Keynesian Savings Time


Here I was, about to do something really productive, when the clock on my computer skipped ahead and stole an hour of my life that I will never see again.

I blame Benjamin Franklin.

Franklin first proposed Daylight Savings Time to the people of France as a joke, telling them they could save candles by rising earlier to take advantage of morning sunlight. He was actually making fun of them for being lazy: The French did not get out bed before noon, even back then.

Over a century later, we adopted Daylight Savings Time for real. The motive was to conserve coal during the war. Winston Churchill advertised: “We borrow an hour one night in April; we pay it back with golden interest five months later.”

The “golden interest” part never materialized, but Churchill’s proposal had merit. Now that central banks have all but run out of options to counter economic weakness, it is the perfect opportunity to revisit an expansionary time policy.

Daylight Savings works by imposing a mandatory one-hour contribution in the spring, then returning that hour in the fall. But we’re doing it all wrong. Why return an hour in the middle of the night, when it has no measurable impact on GDP? Add that extra hour to the middle of a 9-5 work day!

Time is a direct account of work output, especially when half of Americans are paid by the hour. By adding an hour to the work day, we instantly increase productivity. With more work to do and more hours to shop, we get a double dose of economic stimulus.

And why force the population to give it back in the spring? The purpose of an expansionary policy isn’t to seize economic gains and revert to some prior baseline. Let’s add an hour every year to ensure constant progress. If unemployment gets too high, let’s add two!

The best part about an expansionary time policy is that there’s no need to worry about concentrating the effects in wealthier households. Rich or poor, we all abide by the same clock.

And sure it might mean that in a dozen years we’ll be leaving for work in the middle of the night, but so what? We all have electric lights now. Daylight is a barbarous relic. The extra candles and coal that we burn will only serve as further stimulus.

The last thing we want is negative interest rates or a central bank helicopter drop. Wealth is measured by the control you have over your time. Rather than take further measures to expand the supply of money, central bankers should expand the supply of time.

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