Timekeeping

If the claims that the twice-annual change from Standard to Daylight Saving causes bursts of auto and workplace accidents and sleep-related heath problems are true, it seems to me the argument for getting rid of the changes is strong. I’d appreciate expert reader opinions on the state of the evidence. (Jennifer Doleac at U.Va. warns it might be bad for crime.) Since I’m a “late” person, I’d rather go to permanent DST, but that’s not based on any analysis of which would be better socially. The more radical proposal - to adopt year-round time and also collapse the continental U.S. from four time zones to two, an hour apart – would greatly improve my life,  both by shifting sunlight later in my day and by shrinking the time gap with the East Coast, making phone calls easier to schedule and reducing jet lag from a burdensome three hours to a trivial single hour. But again, I haven’t seen anything that looks like a benefit-cost study. This seems to me the sort of question that ought to be handed to a commission, or alternatively to the National Academies, for a study and some recommendations. It’s important enough to be worth getting right, and ought to have roughly zero ideological loading. Update As noted in comments, the right way to deal with the problem of kids going to school in the dark is to start the school day later, which would also better fit the circadian rhythm of teenagers and reduce after-school crime and other mischief.

Cannabis and alcohol (reprise)

David Frum and I agree that “But something else is even worse than X!” is not a good reason to ignore the X problem: autos kill more people than guns, but we should still try to reduce the number of people killed with guns. And the fact that alcohol is a much nastier drug than cannabis, both physiologically and behaviorally, doesn’t make cannabis abuse either rare or benign.

But Point #13 in the post Frum links to wasn’t about the comparison between cannabis and alcohol; it was about the causal connection between cannabis policy and alcohol abuse. As Frum notes, alcohol use and cannabis use are now positively correlated. But that doesn’t tell you anything conclusive about whether making cannabis legally available would increase or decrease heavy drinking.

In my view, an increase of as little as 10% in heavy drinking would wipe out any benefits from cannabis legalization, including the benefit in the form of fewer arrests because of the additional crime that would go along with the additional heavy drinking. Frum is aware of that possibility.

But he ignores the opposite possibility, equally plausible in terms of both logic and evidence. Continue Reading…