William Willett and the origins of daylight saving time

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In this excerpt from my nonfiction ebook, The Great Daylight Saving Time Controversy, I look at how William Willett of the UK first developed the concept of daylight saving time …

In the first decade of the twentieth century, at a time when many countries were coming to grips with standard time and time zones or hadn’t yet introduced them, English builder and fellow of the Royal Astronomical Society, William Willett, was worried people were wasting daylight. Benjamin Franklin had raised the issue over 100 years earlier. Whereas Franklin suggested half jokingly that we get up and go to bed sooner, Willett proposed seriously that we move the clock hands forward. But the world was still in the middle of shifting its clocks from solar or local time to standard time.

After attending Marylebone Grammar School and gaining some commercial experience, Willett worked in his father’s business, Willett Building Services. The pair built houses in the better parts of London, where “Willett built” became synonymous with quality housing. He was always conscious of making the most of natural light in his buildings. At age 48, Willett was riding his horse in Petts Wood near his home at Chislehurst, Kent, south-east of London, early one summer’s morning in 1905. As a builder, he would take notice of the various houses he passed. He saw most of the blinds still shut and an idea for saving daylight occurred to him.

In his spare time over the next couple of years, Willett developed a plan to shift some of the early morning daylight to later in the day, noting the benefits this would bring and any objections he was likely to encounter. He wrote and published a booklet called The Waste of Daylight in July 1907. In it, he expressed concern about the hours of morning daylight not utilised in spring and summer and the lack of daylight at the end of the working day for outdoor leisure activities. He suggested that if some of the sunlight could be transferred from the morning to the evening, the advantages of extra exercise and recreation and the money saved on artificial lighting would accrue to all. He claimed opportunities for rifle practice as a further advantage.

DST book cover

His plan was to put clocks forward 20 minutes each Sunday in April for a total of 80 minutes and then back 20 minutes each Sunday in September. This process of phasing the change in and out, he argued, would mean no one would really notice it, yet people would have the benefit of an hour and 20 minutes extra light late in the day over the summer months. He illustrated how easy the change would be by describing how those travelling east or west by ship changed their watches and quickly forgot about it as they enjoyed other activities.

Willett’s idea seemed sensible, especially with daybreak so early in Britain in summer. Sunrise in London on 21 June was 3:43 a.m. and civil dawn 2:55 a.m., explaining the popularity of blinds and shutters to keep the light out. Under his proposal, sunrise would be just after 5 a.m. At the other end of the day, adding 80 minutes to the sunset time of 8:22 p.m. would push it out to 9:42 p.m. and civil dusk to 10:29 p.m. This would allow people to go to bed at 10 p.m. and not have to use artificial light. Those who retired later would need their electric lights, candles and lamps for up to 80 minutes less than usual.

His booklet included a calculation of total savings his idea could be expected to generate. He assumed the cost of artificial light was a tenth of a penny per head per hour. Under the scheme, the total amount of extra daylight in the evening was 210 hours a year. Using Whitaker’s estimate of the population of Great Britain and Ireland at that time of 43.66 million, gross savings would equate to £3,820,250. He then deducted a third of this “to meet all possible objections, including loss of profit to producers of artificial light”, arriving at net savings of £2,546,833. He claimed “a permanent economy equivalent to a reduction of the National Debt by at least one hundred million pounds sterling”, but didn’t initially elaborate on how he arrived at this figure.

(end of excerpt)

Read how Willett markets his idea and booklet and how he struggles for years to get it through the UK Parliament and into reality. The Great Daylight Saving Time Controversy can be obtained from Amazon, Kobo Books, Apple iTunes and Google Play:

Amazon

Australia: https://www.amazon.com.au/Great-Daylight-Saving-Time-Controversy-ebook/dp/B06Y2R5KQ7

Canada: https://www.amazon.ca/Great-Daylight-Saving-Time-Controversy-ebook/dp/B06Y2R5KQ7

NZ: as per US

UK: https://www.amazon.co.uk/Great-Daylight-Saving-Time-Controversy-ebook/dp/B06Y2R5KQ7

US: https://www.amazon.com/Great-Daylight-Saving-Time-Controversy-ebook/dp/B06Y2R5KQ7

Kobo Books

Australia: https://www.kobo.com/au/en/ebook/the-great-daylight-saving-time-controversy

Canada: https://www.kobo.com/ca/en/ebook/the-great-daylight-saving-time-controversy

NZ: https://www.kobo.com/nz/en/ebook/the-great-daylight-saving-time-controversy

UK: https://www.kobo.com/gb/en/ebook/the-great-daylight-saving-time-controversy

US: https://www.kobo.com/us/en/ebook/the-great-daylight-saving-time-controversy

Apple ITunes

Australia: https://itunes.apple.com/au/book/the-great-daylight-saving-time-controversy/id1224081657?mt=11

Canada: https://itunes.apple.com/ca/book/the-great-daylight-saving-time-controversy/id1224081657?mt=11

NZ: https://itunes.apple.com/nz/book/the-great-daylight-saving-time-controversy/id1224081657?mt=11

UK: https://itunes.apple.com/gb/book/the-great-daylight-saving-time-controversy/id1224081657?mt=11

US: https://itunes.apple.com/us/book/the-great-daylight-saving-time-controversy/id1224081657?mt=11

Google

Australia: https://books.google.com.au/books?id=kpmbDgAAQBAJ&dq and click on Angus & Robertson

 

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Daylight saving time controversies in Queensland

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Daylight saving time in Australia ends on 1 April. It has always been controversial in Queensland. The state has only had daylight saving in four years, 1971-72 and 1989-90 to 1991-92. Here’s an excerpt from my 400 page ebook on the history of daylight saving time around the world, The Great Daylight Saving Time Controversy, on the lead-up to the reintroduction of daylight saving in 1989 …

In 1987, Labor prime minister Bob Hawke told a conference why he thought there would never be daylight saving in Queensland under [Joh] Bjelke-Petersen who was still premier: “That’s because he reckons the sun shines out of his arse and he’s not getting out of bed an hour earlier for anyone.” [Herald Sun, Melbourne, 6 Oct 2007]

On 1 December of that year, the premier resigned and quit politics following loss of support within his party and amid allegations of widespread corruption within the government brought to light by the Fitzgerald Inquiry. The new premier was the National Party’s Mike Ahern.

Momentum for daylight saving built in 1988. The Liberal Party, which hadn’t been part of government since 1983 when the National Party ended the coalition, led the charge, hoping to gain seats in the state election due in late 1989. The push intensified during that year with the Liberal and Labor parties and the media all supporting daylight saving. The National Party still rejected it and on 9 August, the party’s state president Robert Sparkes told Ahern to abide by the position, which he did until 21 August.

On that day, he went against party policy and introduced a Daylight Saving Bill into the Queensland Parliament, announcing a trial for the summer of 1989-90. Pressure from business and Brisbane Liberal mayor Sallyanne Atkinson had led to the backdown. Also, a government survey found that 71 per cent of residents wanted daylight saving although the proportion was much lower outside the south-east. Further, an election was due in a few months and the National Party was keen to hold onto its six seats on the Gold Coast, where support for a time change was high. Twenty minutes after the announcement, the whole state government switchboard became jammed with calls opposing the plan. There were sackloads of mail complaining about the decision for months and death threats against public servants.

Daylight saving was probably the main issue prompting party stalwart Russell Cooper to challenge Ahern for leadership. Ahern survived a spill motion by 26 votes to 21 on 29 August. The Daylight Saving Act 1989 covering just 1989-90 (29 October to 4 March) was passed by parliament on 18 September. But Cooper was voted in by government members as premier a week later.

A possible backlash by the state’s north and west over daylight saving prompted the government to set up a Daylight Saving Task Force to receive submissions before and during the time change, to ensure no part of the community was disadvantaged by it, and to monitor the implementation of the trial. The task force was to report the results of the test by 30 April 1990 and recommend whether Queensland should have daylight saving in future years. By the time the task force released its 63 page “Report of the Trial of Daylight Saving” on 27 April, Queensland had a new government, the Labor Party having been swept to power on 7 December 1989 with Wayne Goss as premier. The National Party had been brought undone mainly by the findings of the Fitzgerald Inquiry (1987-1989) into government corruption rather than daylight saving or any other issue.

(end of excerpt)

My ebook, The Great Daylight Saving Time Controversy, can be obtained from Amazon, Kobo Books and Apple.

DST book cover

National daylight saving time in the US: Uniform Time Act of 1966

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Daylight saving time starts again today (March 11) in the United States. This excerpt from my book on the history of daylight saving time around the world, The Great Daylight Saving Time Controversy, looks at the lead-up and result of the Uniform Time Act of 1966. The US had suffered a chaotic time with daylight saving since the end of World War II with states and municipalities basically going their own way. By 1966, 18 states plus the District of Columbia had daylight saving throughout, 13 states had daylight saving in part of the state and 19 had it in no part (see the table that shows which states were in which category towards the end of chapter 13 of my book; I can’t reproduce it here).  Here’s the excerpt …

Congress had become increasingly concerned over the years by the haphazard approach to daylight saving across the country, especially in those states where individual counties and municipalities went their own way. Many bills for uniform time were introduced but few made it to either house for debate and a vote. In February 1948, Kansas senator Clyde Reed had a bill for national daylight saving from the last Sunday in April until the last Sunday in September each year. But Congress didn’t seem game to look at universal daylight time so soon after the controversies it had brought during the war. He got little support. One senator wrote him a letter strongly opposing the measure, closing with “Disgustingly yours”.

New representative Harley Staggers of West Virginia introduced the first of his annual daylight saving bills into Congress in 1949 “after citizens from cities as well as rural areas complained of the confusion resulting from the ‘two-clock system’ during the summer months”, he said. A few of his bills got to the committee hearings stage but no further. In 1959, he gave up on daylight saving and tried a bill for standard time, just keen to get all of the country’s clocks on one time or the other rather than have a confusing mess each summer. Next year, he was back with daylight saving and, for the first time, his bill got a hearing by the House Interstate Commerce Committee. In 1962, his bill was for standard time again.

Bodies such as the Interstate Commerce Commission and the Advisory Commission on Intergovernmental Relations were keen for Congress to enact uniform daylight saving. More bills were drafted, including by Staggers and other members, often with his involvement. A New York newspaper [The Kingston Daily Freeman] described the US time problem as a Gordian knot that “needs to be slashed with one mighty cut”. The ICC described the system as one of “increasing chaos”. More and more farmers agreed that a uniform time system, even if it included daylight saving, was better than the present costly and confused patchwork of times.

A House commerce subcommittee approved by a vote of 9 to 8 a bill introduced by Staggers in 1964 that did away with the term “daylight saving” and instead used the four existing time zones, Pacific, Mountain, Central and Eastern, and added a new one, Atlantic time. From late April to late October, the whole of the area covered by each time zone would shift one zone to the east. For example, the Mountain zone would move to the Central zone, meaning that the region would be on Mountain Standard Time in winter and Central Standard Time in summer. People in the Eastern zone would be on Atlantic Standard Time in the warmer months. While the bill had no binding provisions for states and communities to go along with it, the author felt few areas wouldn’t welcome uniform time. Common start and end dates would be mandatory for any location using the scheme. Federal agencies and interstate transport bodies would have to comply. The Senate Commerce Committee approved a similar bill. But the current Congress session ended without the bills progressing further.

With Harley Staggers now chairman of the House Interstate and Foreign Commerce Committee from January 1966, bills for nationwide daylight saving were thought to have a better chance of getting through the chamber. The issue was his hobby horse. His varied background before being elected to Congress, including science teacher, head coach, sheriff, brakeman, rubber maker, silk mill worker, field hand, highway right of way agent, county rent control director, state director of the Office of War Information, and lieutenant commander and navigator in the US Naval Air Corps, perhaps enabled him to see the daylight saving time issue from more perspectives than most people. He gave the matter high priority.

The committee was looking at a plan where states that chose to adopt daylight saving used set dates of the last Sunday in April to the last Sunday in October and for a whole state to either use it or stick with standard time. This differed from a bill the Senate had passed the previous year that allowed local option. The House passed its own bill by a ratio of better than three to one on 16 March and sent it to the Senate. But the upper house added an amendment that permitted a state to split into two parts and have daylight time in one part and standard time in the other. Staggers called for a meeting to sort out differences. The updated bill required uniform changeover dates in all areas observing daylight saving in 1966 and for each state to use either standard or daylight time from 1967. If a state wanted to exempt itself from daylight saving, it had to legislate by 1 April of that year.

The Senate agreed to the compromise on 29 March 1966 and the House passed the bill by a vote of 281 to 91 next day. President Lyndon Johnson signed it on 14 April and it became the Uniform Time Act of 1966. After two decades of time turmoil, the United States seemed to have at last sorted out daylight saving with federal legislation rather than leaving it to states and communities. Railroad stations wouldn’t need clocks with two hour hands anymore. Many people thought time would no longer be a problem. Not so. [end of chapter]

With the Uniform Time Act, the US states had to decide if they were going to have daylight saving or stick to standard time all year. In 1966, counties, cities and towns in 13 states had chosen whether to use advanced time, legally or otherwise. Local areas would now have to go with whatever their state decided to do. Many businesses as well as television, radio, trains, planes, bankers and golfers liked daylight time, while farmers, theatre owners, restaurants, bowling alleys, and families with children heading off to school before sunrise didn’t want it. By and large, it was a city versus country dispute.

State legislatures swung into action and numerous bills were introduced in 1966 and 1967 to exempt no fewer than 25 states from daylight saving: Idaho, Indiana, Iowa, Kansas, Michigan, Mississippi, Missouri, Nebraska, North Dakota, Ohio and South Dakota in the midwest, Alabama, Florida, Georgia, Louisiana, Oklahoma, South Carolina, Tennessee and Texas in the south and Arizona, Montana, Nevada, New Mexico, Utah and Wyoming in the west. Three state legislatures weren’t due to hold regular sessions in 1967: Kentucky, Virginia and Mississippi. Another complexity was that 12 states were split between two time zones and the western part of some of them had often used daylight saving in the past, meaning that both parts were on the same time in summer. The Uniform Time Act would cause the two areas to be an hour different all year.

Committees met, houses debated, and groups lobbied. …

(end of excerpt)

The Great Daylight Saving Time Controversy can be obtained from Amazon, Kobo and Apple in various countries around the world. Here’s the link to the US Amazon page: https://www.amazon.com/Great-Daylight-Saving-Time-Controversy-ebook/dp/B06Y2R5KQ7

DST book cover 

 

 

Origins of daylight saving time in Canada

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Daylight saving time begins again in the US and Canada on 11 March. Here’s an excerpt from my book on the history of daylight saving time around the world, The Great Daylight Saving Time Controversy. Some parts of Canada were quite early in their adoption of daylight saving …

A number of cities in Canada had daylight saving several years before any entire country or state adopted it. The first was the city of Port Arthur (now part of Thunder Bay) in northern Ontario. John Hewitson, a teacher and then a businessman in this small shipping centre on Lake Superior, was keen for local children and sportspeople to enjoy an extra hour of daylight in summer evenings. With the support of the local trade board, he convinced Port Arthur Council to pass a bylaw to switch the city from Central time to Eastern time for a two month trial in 1908. The experiment was viewed favourably and Port Arthur voted for a permanent change from 30 April 1909. The neighbouring city of Fort William adjusted its clocks to Eastern time in 1910. In the same year, the boundary between the Central and Eastern time zones was shifted over 200 miles (320 kilometres) west and this whole region fell within the Eastern zone.

Moose Jaw, a city in southern Saskatchewan, was probably the first place in Canada to actually observe daylight saving time as distinct from a temporary or more permanent switch in time zones. The local power plant was out of action due to a fire and the city used the new time from 1 June 1912 until the end of summer on 22 September. Canadian Pacific Railway wasn’t in favour of daylight saving and the trains ran to standard time. The scheme wasn’t used in subsequent years. A referendum on daylight saving was held in the city on 12 May 1915 but the results aren’t known.

Neighbouring city Regina, the province’s capital, adopted daylight saving in 1914. Landowners voted decisively in favour of the measure in April of that year although the Trades and Labour Council felt that the bylaw wasn’t legal as only property owners were allowed to vote on it. The council also argued that daylight time would result in people having to work longer hours. In December, the annual report of the city light superintendent showed that the scheme saved ratepayers between $20,000 and $30,000 in artificial lighting. Baseball and football matches could be played in the evening. Or residents were able to spend the time at local attraction Lake Wascana in daylight. The scheme was deemed a success and it started a month earlier the following year although newspaper reports stated that clocks “will be turned back one hour”. Regina had daylight saving in subsequent years.

Saskatoon, the province’s largest city, had daylight saving from 1 June to 6 July in 1914. At a plebiscite on 30 June, less than 40 per cent of voters favoured the measure and it was dropped. Davidson, a town to the north of Moose Jaw, also had daylight saving in 1914, as did the town of Melfort, north-east of Saskatoon. The city of Prince Albert had the scheme in 1916 but not in 1917 after 67 per cent of people voted against it in a ballot. Daylight saving only lasted a year or two in most of the places in Saskatchewan that used it.

Daylight saving didn’t even last a season in many localities that tried it. In the town of Orillia, Ontario, mayor Bill Frost, who liked anything progressive, new or scientific, vigorously promoted the measure for “The Town Ahead”. Residents asked one another: “Do you go on God’s time or Bill Frost’s time?” Orillia’s “leap ahead” day was Saturday 22 June 1912, but “Daylight Bill” forgot to reset his watch and in the morning was an hour late for church. Daylight saving was scheduled to go through to 31 August, but the scheme lasted just two weeks due to opposition from various groups. The town, to the north of Toronto, was probably the second in Canada to have daylight time, after Moose Jaw.

Kenora, Ontario set a starting date for daylight saving of 1 May 1914 after the majority of the town’s citizens were found to favour the proposal. But it soon became apparent that folk in the neighbouring town of Keewatin, a few miles along the shoreline of the Lake of the Woods, weren’t going to embrace the idea. Speculation ran through both places as to who was going to accept it and who would ignore it. Most businesses, schools and shops in Kenora made the change, while most of those in Keewatin kept the old time. The ferry stuck with standard time as most patrons were from Keewatin although on Saturday nights the ferry master observed daylight time as people came to Kenora for shopping and the theatre and wanted to be there at the right time. Many children of Keewatin timber workers went to school in Kenora and families had to use both time systems. Three weeks into the time change, on 22 May, a meeting of the local Retail Merchants’ Association decided the situation was untenable and shops set their clocks back. Everyone in both towns was on standard time again by end of month.

A number of Canadian cities and towns considered daylight saving time in 1916, mainly to conserve energy and provide more opportunities for recreation late in the day. Some areas reversed decisions on daylight saving before it started and many others returned to standard time early although a few continued with the scheme to the scheduled end.

Halifax and Winnipeg, capitals of Nova Scotia and Manitoba, introduced and discarded daylight saving in 1916. Fierce debate engulfed both cities throughout the summer. In Halifax, daylight time commenced on 1 May and was scheduled to finish on 30 September. The council meeting after the decision to adopt the scheme was filled to overflowing, with plenty of applause, jeering, shouting and laughter echoing around the hall. Local newspapers were swamped with letters from readers. Petitions both for and against the change were signed by thousands. Daylight time ended four weeks early on 3 September due to sustained opposition from a large number of citizens. In the following year, opponents convinced the council not to renew the plan as it had isolated the city from the rest of the province.

end of excerpt

The Great Daylight Saving Time Controversy can be obtained from Amazon, Kobo and Apple.

DST book cover

 

Daylight saving time chaos in Michigan

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With the Uniform Time Act of 1966, the US states had to decide if they were going to have daylight saving or stick to standard time all year. Further to the extract from my book on daylight saving time, The Great Daylight Saving Time Controversy, at https://chrispearce52.wordpress.com/2018/02/04/daylight-saving-time-saga-indiana-1966-1972/, here’s an extract on daylight saving time chaos in Michigan during the same period. …

In Michigan, a bill to stay on standard time was passed by both houses and signed by the governor in March 1967. However, daylight saving supporters, including senator Raymond Dzendzel, the Chamber of Commerce and the Retailers Association, set out to obtain the 123,100 petition signatures needed (equal to 5 per cent of votes for governor at the last election) to force a referendum. If they were successful, the state would have daylight time for two summers before the scheme was put to the vote at the election in November 1968. Opponents of daylight saving, namely the state Farm Bureau, theatre owners and bowling alley proprietors, tried to block the petitions by taking the matter to the Court of Appeals. But the move was ruled to be premature. By late April, Dzendzel had collected nearly 200,000 signatures, suspending the state Act for standard time. But farming, bowling and theatre interests went back to court. The State Board of Canvassers delayed certifying the petitions due to suits pending in three courts. After a protracted battle, the Supreme Court handed the issue back to the canvassers.

Objectors to daylight saving checked a sample of signatures and found 41 per cent to be invalid, reducing the number of acceptable names to less than 120,000, and took the issue back to court again. The final number of valid signatures was determined to be about 125,000, enough for the switch to daylight time to be made on 14 June 1967. As a Michigan newspaper put it: “After months of debate in the Legislature, bills, amendments, court decisions, motions, appeals, referendum calls and other legal gobbledygook, Michigan today was an hour faster than the sun.” (Kit Kincaid, “Daylight saving time comes to state, some UP communities are holding out”, The Ludington Daily News, Ludington, Michigan, United States, 14 June 1967, p. 1). Hotel patrons weren’t impressed as the change meant an hour’s less drinking time. Nor were Upper Peninsula residents happy when they had to go from Central Standard Time to Eastern Daylight Time, a difference of two hours, pushing sunset back to as late as nearly 10 p.m. in western parts of the state. A dozen or more Upper Peninsula counties disregarded the law and used Central Daylight Time. Proponents of standard time pursued further but unsuccessful court action over the petitions.

The lead up to the referendum in November 1968 pitted businesses, city workers, participants in outdoor activities and easterners against farmers, parents, theatres, indoor sports, bars and westerners. Preliminary results indicated that out of about 2.8 million votes, daylight time won by some 25,000 and supporters were rejoicing. More than two weeks later, the final tally showed a win for standard time by just 413 votes and suddenly the other side in the confrontation was celebrating. Given the closeness, the Board of Canvassers decided on a recount, finding tabulation errors in several counties, uncompleted returns and uncounted absentee votes. The board’s revised figures had standard time winning by 1,501 votes.

Dzendzel and several business groups sought a citizen recount at a cost of $5 a precinct, refunded if the result was reversed. They checked about 2,700 of Michigan’s approximately 5,600 precincts in 80 of 83 counties and found many errors of various descriptions, prompting calls for a review of vote counting processes and staff training. Supporters and opponents of daylight saving anxiously followed media reports of the progress of the count. By 1 January 1969, the lead for standard time was down to 1,096 votes, reduced further to 550 by 29 January. The final difference was 488 votes, which meant that 50.01 per cent of people who voted chose standard time and 49.99 per cent daylight time although less than half the adult population cast a vote. Fast time supporters didn’t give up. Two law students took the matter to the Appeals Court. Also, a bill was introduced to rescind the standard time law.

When nearly the whole country began daylight saving on 27 April 1969, almost all of Michigan stayed on standard time. A few communities south-west of Detroit along the border with Ohio either changed to daylight time or had businesses, schools or churches that started an hour earlier. The Upper Peninsula was to shift from Central to Eastern time, and while three counties didn’t change, the others welcomed the move as they would be on the same time as Wisconsin.

A drive for petition signatures in late 1969 and into 1970 to force another ballot later that year was led by Dzendzel and there were more bills, hearings and court cases. Petitions now had to carry over 200,000 signatures as the threshold had been raised from 5 per cent to 8 per cent of votes for governor at the last election. But a problem over the legality of petition submission dates was tied up in court and time ran out for a public vote in 1970. Proponents struggled to get enough signatures and resorted to other means. A House vote on initiative petitions failed by 60 votes to 46, ensuring a referendum. In another move, the Supreme Court validated a request for the legislature to overturn its 1967 decision for the state to have standard time or else the daylight saving question would be on the November 1972 ballot. The legislature took no action.

Both sides kept pressing their views before the 1972 vote and the daylight saving advocates seemed to be winning the race according to polls. Market Opinion Research surveys found that the proportion of Michigan residents who wanted daylight time increased from 44 per cent in August to 49 per cent in September and 53 per cent in October. On election day, 55 per cent of people voted for daylight saving although the figure for the Upper Peninsula was only 27 per cent. After four years on standard time, the state joined most of the nation in putting clocks forward on 29 April 1973. That left Arizona, Hawaii and most of Indiana as the only states with year round standard time.

(end of extract)

The Great Daylight Saving Time Controversy is available at Amazon, Kobo and Apple.

DST book cover

Wayne Swan to retire from politics

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Wayne Swan, the member for Lilley in the Australian House of Representatives since 1998 (and from 1993 to 1996), has announced that he will not stand at the next election due in 2019. It was Swan who was treasurer during the global financial crisis (GFC) period, the world’s worst economic downturn since the 1930s Depression. Australia was affected quite severely by the GFC as was nearly every country.

Some on the right still mistakenly believe that the GFC was largely confined to advanced economies in the northern hemisphere and that it only lasted a short time. Australia’s GDP growth fell from about 4% to 1% and revenue fell from 25-26% of GDP pre-GFC to a low of 21.4% in 2010-11 and it still hasn’t recovered. This is why we have had deficits for the last nine years and an increase in government debt.

Swan and the Labor Party government came up with two stimulus packages worth $52 billion, most of it in 2009, to keep us out of recession. They had to be put in place in a hurry due to the collapsing world economy and weren’t perfect but they did the trick and kept us out of recession. Many on the right think that the mining boom and exports to China saved us from recession. But gross value added from mining grew by about $3 billion and exports to China by about $9 billion in 2009. Each 1% of GDP at the time was about $14 billion. So with growth falling to about 1%, the stimulus packages were quite clearly the only thing that kept us out of recession.

Nobel prize winning professor of economics Joseph Stiglitz of New York said: “You were lucky to have, probably, the best designed stimulus package of any of the countries, advanced industrial countries, both in size and in design, timing and how it was spent – and I think it served Australia well.” He also said that such programs are “preferable to the waste of human and capital resources that would have resulted if there was no stimulus”. Most countries had stimulus packages of some sort. Swan won Euromoney magazine’s finance minister of the year.

Stimulus package spending was across the economy and prevented many businesses from going broke. Unemployment was kept under 6% compared with more than 10% during the world and therefore Australian economic downturns of the early 1980s and early 1990s with Malcolm Fraser and Paul Keating as prime ministers.

The Coalition (Liberal and National parties) and some of its supporters still talk nonsense about debt and deficit disaster under Labor. But Australia came out of the GFC period with the third lowest government debt to GDP ratio of the 34 OECD countries in 2013, since pushed out to ninth lowest after more than four years of Coalition government. Expenditure under the Coalition is actually higher as about 25.4% of GDP than it was under Labor which averaged about 24.8% and Labor had the GFC.

We can be thankful that the Coalition wasn’t in government at this time. Given their slowness and conservative nature, I think their response to the GFC would have been too little too late to keep us out of recession. Thank you Wayne Swan and Labor for being there.

Daylight saving time saga: Indiana 1966-1972

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Here’s an extract from my book on the history of daylight saving time around the world, The Great Daylight Saving Time Controversy. Daylight saving in the US had been chaotic for two decades before the Uniform Time Act of 1966 was finally passed. But that was not the end of the matter in many states. About half the states introduced bills into their state legislature in 1966 and 1967 to exempt themselves from daylight saving time, including Idaho, Indiana, Iowa, Kansas, Michigan, Mississippi, Missouri, Nebraska, North Dakota, Ohio and South Dakota in the midwest, Alabama, Florida, Georgia, Louisiana, Oklahoma, South Carolina, Tennessee and Texas in the south and Arizona, Montana, Nevada, New Mexico, Utah and Wyoming in the west. Here’s what happened in Indiana at that time …

More complex and protracted battles ensued in Indiana and Michigan. Time arrangements in Indiana had been working quite well and it wanted to maintain them rather than for the whole state to shift to daylight time in summer. Officially, the state was split fairly evenly between the Eastern and Central time zones. In practice, 77 of the 92 counties used Eastern Standard Time all year except for a small area in the south-east near Cincinnati that advanced its clocks. The other 15 counties, in the state’s north-west and south-west corners, were on Central time and had daylight saving to be on the same time as adjacent states and nearby cities such as Chicago. In the six warmer months, the whole state had been on the same time. Further, standard time was well ahead of sun time, with Indianapolis forward by 45 minutes, and residents didn’t want to be ahead by nearly two hours with what they called “double daylight time”.

Indiana, in 1967, got away with its law to put one clock in each public building an hour ahead and for communities to decide their own time. The legislature wasn’t due to meet in 1968 and many people worried that the state would automatically have to go onto daylight time. Their fears were confirmed when the Transportation Department announced on 14 March 1967 that the state was to have daylight saving that year. But the state Farm Bureau felt that business would be disrupted and took the issue to the federal court. Theatre owners did the same, as drive-in movies would be forced to start very late and would lose a lot of customers.

A month later, the department reversed its decision, which gave Indiana until the following year to fix its time problems. Farmers and theatre operators withdrew their suits. But now it was the turn of the television stations to take the matter to federal court due to “substantial advertising revenue loss” if the state was on standard time and nearly everywhere else was on daylight time. They won their case and Indiana was ordered on 17 July 1968 to switch to daylight saving within 10 days. The US district attorney appealed the decision. Meanwhile, on 26 July, the same judge rejected a plea to delay his order and directed that daylight saving begin on Sunday at 2 a.m. two days later. But on 27 July, the Appeals Court granted a week’s stay.

The time turmoil encouraged The Indianapolis Star to repeat an old daylight saving joke at the top of page 1 of its newspaper on the Monday: “Today’s chuckle: Daylight Saving Time is founded on the old Indian idea of cutting off one end of the blanket and sewing it on the other end to make it longer.” This relates to a comment purportedly made by a native American years earlier when told about daylight saving: “Only the government would believe that you could cut a foot off the top of a blanket, sew it to the bottom, and have a longer blanket.”

Television stations asked the Court of Appeals on 30 July to reverse its decision as they were losing revenue. The farmers and theatres reentered the row next day, seeking a delay until the next year. Joining them was the Indiana Association of Cities and Towns. On 2 August, the Appeals Court halted the daylight saving order indefinitely or until a final decision could be made. By then it was midsummer and well over a month after the longest day.

In January 1969, the Department of Transportation ruled that all of Indiana except the north-west and south-west corners would be in the Eastern time zone from April, a decision praised by the governor, Edgar Whitcomb, although the new directive reflected precisely what had been happening in practice for a number of years. The department would also seek to change the Uniform Time Act to allow states in two time zones to use daylight saving in one and keep standard time in the other. A bill to exempt the state from daylight saving was passed by both houses of the Indiana General Assembly in March but it was vetoed by the governor on the last day of the session despite close to four to one support for the bill in the House and almost three to one in the Senate. He was concerned that the state would be on a different hour to nearby states. There was no time to override the veto and the legislature wasn’t due to meet again until 1971 unless the governor called it back early, which he didn’t.

All of Indiana officially had daylight saving in 1969 although a few areas went their own way. One was the city of Huntingburg in the south-west. The council altered the city hall clock by an hour but, in an act of defiance, set out a resolution asking people to remain on Eastern Standard Time or simply pick their own time over the summer months.

Many residents and organisations complained about “double daylight time”, which they would now have to put up with for two years: 1969 and 1970. When the legislature reconvened in January 1971, the House voted 61 to 36 to override the governor’s 1969 veto of the bill to exempt Indiana from daylight saving. Ironically, the chamber clock was exactly three hours slow. The Senate voted 24-24 before another vote a few days later resulted in two senators swapping sides in a 26 to 22 count to override the veto, which was met with cheers and applause. To the relief of residents, Indiana would keep to standard time in 1971. The new law included provision for the north-west and south-west corners to use Central Daylight Time, pending an amendment to the Uniform Time Act.

That came in 1972 when the president, Richard Nixon, signed a bill on 30 March allowing states in two time zones to use different times in summer. The Senate had passed a bill nearly a year earlier but it sat in a House commerce subcommittee due to a reluctance to reopen the standard time–daylight time debate. North-west and south-west counties in Indiana could now legally have daylight saving. Seven counties in the south-east using Eastern Daylight Time weren’t covered by the amended Act but kept using this time in the warmer months regardless.

(end of excerpt)

The Great Daylight Saving Time Controversy is available at Amazon (https://www.amazon.com/dp/B06Y2R5KQ7), Kobo and Apple.

DST book cover

No link between company tax rate and economic growth

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In Australia, our treasurer Scott Morrison still wants to reduce the corporate tax rate from 30% to 25%, mainly it seems because the US has reduced its rate from 35% to 21%. I commented as follows on Morrison’s Facebook page …

This is the greatest load of twaddle since climate change denial. There is no evidence that corporate tax cuts lead to growth and jobs. There are so many other factors influencing growth.

The UK has had seven cuts to its corporate rate in 10 years from 30% to 19% and its GDP growth is down to 1.7%. Its top personal rate came down from 50% to 45% in 2013. Its GST rate is 20%.

France’s corporate tax rate has been 33.3% since 2007. GDP growth has increased to 2.3% over the last year after being around 1% for a number of years. Its top personal rate went up to 50.3% in 2012 from about 46% and its GST rate is 20%.

Germany’s corporate tax rate has been 29-30% since 2008. GDP growth has increased from 1.8% to 2.8% over the last year. Its top personal rate is unchanged at 47.5% and GST is unchanged at 19%.

Canada’s corporate rate has been at 26-27% since 2012 after reducing four times from 31.4% in 2008. Growth fell to 0.3% in 2015. Growth is now up to 3.0% despite the top personal rate increasing from 29% to 33% in 2016. It has a social security rate of 14.4%.

The US corporate rate has been around 35% since the late 1980s and overall the economy doesn’t seem to have suffered. Add another 5% on average for state income tax. GDP growth is currently 2.3%. Top personal rate went from 35% to 39.6% in 2013. Social security rate is 21.3%.

Our corporate tax rate has been 30% since 2002 (average rate is 17% and effective rate 10.4%). But our GST is only 10%. Our GDP growth is up to 2.8% although it would be around 1% if federal government expenditure was reduced to equal revenue. Quite a few countries might have a corporate rate lower than ours but they have a much higher GST while personal rates are similar. GDP growth varies among countries but there doesn’t seem to be any correlation between tax rates and GDP growth rates.

Most countries have a large government debt, and tax cuts at this stage will make this worse. As a few commentators have suggested, tax cuts will be like a sugar hit. There might be some short term gains (including for tax havens, I presume) although these will be small and uncertain, but there will be long term pain, especially if there is another world downturn.

We don’t need to get into a race to the bottom with the US. Our investment from overseas grew 39% in six years under Labor and has continued to increase steadily. Trump met with his bankers in the 1990s when he was busy sending his casino broke. One of them said later that talking to Trump was like talking to someone who had skipped economics and accounting classes at college.

Cosmic rays, solar activity, and temperature change

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One of my New Year’s resolutions was to stop posting comments to Australian politician Craig Kelly’s Facebook page. He’s a climate change denier and posts a lot of very selective stuff on climate, coal, socialism, crime, etc and his followers get sucked right in. The other day, I tried to post the following in response to an article he posted by some Russian scientists who had written a paper, ‘Cosmic rays, solar activity, and changes in the earth’s climate’, trying to link cosmic rays and solar activity to global temperatures. By the time I finished writing it, there was a message to say I might not be authorised to post comments here and I noticed my other posts had gone. I guess he’s done me a favour. Here’s what I hadn’t intended to post …

“Cosmic ray fluxes have been monitored since about 1950 and no significant trend is apparent. Similarly, there have been no significant trends in solar activity since at least the 1970s (it has probably gone down a fraction) except of course the 11-12 year cycles.

The authors seem to be forecasting that cosmic ray fluxes will increase, leading to greater cloud formation which will mean cooler temperatures. Their work seems to use the same principle as that of Henrik Svensmark of Denmark who has been going on about the effect of cosmic rays on cloud formation and global temperatures for a couple of decades. He says cosmic rays have decreased over the last 100 years, leading to less cloud formation and therefore higher temperatures, rather than the higher levels of CO2 causing the higher temperatures. Many studies have been done to try and replicate his work but they find little or no correlation between cosmic rays and cloud cover.

For his theory to be correct, there has to be a long term increase in the solar magnetic field. But this and other measures of solar activity haven’t increased. There is good satellite data back to the 1970s. When you look at the sun’s energy output as measured by watts per square metre, it has fluctuated between about 1366 and 1367 in short term cycles of about 11 years, and a slight decline if anything in the long term. It’s different if you’re looking at a scale of many thousands or millions of years.

Also, there needs to be a long term negative trend in cosmic ray flux and there isn’t; there’s no significant trend. Also, there needs to be a link between cosmic rays and cloud formation but various studies have found no significant link. And there also has to be a long term negative trend in low level cloud cover, and that hasn’t been the case either.

Good luck to the Russian scientists with their cooling forecast. They might need it.”

Global warming: raw vs homogenised temperature data

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One of the things climate change or global warming deniers like to do is to use unadjusted temperature data to try and ‘prove’ that temperatures aren’t increasing and that the 1930s were just as warm as now. I posted the following to a Facebook page (Australian politician Craig Kelly’s) in response to a few denier comments about homogenised data just being part of the climate change ‘fraud’.

No use looking at raw data. It has to be adjusted or homogenised data. This is done by weather bureaus all around the world to take out non-climatic changes such as shifting weather stations and changing measuring methods. Three main things have to be adjusted for.

Over the decades, weather stations have typically moved from post offices in the centre of town, where it is warmer especially at night (urban heat island effect) to airports on the outskirts of town in green open fields where it’s cooler. This is why raw temperatures in the 1930s are often about as high as now (the move to airports was generally from about the 1940s onwards). This non-climatic change to temperatures has to be taken out to get a true picture of how temperatures have changed.

It can go the other way too; for example, town-based weather stations that haven’t moved might now be surrounded by more concrete and steel than decades past.

Also, temperature measuring methods have changed and this can have an effect. In the 19th century, instruments were typically attached to walls of buildings and protected from the sun by metal screens but this had the effect of pushing up temperatures. Instruments were then put in gardens away from buildings but infrared radiation from the ground could push up temps on calm sunny days. High-tech automatic weather stations that counter these sort of problems are now common.

Once all the adjustments are made, we can get a far more accurate picture of how temperatures have actually changed rather than changes influenced by the shifting of weather stations or different measuring methods.