Concerning Holidays

I was prompted to offer the Lincoln’s Birthday greetings below by a mention of the birthday on one of the blogs I read. Other than that, I would have missed it entirely. No one I saw today said anything about it, today’s LA Times ignored it, and a Google News search comes up almost entirely dry.

That’s perfectly natural. The Presidents’ Day holiday collapses what used to be two meaningful celebrations into one more meaningless long weekend. (Do we really intend to honor Millard Fillmore and Warren G. Harding?) Bad move, say I. The same goes for moving holidays around so they always fall on Mondays, rather than on the days they’re supposed to commemorate.

The problem is that people prefer three-day weekends to midweek holidays, and the total number of legal holidays is constrained by cost considerations on the employer side. Years ago, I saw a very clever proposal: celebrate every holiday on the relevant date. If the holiday falls on Monday or Friday, it produces the desired three-day weekend naturally. If the holiday falls on a Tuesday or Thursday, make the Monday or Friday a holiday as well, making a four-day weekend. The extra days off work are exactly made up for by not “moving” the holidays that fall on weekends. One holiday in seven will fall on a Wednesday, producing an undesirable midweek holiday. Surely that’s not too heavy a price to pay in return for actually celebrating what we intend to celebrate?

And while we’re at it, let’s restore the proper names of Decoration Day and Armistice Day, and bring back Washington’s Birthday and Lincoln’s Birthday instead of Presidents’ Day. The economy could stand it.

Actually, that wouldn’t be a bad issue for some Democrat to pick up. Let the Party of Lincoln choose between honoring its founder (and the Father of Our Country) and pimping for its donors and its neo-Confederate wing. Perfect!

Author: Mark Kleiman

Professor of Public Policy at the NYU Marron Institute for Urban Management and editor of the Journal of Drug Policy Analysis. Teaches about the methods of policy analysis about drug abuse control and crime control policy, working out the implications of two principles: that swift and certain sanctions don't have to be severe to be effective, and that well-designed threats usually don't have to be carried out. Books: Drugs and Drug Policy: What Everyone Needs to Know (with Jonathan Caulkins and Angela Hawken) When Brute Force Fails: How to Have Less Crime and Less Punishment (Princeton, 2009; named one of the "books of the year" by The Economist Against Excess: Drug Policy for Results (Basic, 1993) Marijuana: Costs of Abuse, Costs of Control (Greenwood, 1989) UCLA Homepage Curriculum Vitae Contact: