Pur Autre Vie

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Tuesday, January 03, 2012

Time is in the Air

Ramblings about time and politics are in the air, as Matt Yglesias speculates that time zones would be highly controversial if proposed today (to some extent Yglesias's point is about the dysfunctional nature of modern politics). Yglesias links to an Alex Tabarrok post noting his (Alex's) appreciation for daylight saving time notwithstanding that his ideology would probably lead him to oppose it a priori.

Time zones seem like an easy case to me, since most people like them, the benefits from coordination are significant, and they can be implemented in a fairly arbitrary manner without losing their benefits. They are a bit like driving on the right side of the road. Hardcore libertarians may think coordination would arise naturally in a decentralized market-driven manner, but most people like traffic laws, and the same goes for time zones.

Daylight saving time is a harder case, since a lot of people despise it (some political units actually opt out) and the public policy rationale is less clear. It seems fairly non-coercive to me, but one could argue that the coordination of expectations is one of the most coercive things a government can do. (As noted previously, the analogy to monetary policy is striking.)

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