The Hanke-Henry calendar

by on December 30, 2011 at 9:51 am in Economics | Permalink

The extra week is simply called the extra week, and Henry is joined by Johns Hopkins economist Steve Hanke. Their rhetoric is bottom-line as well as common-sense.

The Hanke-Henry calendar would streamline financial operations, they write in an article republished by the libertarian Cato Institute, because Gregorian calendar anomalies make a muddle of interest-calculating conventions. Sunday-only Christmas and New Year’s holidays would also eliminate their mid-week appearances and “get rid of this zoo we’re in right now, when the whole economy collapses for two weeks,” Henry said.

Not satisfied with conquering calendrical irrationality, Henry and Hanke take on timekeeping, too. “The time in Australia is the same as it is for us, but their clocks are set different,” Henry said. “We’re just saying, ‘Set your clocks to the same time, because it is the same time.’” All the world’s clocks would be set to Universal Time, or Greenwich Mean Time as it’s generally known. Time zones would be abolished, as would Daylight Saving Time, of which Henry is especially not fond.

The full article is here, courtesy of Brent Depperschmidt.  You will note that Hanke is also a major advocate of currency boards, see the connection?

1 Adrian Ratnapala December 30, 2011 at 10:02 am

I’m for the UTC thing. If you have one chance to visit the Greenwich observatory as a tourist, don’t do it in summer. Or if you do, then don’t look at the big clock they put up at the meridian line.

2 Andrew' December 30, 2011 at 10:03 am

Ah, I’ve been promoting SameTime for years.

3 Ace-K December 30, 2011 at 10:08 am

It’s very funny they should say we’re in a “zoo” right now, given that New Year’s and Christmas actually do fall on Sundays this year. How much less chaotic could it get?

4 PMP January 1, 2012 at 2:56 pm

Okay, I’m stumped. Will someone please, puh-lease, explain to this dullard [points at his own self] the connection between this proposal and currency boards?

5 John December 30, 2011 at 10:08 am

Why are libertarians promoting big government intervention in our calendars!!!

6 Adrian Ratnapala December 30, 2011 at 10:12 am


I usually hate it when rationalists come and expect us to go dickering with old conventions just because its rational. I don’t even like the metric system. And yet I somehow like this proposal.

7 Andrew' December 30, 2011 at 11:27 am

I think all the I/ESTJ people like it the way it is because it’s something to do.

Us rationalists just aren’t that bored.

8 dearieme December 30, 2011 at 10:14 am

(i) Do they tackle the big issue of fixing Easter?

(ii) Years of experience of reading excitable headlines about such things persuades me that it’s odds on that these chaps aren’t the first to recommend such a system.

9 Colin December 30, 2011 at 11:02 am

Hasn’t the issue of Easter been self-solving due to the growing secularization of society?

10 dearieme December 30, 2011 at 6:37 pm

Which society?

P.S. I suppose they’d better fix Ramadan too. And any Jewish equivalent, or Sikh, or Jain, or Buddhist, or……..

11 David W December 30, 2011 at 10:19 am

I think their proposal is too much work for not going far enough – they keep things like the 7 day week and 12 months/year that are just as arbitrary as anything they’re objecting to.

I’m much more in favor of the time proposals, at the very least eliminating Daylight Savings. But that’s because it’s an easier change.

12 Ted Craig December 30, 2011 at 11:58 am

They’re not arbitrary, but based on ancient numerology. But your point still stands.

13 JonF311 December 30, 2011 at 6:38 pm

Not really numerolgy, but astronomy/astrology. The month is loosely based on the phases of the moon, with some extra days crammed here and there so they fit neatly into the year. The week’s seven day reflect the fact that the ancients knew seven mobile heavenly bodies (the sun, the moon, and the five observable planets– our days are in fact named for them, in Germannic form),

14 Dan in Euroland December 30, 2011 at 4:54 pm

Agreed. The week should be 10 days long with 6 days of work and 4 off days.

15 TallDave December 30, 2011 at 10:22 am

Most places I’ve worked at use a 4-4-5 calendar.

16 Max December 30, 2011 at 10:31 am

The proposal for one time is daft – humans by and large still sleep during the night (e.g. 10 PM – 7 AM) and eat around 8 AM, 1 PM and 6 PM. Imagine having to remember which time corresponds to which of these events every time you arrive in a different time zone – it would be a nightmare, far more difficult than simply adjusting one’s clock and observing the daily rituals on their “normal” nominal times.

17 Adrian Ratnapala December 30, 2011 at 10:54 am

Also imagine every time you went to another country having to find out what language they speak or which side of the road to drive on.

18 MBD December 30, 2011 at 11:45 am

Knowing when the population on a given part of the world is sleeping would require calculations that would take generations to adopt, and it would make Santa’s job more difficult.

19 Sunset Shazz December 30, 2011 at 10:33 am

Hasn’t anyone at Cato read “The Fatal Conceit”? Also, from a public choice perspective, the farmer’s lobby would be a big obstacle to this (and banking, derivatives, etc. already have work-arounds).

20 NAME REDACTED December 30, 2011 at 8:11 pm

The farmer’s lobby doesn’t care about this. Farmers didn’t start daylight savings time, it was started by a really dumb bureaucrat that thought he was helping farmers. He thought would be able to get up at a better time and not waste so much daylight. He was too stupid to realize that farmers already did that.

21 Right Wing-nut December 30, 2011 at 10:36 am

The claim that their system helps interest computations in any substantial way is clearly false. The number of days in a year is not constant, you have no hope of avoiding special cases.

22 Adrian Ratnapala December 30, 2011 at 10:56 am

But it can be made a lot, lot simpler than the existing system. Mostly you just have to worry about is whether the extra week happens to fall inside your calculation interval.

23 Meekins December 30, 2011 at 10:38 am

@Sunset Shazz wonders what I was wondering.

24 jkl December 30, 2011 at 11:29 am

Agree, he or she is on target

25 CMS December 30, 2011 at 10:42 am

Yes let’s completely upend how we have done things for thousands of years, despite the significant reasons why, and screw up several generations that have to deal with the transition so it makes it a little easier for financial institutions to calculate interest.

26 Adrian Ratnapala December 30, 2011 at 11:04 am

It hasn’t been done like this for thousands of years, wikipedia says it is less than 1000. And for most of the world’s population it is even that old – it’s just another arbitrary western-imperialist thing that has no particular merit but is not worth complaining about.

But I do agree that finance is not enough of a reason to make the switch. However it is actually a case of “making it ever so slightly harder for financial boys to bamboozle people”.

27 Doug December 30, 2011 at 2:18 pm

Varying the time depending on longitude has certainly been done for thousands of years. While the explicit time zones we use now may not have been around, noon has always roughly corresponded with the sun’s high point in the sky, which of course depends on your longitude. Advocating to change to some universal time is just plain silly.

28 Matt December 30, 2011 at 10:45 am


29 jk December 30, 2011 at 10:50 am

It is logical, interesting, but untested on a wide scale. People would freak out that it has Orwellian undertones, why are we aligning ourselves with ease of finance workers, it’s not natural (even though standard time zones were to meet the needs of the rail system) etc.. Would happen in the EU, maybe China (for various reasons good and bad) but it won’t happen in good ‘ol metric hostile US. Maybe if the US got rid of daylight savings and the funny accounting that is used to justify the energy savings that would be a step toward one-time utopia.

30 Steve C. December 30, 2011 at 11:52 am

1. I can’t believe the make an argument about interest calculations in an era when I have more computing power in my phone than NASA had in 1969.* How, oh how, did our ancestors manage to invent double entry book keeping and modern banking with stone knives and bear skins?

2. The railroads were involved, self interest after all, with dozens of different railroads sharing tracks and stations it was kind of important to control train traffic. There was an international push in the late 19th century to establish all manner of international standards for measurements. The present time zones were a formalization of methods that had been evolving since the mid 19th century.

3. Does anyone outside the US care if we measure our speed in miles per hour? Our gasoline by the gallon? Our air temperature by Fahrenheit? We’ve long moved past the 1970s when it was a challenge to work on your Toyota because you didn’t have metric sockets. Many American cars are manufactured with metric fasteners. American goods manufactured for foreign consumption are typically made to metric specifications. I would also note that clothing size measures vary widely around the world. There is, as far as I know, no such thing as a “metric” shoe size or coat size. The metric system failed in the US because we had a huge installed base (knowledge and capital). It wasn’t necessary to change and we didn’t. Some how we’ve managed to adapt. To refer back to point 1, I no longer have to memorize metric conversions or look them up in a table in a book. Today, there’s an app for that.

31 Doug December 30, 2011 at 2:21 pm

At the same time, I believe a screwed up metric conversion caused the loss of one of the Mars probes.

32 John Mansfield December 30, 2011 at 2:43 pm

A lot of probes to Mars failed, one due to metric-oriented scientists not dealing properly with aeronautic conventions.

33 jkl December 30, 2011 at 11:27 am

Currency board , it worked nice in Argentina.Of course it was not a currency board , currency board

34 Steven Kopits December 30, 2011 at 11:34 am

Once a standard is agreed, it is absolute and unyielding to rationality. Let’s not change our clocks.

35 TheCrankyProfessor December 30, 2011 at 11:45 am

If someone made ME King of the World I can think of several things I’d get around to ordering everyone to do first.

36 Andrew' December 30, 2011 at 1:31 pm

The thing is, there is only one time- now. Thus it is probably other people pushing the current conventions.

37 scineram December 30, 2011 at 11:47 am

‘Set your clocks to the same time, because it is the same time.’

No. It’s quarter to six pm here. Not in Melbourne.

38 Ted Craig December 30, 2011 at 12:00 pm

How about just taking a smaller step toward a better world and evening the months out? Isn’t six months of 30 days and six months of 31 better than what we have now?

39 Ted Craig December 30, 2011 at 12:03 pm

Oops. sorry, seven and five. Still, that would be better. And they could all be consecutive. 31 days May-August, say.

40 dearieme December 31, 2011 at 3:55 pm

Yeah, that would make summer longer. Hurray!

41 JWatts December 30, 2011 at 12:16 pm

If you are going to the trouble of changing the months anyway, how about we just add 1 more month and have 13 months of 4 weeks each, with the very first month having an extra day. So January gets 29 days and the other 12 months get exactly 28 days.

Wait, no that would mean my birthday would disappear. Is that a bug or a feature? Hmm….

42 agm December 30, 2011 at 12:17 pm

1. This proposal assumes that the only important consideration is the payment of interest. Which is patently ridiculous since the interest in question is not calculated manually, it is calculated by software anyways, and you have to get the interest–calculating algorithms written and implemented correctly irregardless of calendar. It’s an excuse for an idea that has caught hold in their mind without benefits that can generally be agreed upon by the people whose lives will be disrupted.

2. Abolishing Daylight Savings Time or “rationalizing” clocks, really?

Nevermind the annual war of words between people at polar latitudes and equatorial latitudes over Daylight Savings Time, with people close to the equator saying “It’s stupid and unneeded” and people at more northerly latitudes saying “F@#$ you, I’m not going to work AND leaving work both in darkness”. Things are not the same everywhere for everyone, simply because the earth rotates on an axis that is inclined relative to its ecliptic plane.

43 ohwilleke January 1, 2012 at 11:18 am

I write lots of notes that use an all months are created equal despite their different number of days in length interest convention. It’s cheaper to hire lawyers to write better promissory note forms than to change the calendar, which of course, is why we don’t use their calendar.

Also, if you’re going to do it, four quarters of 13 weeks with a 30, 30 and 31 day month plus either one or two intercalendary days is a much more elegant solution (the extra days were used by the Egyptians in their solar calendar). Keeps the dates on the same day of the week too since the extra days aren’t part of the week.

Calendar reform comes slow to lawyers, however. Today (jan 1, 2012) is the first day in the living history of the State of Colorado that the word “day” in court rules really means “calendar day” about 98% of the time to lawyer-calendar reform. Yesterday, 10 days was longer than 11 days in lawyer time in Colorado.

44 msgkings December 30, 2011 at 12:18 pm

Ah, the problems of affluence. If the world is able to consider this a ‘problem’ we must not be doing so badly.

45 JWatts December 30, 2011 at 1:49 pm


46 Right Wing-nut December 30, 2011 at 4:00 pm


47 Tim December 30, 2011 at 12:50 pm

Interesting how all these systems for “fixing inefficiency” are popping up as we move into the most anti-labor period since the early industrial revolution. After they fix the calendar I’m sure they’ll start working on inefficiency like “40 hour work weeks” and “weekends”.

This “inefficiency” actually forces vacation which make workers more efficient.

48 Pat MacAuley December 30, 2011 at 1:07 pm

If they want the calendar to be more efficient, why not do away with months altogether and simply number the days from 1 to 365 (or 366)? So today would be 2011.364. Think of all the keystrokes we would save! Think of the efficiencies and economic gains! Wow!

49 TW December 31, 2011 at 1:42 am


The problem isn’t our arrangements of months and weeks screw up interest calculations. The problem is that bankers and financiers moronically proffer and accept contracts which specify interest rates in terms of months instead of numbers of days. Christ. If necessary, buy yourselves some legislators and get a US Federal law passed that all monthly financial calculations must be specified in spans of days, not months, and soon the world will follow.

50 Pat MacAuley December 31, 2011 at 2:52 pm

OOPS! I just learned that Star Trek already uses this system. According to Wikipedia, this is the convention that was used in the 2009 Star Trek movie. I guess I won’t become famous after all.

51 joshua December 30, 2011 at 1:28 pm

“Sorry for waking you… what time is it over there? Oh, same as mine?”

Converting nominal hours across time zones would have an extra step. (instead of: “It’s 5PM here, you are seven hours ahead of me, it’s 2AM there. Oh, my bad”. we would have: “It’s 0400 here but the sun is about to start setting, you are seven hours ahead of me, so to figure out the daylight of plus-seven from me I need to convert the current daylight back into my old nominal system so it would be sort of like if it were 5pm here then it would be like 2am there.”)

On the other hand, whenever I watch sci-fi stuff I always think about how people traveling between planets act like they’re on some kind of standard time… If we had more interplanetary travel going on these kinds of proposals might make more sense.

52 Andrew' December 30, 2011 at 1:33 pm

Remembering the sun sets over there at X is about the same as remembering what time zone they are in. I think that’s a wash.

53 Doug December 30, 2011 at 2:32 pm

It’s not a wash. That’s ridiculous. People are not computers and are used to social conventions. If I travel from California to New York, all I have to do to know when certain things are going to happen is to set my watch to New York time or look at any clock. I then instantly know when lunch is, when rush hour will be, when most people will be going to dinner, etc. Of course I could figure it out by subtracting 3 from the whatever the number is in California, but this would require a not insignificant mental effort (and constant effort to actually remember to do the subtracting), and would be regarded by most people as a giant pain in the ass with absolutely no tangible benefit.

This doesn’t even consider the initial effort to make the transition to figure out when lunch is in California in the first place. That alone would probably cause riots. I really can’t believe that anyone would seriously consider this a good idea.

54 Andrew' December 30, 2011 at 2:40 pm

It may not be a wash for travel. I never travel.

55 Andrew' December 30, 2011 at 2:43 pm

One time when I was traveling I missed a flight due to one of those oddities like Fort Wayne.

56 Mario December 30, 2011 at 2:18 pm

As long as we’re inventing crazy new time conventions, I’ve always been in favor of a double switch to a 6-hour clock and four time zones. That way it’s always the same time everywhere, but the suffix changes depending on the part of the world. Much simpler without being too simple.

57 msgkings December 30, 2011 at 2:39 pm

While we’re add it let’s switch from the decimal number system (a conventional relic due to our arbitrarily having 10 fingers) to binary. Then we won’t need to translate computer code.

58 msgkings December 30, 2011 at 2:40 pm

Sorry, ‘while we’re AT it’

Or maybe we could try hexadecimal, same reason.

59 JWatts December 30, 2011 at 3:09 pm

What’s this needless insistence on restarting the clock every day anyway? My UTC (Universal Time Calculator) tells me it’s currently 1325275606 (that’s seconds since 1/1/1970 GMT). I’ll meet you for dinner at 1325295000, ok?

60 Andrew' December 30, 2011 at 3:44 pm

Where? GPS coordinates are fine.

61 Right Wing-nut December 30, 2011 at 4:02 pm

Yep. I’ld say we’re done here. Well done, gentlemen. I declare this thread OVER.

62 JWatts December 30, 2011 at 4:03 pm


63 JWatts December 30, 2011 at 4:05 pm

Correction that’s:
Virgo, Milk Way, Orion Arm, Sol, Earth, 36.169234,-86.51105

64 eccdogg December 30, 2011 at 4:40 pm

Logan’s Road House in Nashille?

65 JWatts December 30, 2011 at 4:51 pm

Nope, Red Robin’s (next door to Logan’s) in Mount Juliet.

66 Neeraj Krishnan December 31, 2011 at 4:36 am

Or why wait till the 23rd century, when we are going to be using stardates anyway – and get on with it.
Its what the Romulans are likely to be using when we encounter them.

67 Ed December 30, 2011 at 5:12 pm

Unlike the rest of the commentators, I think these changes are worth discussion. But they are better discussed separately.

Take the proposal to abolish Daylight Savings Time. Actually in the US this is a live issue, but there has been an ongoing push for “Daylight Savings Time all the time”, and this is tied quite closely to the growing wealth inequality in the U.S.. The idea is to go from schoolchildren normally showing up for school two hours or so after the sun rises, and workers showing up for work three hours or so after the sun rises, to this happening one hour and two hours after the sun rises respectively. That way managers can get home in the evening earlier to get an extra hour for golf or whatever other daylight activity they want to do.

Its happening, and its stupid for the sole reason is that the hours of daylight at the latitude of the northern U.S. state vary a great deal according to the season. Any change towards getting things done earlier means beginning more things in the dark in winter. Plus the managers and executives might want to consider just requiring their employees to show up one hour earlier than changing the clock.

But this is a completely separate issue from the others. The point is that DST really should not be viewed as a time change, but as an effort to get people to show up to wherever they have to be one hour earlier. I have a hard time understanding it, but then I have a hard time understanding the idea for making every shift and store open at about the same time on the clock each day, every day, regardless of its function or when the sun rises or sets that season.

68 Ed December 30, 2011 at 5:16 pm

The second issue is the idea of going to universal GMT and getting rid of time zones.

Actually the U.S. military has tried it, promoting what it calls “Zulu time” (essentially GMT). The effect has been for nearly all U.S. military orders to specify “local time” which is what most soldiers actually follow.

I used to think that universal GMT was a good idea, but the fact is that for 95% of the population, 95% of their coordination or more is done with people within a fifty mile radius and local time is sufficient. Instead of the time zones, it might have been better to put transportation networks (and financial firms) on universal GMT and left the various local times alone.

That said, there is a good case for adjusting the time zones to take into account changes in local customs as to when people are supposed to do things, that have happened in the last 150 years.

69 Ed December 30, 2011 at 5:19 pm

As to the idea of adjusting the calendar, actually I agree and I disagree that this has to be an all or nothing, fix every problem with the calendar or don’t bother, thing.

There would be all sorts of efficiencies that would result in getting each numerical date to fall on the same date of the week each year that, probably over a decade or so, make up for the considerable transition cost.

This could be done with the twelve month system, by going to four five week months and eight four week months, with New Year’s day and Leap Year being made intercalendary days (ie not falling on any day of the week). The cost of doing this would be probably slightly greater than the Y2K adjustment. However, there is no international body with authority to do something like this.

70 JonF311 December 30, 2011 at 6:35 pm

Re: Sunday-only Christmas and New Year’s holidays would also eliminate their mid-week appearances and “get rid of this zoo we’re in right now, when the whole economy collapses for two weeks

People would still demand that Monday be the legal holiday for purposes of time off work. And the week between Christmas and New Years would remain deadsville.
And I detect a definite note of “Bah! Humbug!” in the sentiment about business dying over the holiday.

71 Brian Donohue December 30, 2011 at 6:47 pm

This proposal lacks vision. What can be more arbitrary than the seven day week? Let’s make it a six-day week, expand the workday to nine hours, get rid of Monday’s altogether (compelling, no?). Sixty weeks a year, 12 5-week, 30 day months (work year expands from 2080 to 2160 hours- two extra weeks of vacation all round to even it out), plus five holidays at the end (six in leap years!).

72 TW December 31, 2011 at 1:53 am

Not far enough.

I’d be perfectly content with a 7-day week… if we didn’t count federal holidays as days of the week. So, in the US, this month (Dec) and next (Jan) would have had:

23rd: Friday
24th: Saturday
25th: Holiday
26th: Sunday
27th: Monday
28th: Tuesday
29th: Wednesday
30th: Thursday
31st: Friday
1st: Holiday
2nd: Saturday

This has the added bonus that as different countries celebrate different holidays, which day of the week it is in another country will vary freely. The dates remain synced, but you won’t know what day of the week it is in another country unless you look it up.

Well, I think it’s a bonus.

Just think: no matter when, somewhere, a market is open.

73 Ronald Brak December 30, 2011 at 7:04 pm

Hanke, if you’re reading this, I think they have an app for that now.

74 Neeraj Krishnan December 30, 2011 at 9:31 pm

Arbitrary time to bed, arbitrary time to rise makes a man healthy, wealthy and wise.

75 ohwilleke January 1, 2012 at 11:10 am

One of the really interesting episodes in social history was the process of training ordinary people to frame their lives in the context of arbitrary times at the beginning of the industrial revolution. It is stunning to read historical materials and suddenly have it dawn on you that showing up to work at 8:00 a.m. is not a natural part of the human condition, it was created three hundred years ago give or take and a lot later in lots of places. It also gives a whole new cultural meaning to the ubiquity of clocks and watches in steam age Britain.

76 derek December 30, 2011 at 11:04 pm

Ok, I’ll make a deal. You can change how time is set, we can change how much you are paid.

77 Colin December 31, 2011 at 12:36 am

“makes interest rate calculations easier” or somesuch. Why not just use continuous compounding?! It’s dead simple and elegant.

78 John December 31, 2011 at 8:31 am

Calling people on vacation in far away places would be harder. Now I can just remember, “they’re 7 hours ahead.”

79 Andrew Greene December 31, 2011 at 2:11 pm

What a stupid Idea from the same jerks that gave us the yugo and new Coke I also think if the calendar was the same year after year the suicide rate would triple why don’t these over educated dumb-asses leave well enough alone

80 Urso December 31, 2011 at 3:56 pm

The last two paragraphs are particularly interesting.
“According to Henry, the Gregorian calendar wouldn’t disappear altogether, as it’s still needed for agriculture. People could use both it and Henry-Hanke, much as Jews use both the Hebrew and Western calendars, or as airline pilots use Universal Time in flight and local time in their private lives.
“I gave a presentation at the American Astronomical Society meeting in Atlanta. Two young ladies came up to me, and one said she liked it. The other said she didn’t,” recalled Henry. “And I said, ‘Why?’ She said, ‘My birthday is always going to be on a Thursday.’ I said, ‘You’re free to celebrate when you want! What the devil difference does it make what it says on the calendar?’” ”
The first paragraph shows this proposal it wouldn’t solve the problem it’s intended to solve. In fact, it would make people’s lives more difficult. The second shows that only a borderline emotional cripple with no understanding of how human social interactions work could ever come up with such a bizarre and formalistic ‘solution’ to a non-problem.

81 Kris January 3, 2012 at 4:22 pm

We should consider the productivity loss resulting from having four fridays the 13th each year!

Comments on this entry are closed.

Previous post:

Next post: