Apparently, there is some sort of sporting match taking place this weekend that has everyone in a bit of a tizzy, so I hesitate to even attempt to discuss anything else . . .
BUT, this story about overhauling the traditional calendar caught my eye a few weeks ago and deserves some attention. In an ironic twist, I haven't had time to post about until now, so, here goes:
The new calendrical system is proposed by two Hopkins scholars, astrophysicist Richard Henry and economist Steve Hanke. It would see the year divided up so that every calendar date would always fall on the same day of the week. For example, Christmas, December 25, would always occur on a Sunday. They would do this by inserting a "leap week" at the end of December every five or six years in place of a leap day at the end of February every four years. They argue that this new system—the largest change to our Western timekeeping system since Pope Gregory XIII instituted the Gregorian calendar in 1582—would simplify scheduling irregularities thereby saving businesses, governments, and individuals time (heh) and, yes, money.
"Every year, all around the world, every school, every business has to reconfigure their entire calendar. It’s an enormous waste of time. They should be doing something more useful," said Prof. Henry in a recent phone interview.
In a separate phone conversation, Prof. Hanke concurred: "You’re operating with even numbers, whole numbers and regularity forever. Tax day would always be on Sunday. You can plan a business or a school schedule. You do it once and it’s done forever. Not just schools, but sports leagues, because those are complicated. You’re saving a lot of time and time is money."
Hanke, who has advised Presidents and foreign governements on economic matters, is particularly keen on the calendar because it would mitigate what he terms "the rip-off factor."
"You’ve got all kinds of complications with contracts," he explains. "There is always a day-count problem with the Gregorian calendar because when you get into the mathematics of finance, all financial instruments have some implicit or explicit interest calculations and to do it you need to know the number of days. In different countries, they count days in a different way. The convention is the 30/360 convention. You assume each month is 30 days and a year is 360 days. It’s widely used convention in calculating different interest. If you’re a creditor and you’re supposed to be receiving interest, you’re actually shortchanged. You might only be off by a few days, but the magnitude of the errors is huge. If you take all the bonds in the world that are outstanding, the potential errors amount to about $130 billion per year, equivalent to the size of the Hungarian economy."
Neither Hanke, nor Henry, are particularly optimisitc that a calendar overhaul is imminent, but they stand by the validity of the idea, and have set the goal of universal adoption of the new calendar by January 1, 2017.
"In listening to the complaints of a bazillion people, I haven’t come across anything that’s bothered me," said Henry, who has been a proponent of the change for years. "The most common complaint is, 'My birthday will always be on a Wednesday!' My answer to that is Queen Elizabeth was born in February or March and celebrates her birthday in June. Celebrate your birthday whenever you feel like it! It’s crazy."
More information about the Hanke-Henry Permanent Calendar can be found here.