the national interest

Polar Vortex Still Way Better Than Being Too Hot

CHICAGO, IL - JANUARY 07: Passengers heading into downtown wait on an
Quit yer bellyaching. Photo: Scott Olson/Getty Images

The next intra-liberal civil war is breaking out between northerners like Matthew Yglesias, who argue that cold weather is better than hot weather, and sunbelt natives like Ezra Klein, who insist the opposite. This is a time for all of us to stand up and be counted, and I am here to explain why Yglesias is right and Klein is wrong — indeed, dangerously wrong.

Any good intra-faction debate needs some jargon, so the key phrase to grasp here is the zero clothing bound. As weather gets colder, it is possible to add progressively more clothing, to the point where a person can remain comfortably warm in even arctic-level conditions:

Photo: Tim Graham/Getty Images

As weather gets hotter, you can remove clothing, of course. But at some point you run into a problem. You can’t get below naked:

Photo: Mario Tama/Getty Images

What’s more, in many situations, such as the workplace, you can’t even get to naked, unless you work in the stripping sector.

Now, one partial solution to the zero-bound problem would be to radically relax societal standards of professional dress. But the interaction of workplace dress standards and the zero clothing bound creates serious problems. I used to work in an office with a poorly functioning air-conditioning system, and I kept a pair of shorts and sandals handy to change into on warm days. But many people lack either the willingness or professional standing to absorb the inevitable mockery this brings.

And, of course, the problems get far worse for people who don’t work in white-collar fields. Lots of jobs involve physical activity, which makes you hot. If it’s freezing, you can easily wear long underwear or a warm hat to make up the difference in body heat. But if it’s too hot, you’re going to hit the zero clothing bound, or whatever the professional dress standard is in your chosen field.