Ever hear of George Ballas?

I hadn’t, until 30 minutes ago.  I googled him and came up with a whopping 51,000 hits.  Sad, actually, as Mr. Ballas, whose death at age 85 is reported in today’s Washington Post, was one of the countless people throughout history whose creativity and entrepreneurship help to make our lives better.

In 1971 he invented the weed-wacker.  He added welcome volume to our prosperity pool.

‘Small achievement,’ you say, with more than a whiff of contempt for such a bourgeois effort.

I respond, ‘compared to what’?  Small, no doubt, compared to the polio vaccine, the assembly line, and (one of my favorites, given that, like Mr. Ballas, I’m from Louisiana) air-conditioning.  But large – huge – compared to the creativity of the political class.

Question: who has done more good for humanity?  George Ballas and his weed-wacker, or [name any one of the many the politicians who ‘creatively’ figured out a new way to spend person A‘s money to help (or ‘help’) person B]?

The weed-wacker reduces the time we spend trimming our lawns and gardens.  (“MyGod!” I hear the contemptuous mutter as they roll their eyes at such a trivial achievement.  “How many stirring speeches has Mr. Ballas delivered?” [None, as far as I know.]  “Was he a great general who led troops into glorious battle?”  [No.]  “Was he ever elected to public office?”  [Not as far as I can tell.]  “So he invents a machine to slice weeds and, in the process, makes a small fortune.  He was no FDR or even Gerald Ford or John McCain.  Get real.”)

RIP, Mr. Ballas – bourgeois hero.  While no monuments will adorn the National Mall to celebrate your life, you did much more good than history will remember – and vastly more good than was done by any of the many butchers, frauds, and silver-tongued devils who do have their images recorded in marble or bronze in capital cities around the world.


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