Big Problems, No Solutions: How Daylight Savings Time Embodies America’s Current Inability to Address Problems

Every year, it’s the same routine. I see a slew of complaints on Facebook and hear them from my friends and family, all focused on what a pain it is to lose an hour to Daylight Savings Time. Yes, many talk about how they’re excited to get more daylight in the evening, but the actual process itself is a real pain in the keister. And every single year, I wonder why in the world we’re still doing this. It’s 2021. The time change seems like one area where there’s almost universal consensus that we’d be better off without. So why can’t we just fix it? Easy problem. Easy solution.

Except it isn’t, clearly, for a number of reasons.

Yesterday I read this article on CNN that highlighted some of the issues that come up around this topic. Some points stood out to me. First off, when asked if they’d like to keep Daylight Savings Time year round, keep Standard Time year round, or keep the current system of switching between DST and ST, 28% of Americans said they wanted to keep it like it is. 28% is a much higher number than I anticipated. In all my years of complaining about the time change, I have never once had someone tell me they like the time change, and they’d be sad if it went away.

Now, some of those 28% probably say they want to keep it because they just don’t feel like it’s a big enough problem to bother with. Some must (somehow) like the time changes, true, but a chunk of those aren’t wedded to the idea. They just don’t have strong enough feelings around it one way or the other. However, if 28% want it to stay, that means 72% (give or take) want it to go. So the vast majority of Americans want the thing gone. But of those, 31% want to keep DST year round, and 40% want to keep standard time.

And so here we are, stuck with a thing only 28% of the country is satisfied with (to one extent or another) because the majority can’t agree on a solution.

I bring it up today not really just to complain about how I don’t like the time switch each year. More just to highlight how hard it is to fight against the status quo. This is a very simple problem. It doesn’t involve religion or political biases (that I’m aware of? Maybe there’s some sort of lobby out there for keeping the time change?) I don’t remember a single time I’ve gotten in a heated argument online or in-person over the issue. But here we are, stuck with doing the same thing every year, even though we don’t want to do it.

What’s the solution? What if we somehow went with a ranked choice vote on the matter and committed to the results? I think a majority of Americans would choose either going to DST all year or staying with standard time all year. So at least we’d be with the majority’s first or second choice, instead of the minority’s first.

But beyond the simple issue of solving this first world problem lies the bigger one. If we can’t come together to solve easy things, how in the world can we ever be expected to solve big things like our disaster of a healthcare system?


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