tradition. There’s nothing stopping businesses and school districts from shifting their hours of operation to whatever the participants want.

But that’s not the point of this little ramble. Surprise!

The point is, I started thinking.

It’s rare to meet someone who thinks DST is for farmers. They exist, but from where I’m standing, the derisive debunking is actually more popular than the original myth. Maybe this is an artifact of the Information Age, where it’s easy to find lots of information but difficult to judge whether it’s true or accurate. The internet is tailor-made for forming little intellectual bubbles, unconnected to truth or reality.

Another weird example of this phenomenon is the case of Anne Boleyn. If you know anything about her beyond her status as Henry VIII’s second wife, and the first one to lose her head, you know that she was almost certainly innocent of the charges against her (it was a political hit job; about half of her supposed infractions occurred at times or places where her presence would have been impossible, and the rest are sketchy) and yet, most historians talk about her innocence like it’s a new discovery that’s never been shared publicly before now. The debunking has become more popular than the original myth, and historians haven’t quite cottoned on to that yet.

Flat earthers, moon landing conspiracy theorists, 9/11 conspiracy theorists, people who think the Victorians were prudish- they’re small groups of people, yet proving them wrong has become a weirdly widespread activity. Sometimes regardless of whether the original school of thought had any merit. In the case of Anne Boleyn, her apologists often tip over the edge and start thinking of her as an innocent victim of circumstances, which I’m pretty sure would cause the real Anne Boleyn to fly into a screaming rage- how dare they assume that she, the Queen of England, had risen to her place reluctantly or by accident! Seducing the king and kicking off the English Reformation is a lot of work, you know.

But normal, everyday societies do this kind of thing all the time. ‘Everyone knows X’ becomes a thing, sometimes but not always followed by, ‘everyone who believes X is a moron and here’s why.’ The amount of truth, logic, or critical thinking skills in each of those statements can vary drastically. Then, sometimes, the discussion morphs into, ‘my enemy says X is wrong, so maybe it’s actually right,’ which is a whole ‘nother can of worms sometimes referred to as Modern American Politics. But enough on that subject.

It’s an interesting little phenomenon, and I’m not precisely sure how it would translate into writing. It’d probably make a good twist or foreshadowing tool in an epic series, where you’re taking a deep dive into the world and the views of many different people. Someone claims to be the king’s illegitimate son, and no one believes him, but if the subject ever comes up, 99% of the people talking about it are Very Sure that this man is an impostor and anyone who believes him is a moron, thereby giving onlookers the impression that there’s something to the original rumor. Why else would they shoot it down so strongly?

Definitely worth further examination and experimentation.

24 thoughts on “Rumor Has It

  1. The explanation I have heard for daylight savings time is that people do more shopping in the evenings if it is daylight later. I’m not sure I believe it, but it is an interesting idea.

  2. Having grown up on a farm, I can tell you that farmers seldom look at the time. The day’s work starts a dawn. Lunch is when the sun if overhead and the spouse/mother/child bring lunch out to the field. Work ends at dusk when it’s too dark to see.

    Yes, everything is computerized now but habits from father to sons and daughters remain. Daylight savings or standard time. It doesn’t matter to the farmer. He has other things to think about.

  3. I seem to recall that Day Light Savings Time was most for shop keepers and to keep candle usage down. I think it was even something Ben Franklin has advocated for, but failed to get.

    And I agree, we should use standard time, where the sun rises at 6 and sets at 6. I think we do 9-5 instead of 8-4 is because we’re on daylight savings most of the year, and sunrise is just when people get up.

  4. A confirmed believer in permanent Standard Time here, as well. Back in the later years of the last century, when my family had connections in the Illinois GOP, I learned that one of the most aggressive and best-funded lobbies in Springfield on the issue of DST was the “hospitality industry.” They are convinced, and spare no expense to convince others, that an “extra hour of daylight” at the evening end is a tremendous profit-maker for their businesses. I have no idea whether they are correct, but would assume they are likely one of the major purveyors of favors to Congress these days, as well, as their clients would be thrilled with the idea of permanent DST.

    1. Standard Time is honest time.

      And you shouldn’t take something in the spring if you can’t pay interest on it come fall.

      1. Real purists insist that Solar Mean Time is a human fake and the REAL time is Solar Apparent Time.

        1. Perhaps, but there actually IS a benefit to standardized Time Zones and while Local Time might be most honest, having bands of EST/CST/MST/PST is sufficiently beneficial to continue such.

          I doubt anyone would really go for it, but scrapping the whole works and saying XX:XX GMT/UT would do as well. As long as we don’t make the mistake of British Summer Time along with it. Then, I’d be alright with using Julian Date…

  5. Josephine Tey, as you probably know, wrote a whole book called The Daughter of Time, in which there is a constant undercurrent of “stories that are totally untrue but everyone believes in them”. She was exonerating Richard III of killing his nephews.

  6. I am of the opinion that the world should universally go to UTC. Let localities set their own start and end times for work, shopping, etc.

    1. Then you would want local time. A lot.

      How would you determine what’s a sane time to call someone? You would ask what time it was there — local time, not UTC.

      1. Mary, I work extensively with SQL, and it has a data type just for that, TIMESTAMP WITH TIMEZONE, that stores UTC with the offset to calculate local time. The client just displays the local time when asked for. So the tech is already there to handle it.

              1. Store the value as a single time and let the web page for each user display their local timezone. It’s useful for coordinating across multiple timezones more than anything else.

  7. The alleged reason for DST that I found most believable was that golf course / countryclub owners supported is to enable a round of golf after work in places like NYC.
    The US started it after WWI.
    Farmers then were then opposed, as it gave them less time to get their milk, eggs, and produce to the markets.
    Germany used it during WWI, so said, to save fuel.

  8. Talking ‘things everyone believes is true but isn’t’, just read almost any book on the Burning Times AKA Great European Witch Hunt that was written by specialist scholars in the past thirty years or so. Just about everything you can expect to hear about it in popular media is utter nonsense, but it keeps on going.

  9. ‘Everyone knows X’ becomes a thing, sometimes but not always followed by, ‘everyone who believes X is a moron and here’s why.’ The amount of truth, logic, or critical thinking skills in each of those statements can vary drastically.

    That is a wonderfully polite way to say the debunking can have less to do with reality than even the parodied viewpoint that it’s debunking. ^.^

    For how to use it in writing… I really like things that sound outrageous, but make sense when you work through them.
    The trope of kidnapping an ally because they cannot, in good faith, leave their location without orders they can’t get? The twisty “No man can do it” so you get someone who names themselves Noman? Legend says the angels brought a house over the ocean– and then you find out the local nobility at the time was d’Angelo?

    I find those delightful!

    1. Also, no man can kill me so it’s a woman and a hobbit… ; )

      I Loved the d’Angelo thing when I heard about it.

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