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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{ 124 comments }

rhhardin July 4, 2011 at 8:50 am

Death came with a weed wacker instead of a scythe for Mr. Ballas.

jjoxman July 4, 2011 at 8:51 am

If it wasn’t for Mr. Ballas, I would have to spend hours and hours cutting the lawn next to my house, around my trees, and so forth. The $100 machine I purchased cuts that down to one hour. Mr. Ballas, thank you for increasing my productivity tenfold or more. You make me have to work less; politicians do the opposite.

Martin Brock July 4, 2011 at 3:01 pm

I agree with Don that Ballas is more praiseworthy than most of the people praised today, but I can’t agree that you’d spend hours cutting your lawn had it not been for Ballas. Without Ballas, someone else by this time would have invented the weed wacker or something similar. You might have invented it yourself for that matter. Ballas’ invention and his subsequent development of the idea into a marketable product is not less praiseworthy for this reason, but his patent is.

Methinks1776 July 5, 2011 at 12:58 am

Martin, it’s a good thing Don wasn’t praising his patent, then.

In a relatively free country and over a long enough time horizon, the probability that someone will invent something similar to anything we now enjoy approaches 100%. But, in praising Ballas, I think Don is trying to make a larger point. I read this not as praise specifically for a man called Ballas, but as praise for all of the Ballases of the world. Praise for the innovators, the traders, the capitalists (not the crony variety).

That said, if my path ever crosses that of the bastard who invented that ubiquitous, yet dangerous and virtually impenetrable clear plastic packaging, I may attempt to exact revenge!!

Methinks1776 July 5, 2011 at 9:37 am

Yep, sure, I’m the only one who knows how to use other names.

Seth July 5, 2011 at 1:51 pm

Someone invented a clipper that makes quick and clean work of those packages. Well worth the price.

Methinks1776 July 5, 2011 at 2:39 pm

I’ve tried a couple and they were worse than the surgical removal I perform with open scissors. If you have a recommendation I will be forever indebted to you, Seth!!

Gordon Richens July 5, 2011 at 9:57 am

If we’re going to rewrite history, then let’s give Ballas credit for inventing the weed whacker when he did. For if he had not, Steve Jobs might still be cutting his dad’s grass and we wouldn’t have the iPhone.,

Martin Brock July 5, 2011 at 10:43 am

We aren’t rewriting history, and we are giving Ballas credit for inventing the weed whacker when he did.

Someone else inventing a weed whacker or something similar in time for jjoxman to enjoy the benefits seems more plausible to me than Steve Jobs cutting his dad’s grass into this fifties. Jobs didn’t invent the IPhone, of course, but someone else inventing something similar also seems plausible. In fact, other people did invent similar devices independently. Millions of inventors routinely invent similar things independently. That’s why we don’t need central planners.

vikingvista July 5, 2011 at 12:36 pm

IP advocates believe that all but one of those millions deserve to have the hammer of the state fall upon them. Supposedly that is not initiation of force.

Scott July 5, 2011 at 11:01 am

Please explain to me how someone profits off of their ideas if there are no intellectual property rights?

Any lame brain could then usurp the originator’s idea and make just as equal profit and or even make the originator irrelevant if they have greater access to capital funding.

vikingvista July 5, 2011 at 12:40 pm

1. First to market is a critical advantage.
2. Competition does not guarantee zero profits.

Gordon Richens July 4, 2011 at 8:57 am

Mr. Ballas’ invention means the introduction of fewer chemicals into the environment, arguably in exchange for increased CO2 emissions.

NotSure July 4, 2011 at 9:38 am

Mr. Ballas is what makes it possible for politicians and the worlds loafers to live a life that would not be possible without all these “bourgeois” inventions. These are truly the worlds true heroes not these demagogue politicians and their army of leeches.

Kirby July 4, 2011 at 9:58 am

Make a like button!

LowcountryJoe July 4, 2011 at 9:48 am

Contrast this George with our own resident George-troll with a very similar last name. Dr. Balella actually plants the weeds. Like a recent status update on his unprotected Facebook page where he links to a video using Bernie Sanders narrating some screed against the Koch Brothers.

muirgeo July 4, 2011 at 10:45 am

LCJ,

So you dropped out of the one on one discussion on my blog….again….I am having a very amicable and fruitful and civil discussion with Greg Webb.

Don’t think it’s me but my idea’s that many find a threat because they can’t easily refute them and that makes them uncomfortable and unwilling to debate amicably.

I admit to being threatened and unable to give good replies to all your sides positions. But that doesn’t make me shy away. It makes me want to learn more and discuss more.

Greg and I have agreed that we both want the same thing but have very different ideas of how to obtain it…. that being the avoidance of concentrated power which leads to decreases in liberty.

Anyway you have no right to claim I am a troll because at the very least on my blog is a disscussion between you and me showing that indeed I do have intent of fair and honest discussion.

kyle8 July 4, 2011 at 11:09 am

Quite the contrary, your Ideas, such as they are, are easily refuted. The trouble is that you never accede to anyone’s facts and blithely lumber on with your inane ideas thinking that you made a valid point. That is what makes you a troll. And a silly brainwashed idealogue.

LowcountryJoe July 4, 2011 at 11:29 am

Dropped out? Where? Here? Oh, this one…yeah, I did drop out on that one and explained why I was doing so. Or was it that one? The one where I should have learned my lesson about discussing things with you. I just cannot seem to quit you, Ducktor.

LowcountryJoe July 4, 2011 at 11:34 am

I replied to this, George, but since I included three links, the site placed it’s ‘awaiting moderation’ flag on it. Perhaps this single permalink to it will work. If not, then it’s someone’s way of telling me that you’re not worth the attention I’m paying to you.

muirgeo July 4, 2011 at 6:34 pm

That happens on this blog too. You can’t put more than one link per post or it goes to the junk mail pile. Unless I know or remember to check the junk mail I will not know it is there.

I am on it…

Gordon Richens July 4, 2011 at 7:48 pm

You can run. But you can’t hide from the muirinator.

Methinks1776 July 4, 2011 at 9:54 am

How much time has Mr. Ballas saved all of us? Time – that scarce resource nobody ever has enough of. In pursuit of personal wealth, Mr. Ballas has made each of us wealthier and helped to offset the impoverishing force of government.

What a contrast to the way government bureaucrats enrich themselves. This crime family….I mean, government organization pays its members by extorting money (through fees and fines) from the industry the government gave it the power to extort. Not at all unlike the cops confiscating cash on that Tennessee highway:
http://dealbook.nytimes.com/2011/07/01/finra-executives-get-big-payday/

Seth July 5, 2011 at 2:00 pm

“How much time has Mr. Ballas saved all of us?”

I don’t think it’s just a matter of time saved. I could have saved time by avoiding the types of edges that weed trimmers are useful for (landscaping, fences, gardens, paths, sidewalks, etc.). Weed trimmers lowers the cost of maintaining such things, which makes us more likely to have and enjoy them.

Methinks1776 July 5, 2011 at 2:04 pm

True. I guess time was saved for those people who were already doing that type of edging.

Don Boudreaux July 5, 2011 at 2:10 pm

I very clearly recall, as a young boy in the 1960s and early ’70s, trimming my parents’ small lawn with a steel-blade trimmer that was damnably difficult to use; I recall also pulling by hand weeds and grass that grew along our home’s fence lines and against its outside walls.

A weed-wacker would have saved me much time back then.

Yam Slemho July 5, 2011 at 5:25 pm

Note that weed-wacking is no substitute for hand pulling… one removes the weed altogether (unless particularly deep-rooted), the other merely gives it a haircut.

vikingvista July 6, 2011 at 3:17 am

It’s called a weed wacker, but most people use it to trip their lawn grass where the lawnmower doesn’t reach.

Hal_10000 July 4, 2011 at 9:57 am

Wonderful post. There are so many zillions of little conveniences in our lives that have liberated so much of our time (especially for women). Godspeed, Mr. Ballas. You done good.

Libagno July 4, 2011 at 10:07 am

I’m sure some politician, somewhere, wished he would have locked down a subsidy for that guy so he could claim credit for a successful “public private partnership.” Although, that same politician probably has a highway named for him somewhere in Louisiana for “helping” the poor.

River July 4, 2011 at 10:07 am

A related article on the merchant class. Mr. Tucker talks of the trails and tribulations of merchants and entrepreneurs in a similar vein of Deirdre McCloskey .

We need more of them and less of some others.

http://mises.org/daily/5426/Show-Love-to-the-Merchant-Class

kyle8 July 4, 2011 at 11:11 am

If there were a lawn service union then his invention would have been shut down by the government.

Dano July 4, 2011 at 11:52 am

Correct me if I’m wrong, but didn’t a court throw out the patents on the Weed Eater? IIRC, a judge in San Francisco threw out the patent because he believed all patents are anti-competitive.

quoting another reply:

Well again, policy and government matter. No government no George Ballas’s. Poorly organized governement fewer George Ballas’s. Better government more George Ballas’s… better government still even more George Ballas’s.

Yes, the government tried to shut Mr. Ballas down.

rhhardin July 4, 2011 at 2:59 pm

I remember a cafeteria conversation in the 70s with somebody who reported the judicial opinion was that the weed wacker idea was too obvious for patent protection.

Even so, patent protection would be rent-seeking, which is not in the Ballas spirit presented here.

(Actually a scythe with a grass blade is much faster than a weed wacker along boundaries, except inside corners, which a scythe cannot reach. I do an entire acre lawn with a scythe, but that is not fast. It’s a hobby.)

Kirby July 4, 2011 at 3:32 pm

Strawman North Korea want’s to share it’s five million George Ballas’ with the world!

RC July 4, 2011 at 10:23 am

Don,

Placing great generals next to common politicians is nonsense. For one, generals don’t start wars (unless they are the rulers simultaneously). More importantly, a great general is the one that manages to end the war as quickly as possible with the smallest number of casualties on his side.

Are the generals that won glorious victories against Nazi Germany (or, less spectacularly, the Khmer Rouge) really no better than the common “silver-tongue devil”? Come on.

Regards,
RC

vikingvista July 5, 2011 at 1:02 pm

In the US, they dutifully comport themselves as instruments of the state. They are culpable for that decision as well as for every order they give or follow.

Single Acts Of Tyranny July 4, 2011 at 10:26 am

I would suggest we declare a George Ballas day but I fear our political class would latch onto it in some way and start spending money.

muirgeo July 4, 2011 at 10:28 am

Well again, policy and government matter. No government no George Ballas’s. Poorly organized governement fewer George Ballas’s. Better government more George Ballas’s… better government still even more George Ballas’s.

The idea that governnment is terrible is like saying, “Its a shame I have feet because now I have to buy shoes”. I’m sorry but it’s a childish, reality-averse positon to take.

Economies are easy… it’s government that needs work and the libertarian answer is no annswer at all as far as I and the real world are concerned.

We have to have government and the key is how best to order government and society. Some very good policitians Franklin, Hamilton, Jefferson, Madison ect… oh and FDR gave it their best but it still needs a lot of work.

People who deny this are in fact not helping and making us less productive and allowing for fewer George Ballas’s to thrive.

Thomas Bayes July 4, 2011 at 10:49 am

To build on your analogy, thoughtful people like DB are not saying we shouldn’t buy shoes . . . they are saying that we shouldn’t buy shoes that are 5 or 6 sizes too large. Our federal, state, and local capitals are loaded with people who want us wear size 16 shoes on size 10 feet. Then, when someone points out that we would walk more efficiently with shoes that fit, a legion of “intellectuals” protest as though we are advocating for no shoes at all.

Kirby July 4, 2011 at 3:37 pm

But smaller shoes would cause the tannery to lose money!

NotSure July 4, 2011 at 11:42 am

There is no “us”, there are the George Ballas of this world, and then there are the nationalists like you who think that Ballas somehow needs to thank people like you for the things he did.

ArrowSmith July 4, 2011 at 12:53 pm

Somehow I think the part of government that enforces contracts and protects private property is not your favorite part.

Rudy July 5, 2011 at 1:37 am

Muirdigo,
No one will say government is not needed on this thread. It’s the quantity of government that is usually up for debate. George Ballas can be thankful there wasn’t an FDA in place for garden equipment when he devised his invention!!

And how can you formulate such names as Jefferson, Franklin, and Madison with….. FDR!!?? Uh??

vidyohs July 4, 2011 at 11:03 am

He did more than just give the world a machine that reduced labor for the common man. His invention also created a spin-off industry that is a source of continuing sales, the trimmer string.

While the machine weed-whacker will last many many years if properly taken care of, a spool of string can be gone through in one summer or less.

Ben July 5, 2011 at 9:28 am

Spin-off industry…good one.

Mao_Dung July 4, 2011 at 12:15 pm

There are few creative types on this blog. Libertarians are simply, naive, political rubes. True inventors wouldn’t waste there time here. It isn’t a fruitful endeavor whether in good ideas or in a useful invention.

But, I’m not without a fresh idea. There are now a robotic vacuum cleaner available for purchase. It is called a Roomba.

http://www.amazon.com/iRobot-Roomba-562-Vacuum-Cleaning/dp/B0033R2F1Y/ref=sr_1_4?ie=UTF8&qid=1309795828&sr=8-4

Now, can one of you people who live on your parents’ trust fund, and waste time around here develop a Roomba for the lawn? There is the million dollar idea you’ve been waiting for. I gave it to you for free because I’m so generous. Get to work, slobs! I’m waiting!

Gordon Richens July 4, 2011 at 12:22 pm

“Now, can one of you people who live on your parents’ trust fund, and waste time around here develop a Roomba for the lawn?”
There already is one. It’s called a “Goat.”

vikingvista July 4, 2011 at 12:26 pm

They’ve been available for years.

NotSure July 4, 2011 at 12:33 pm

My word you truly are an innovator, providing us with an Amazon link is truly uncanny.

I am sure that people here would love to spend years working on that robotic lawn machine for you, knowing that leeches like you are the ones receiving the tax money is all the motivation one needs.

vidyohs July 4, 2011 at 5:43 pm

I’ll give you this Cao Dung, the looney left has come up with some innovations over the thousands of years.
1. Theft
2. oppression
3. Mass murders
4. Sloth
5. Leechism
6. Grinding poverty
7. Stagnation

Not a pretty track record, but unique to looney statists and collectivist since time memorial.

Kirby July 4, 2011 at 5:48 pm

So NOW we know what Moses meant with those rocks.

Polly July 5, 2011 at 9:06 am

There actually IS a robot for the lawn. Works similarly to the carpet-and-floor robot. Sometimes seems like more work than just DOING it.

So, sorry, you’re too late with your offered “idea.” Been done.

W.E.Heasley July 4, 2011 at 1:14 pm

But large – huge – compared to the creativity of the political class. – Dr. Boudreaux

Yes, the weed-wacker created value. The value created went on to make Mr. Ballas a small fortune by offering an item of value at the lowest possible cost.

Meanwhile, politicos merely transfer value and nothing is created. The transfer of value (the non-creation of value) goes onto to make the politicos’ dependence constituency by transferring value at the highest possible cost.

ArrowSmith July 4, 2011 at 1:28 pm

Yes but w/o government the inventor wouldn’t even come up with the idea. Let us masturbate to big government!!!

/muirbot

Kirby July 4, 2011 at 3:43 pm

What other industries merely transfer value?
The entire entertainment industry (legal or not) (people are buying entertainment)
Any type of food other than empty calories and vitamins (people are buying flavor)

And in fact, anything and everything that cannot be empirically traced back to tangible benefits is in fact not adding value. That mouse? Could be replaced by a cheaper, faster mouse that is less comfortable. Yes, you buy comfort in everyday life.

Pets

Art (not art that improves you, like a philosophy, but wall art or music)

And, in fact, about 20% of America’s industry ‘doesn’t create value’.

Kirby July 4, 2011 at 3:56 pm

Make that more like 60%.
Weddings, Funerals, parties, alcohol, sound on your computer, formal clothes, gardening, anything aesthetic…

Emil July 4, 2011 at 5:20 pm

Bullocks, value is subjective therefore if someone wants to buy something out of his own free will from someone who wants to sell it then value has been created

Randy July 5, 2011 at 6:15 am

Thank you.

Methinks1776 July 4, 2011 at 5:32 pm

flavour is valuable
entertainment is valuable
comfort is valuable

You are a waste of space.

Kirby July 4, 2011 at 5:41 pm

I made my point. Value is subjective, not objective. Thus the value of government is also subjective in the sense that some people prefer greater regulation. Obviously, greater regulation NOW is stupid for the whole COUNTRY, but not for the self-interested bureaucrat.

Also: As ever, Methinks considers it more important to attack ad homenim than actually argue against an idea. This might gain him points online, but I feel sorry for him if he ever attempts to create value in an argument.

Methinks1776 July 4, 2011 at 7:10 pm

No, that is not the point you made. All of your statements were absolute, not relative. My criticism of your argument stands.

All of the things you listed have value. How MUCH value can only be assessed by individuals.

Regulation raises barriers to entry, reduces competition and raises costs. It also provides fat salaries for mobsters…I mean, bureaucrats. These parasites benefit and find regulation valuable. At our expense. Not only is government regulation stupid NOW, it is stupid ALWAYS for the same reason it is stupid NOW.

And a bit of housekeeping:
First, you are in no position to chafe against ad hominem as you are on low ground there.

Second, your pronouns are incorrect. I am a woman, not a man.

vidyohs July 4, 2011 at 10:04 pm

LOL, Kirby, I absolutely agree with you that value is subjective.

You might consider how you shoot yourself in the foot, when you then list industries that create value and those that transfer value.

So in your mind, is value subjective or do you really believe it is objective? If you believe it is subjective then drop it right there, don’t proceed to tell us what industries create it, transfer it, or steal it; because your subjective is not my (our) subjective.

Randy July 5, 2011 at 6:24 am

Its a good point that the desire for political activity is also a subjective “value”. But it is the method that defines.

Kirby July 5, 2011 at 9:35 am

You don’t seem to understand what I mean when I say “greater regulation NOW is stupid for the whole COUNTRY, but not for the self-interested bureaucrat.”

Value is subjective. To the bureaucrat, government means a free job with 365 sick days a year. I don’t agree with big government, but saying that it only transfers value is only mostly true.

Methinks1776 July 5, 2011 at 10:03 am

…but saying that it only transfers value is only mostly true.

Are you talking about government in general or about regulation in particular? For government in general, it is mostly true. For government regulation in particular, it is absolutely true.

Regulators have zero incentive to carry out their mission statement and every incentive to cover up fraud and destroy competition in industry. Regulators’ incentives are in no way aligned with the people they are supposed to be protecting. There is nothing a government regulator now does that cannot be performed better and cheaper by a private certifying agency (assuming consumers demand such a thing – and I think they do) and a private agency’s interests will be far more aligned with customers rather than the most politically connected in the industry they are certifying.

Everything spent on regulation is simple dead weight. Every dollar, every single minute, everything.

kirby July 5, 2011 at 10:20 am

you’re forgetting environmental regulations preventing us from cutting a hole in the ozone a mile wide, the part of the FDA that prevents salmonella outbreaks, building regulations saying that you can’t build a building out of plywood because it is cheaper, and the nice blokes who prevent Virginia Tech shooters and Jared Lee Loughners (Giffords shooting) from getting weapons that can shoot 100 bullets a minute.

Methinks1776 July 5, 2011 at 11:57 am

Kirby,

I’m forgetting nothing. I’m telling you that those regulations do not do what you think they do and that all of those things can be done at a much lower cost by private certification.

Yosef July 4, 2011 at 1:15 pm

What about those politicians, often known as The Founders, who, among other things, granted patent protection to inventors?

What about Benjamin Franklin, who made many additions to science, and was still a politician?

What about Theodore Roosevelt, who made many additions to the natural sciences and general scholarship, such as the the Naval War of 1812? (Or perhaps Roosevelt is reserved for quotes from H. L. Mencken?)

Yes, George Ballas is a great person, who added to our prosperity not only by giving us more free time, but also because such free time is then used by others to find even more ways to improve our lives. But being a politician and being a great person are not mutually exclusive.

ArrowSmith July 4, 2011 at 1:29 pm

Inventor/politician polymaths were a relic of the late 1700s. Those were giants. Or should I say Ben Franklin was a giant. One of a kind.

Yosef July 4, 2011 at 1:51 pm

Three points:

1. One does not have to be an inventor to still be a useful person. Any addition to our knowledge is good. Theodore Roosevelt was my example of someone who added to our scholarship while still being a politician.

2. Benjamin Franklin was giant, to be sure, but not one of a kind. As one more example see Benjamin Rush, another politician who also wrote the first American textbook on Chemistry as well as various medical works.

3. This is by no means limited to the 1700s. Take William Fox Talbot (a British politician for a change) who invented calotype photography, patented in 1841.

Kirby July 4, 2011 at 3:45 pm

The problem with politics…. is that it doesn’t respond to the free market. Nobody up and says ‘hey, we could do twice the labor for half the price’ because everybody who could say that is either not in a position of power that could change something or as replacable as their co-workers.

Yosef July 4, 2011 at 4:01 pm

Except of course that there are in fact people in politics who say that sort of things, who are in positions of power. I even gave one example of such a person.

Theodore Roosevelt worked to improve the civil service to ensure that government positions were received based on merit, passing a civil service exam, and not as part of a spoils system. Roosevelt worked to have hard working and competent people work in government so as to get more bang for the government buck.

Kirby July 4, 2011 at 4:09 pm

Most of it is handled by people not in public spotlight. And he DOES respond to a different market: If he is hated, he doesn’t get reelected. And the entire country hates him.
I remember a story I’m too lazy to google about a prison with nobody in it, and Cuomo tried to close it. But he couldn’t, because the prison guards union agreement stated that every guard needed a year’s notice before release.

Polly July 5, 2011 at 9:13 am

Yes, Kirby. Guards unions also stand against drug legalization. What if the prisons weren’t so full of people who weren’t out to hurt others? You’d need fewer guards and their jobs would be more dangerous. Therefore, don’t legalize drugs.

It’s NOT “for the children” for a change.

kirby July 5, 2011 at 9:26 am

Also because they get to use cash they seize, but not drugs they seize. Legalizing drugs means that they lose a main source of funds.

Richard Stands July 4, 2011 at 1:30 pm

Perhaps the advocates of equality-via-force should champion Mr. Ballas a bit more. In one sense, his invention was a pure recapitulation of their premise: lopping off the tallest green shoots keeps a lawn (as a collective concept) nice and tidy at a level prescribed by a central gardener.

Kirby July 4, 2011 at 3:46 pm

Exactly. Never mind the fact that the garden could never survive without said gardener feeding, watering, and weeding them with things purchased from the local grocery store.

vidyohs July 5, 2011 at 9:22 am

Slowly, methodically, but surely you reveal yourself to be another Luddite troll.

kirby July 5, 2011 at 9:28 am

My point was, things produced by socialists are usually so horrible that they import stuff that actually works from capitalists. Nice try, though.

vidyohs July 5, 2011 at 9:47 am

If that was the point you were trying to make, you did a really good job of hiding your point behind luddite drivel.

kirby July 5, 2011 at 10:22 am

not my fault the metaphor flew by you.

Mao_Dung July 4, 2011 at 1:47 pm

Whoever invent the blower should blown away. They pollute the air and push dirt from house to house. It is a bad invention that took hold. They tried to outlaw their use, but there was such an uproar from gardeners that the attempt to stop the use of gasoline-powered blowers was undone.

ArrowSmith July 4, 2011 at 2:09 pm

Agreed, I’d legislate the blower away. It’s a noise & air pollutant and is for lazy idiots.

Jim July 4, 2011 at 2:54 pm

The banks gave us the the ATM machine and ummm… well, they gave us the ATM machine. And increased gearing. And structural inflation.

I sure am glad it didn’t take so many thousands of people to give us the weed whacker.

Kirby July 4, 2011 at 3:48 pm

….

…..

……

-rubs eyes-
I’m not reading this.

tdp July 4, 2011 at 3:08 pm

Aside from politicians and generals who are willing to fight to defend liberty and independence (Revolution, Civil War, World War II, for example) when they are truly and imminently threatened, the only politicians who deserve statues and monuments are those who know not to “fix” what isn’t broken and, by virtue of their holding political office, prevent typical politicians from gaining power.

Kirby July 4, 2011 at 3:49 pm

Alas, the only ones who deserve monuments are the ones who know that monuments are a waste of granite and the taxpayer dollar.

Mike July 4, 2011 at 4:47 pm

I used my weed-wacker today. I followed up by using my leaf blower. I do sometimes wonder who invented these wonderful machines. Glad to know about Mr. Ballas. People like him have saved me so much time to over productive tasks, or to simply spend time with my family.

Kirby July 4, 2011 at 4:51 pm

The word “hello” has probably wasted people 50,000 years.

ettubloge July 4, 2011 at 7:38 pm

He made millions inventing and selling something useful that people freely chose to purchase out of their self-interest. Sounds like government needs to confiscate his money and regulate that business a little harder. That machine cost a lot of union jobs. And where then is the politician’s payola?

NL_ July 4, 2011 at 8:50 pm

Meat-mongers the world over decry your comparison of the noble profession of butchery to politicians.

Jimbino July 4, 2011 at 10:31 pm

The guy who easily tops Ballas will be the one who puts birth control in the world’s water supplies. He will enjoy songs of praise from all plants and animals of the planet!

vidyohs July 5, 2011 at 9:27 am

Do you hear those songs often in your head? LOL. Maybe louder and more clearly at the time of the full moon?

Harmoniate July 5, 2011 at 12:29 am

To be fair and balanced, let’s celebrate a statist hero. Dan Mitrione. Check him out on wikipedia for yourself. Most citizens of the world are unwitting satellites of our predatious master planners, made somewhat bearable by heroes like G. Ballas as we’re economically herded into high-tax urban slums similar to the reservations of early America.
R. Nixon: “Dan Mitrone’s devoted service to the cause of peaceful progress in an orderly world will remain as an example for free men everywhere.” His funeral was largely attended by David Eisenhower, and secretary of state William Rogers. Frank Sinatra and Jerry Lewis held a benefit concert for his family in Richmond, Indiana.
This is a Mengele style guy with a torture room in his basement who brought a militarized police state to South American using local homeless men and near lethal voltage.
Relax comrades, things are getting worse all the time.

Yam Slemho July 5, 2011 at 4:24 am

I regularly use a strimmer… in fact, I was using (an electric) one only yesterday evening. Although my strimmer is manufactured by a major manufacturer of garden tools in the UK, I find that it is cumbersome to wield, not particularly effective at cutting, and constantly requiring adjustment to the string feeding mechanism. I am seriously considering investing in an Austrian scythe, and lessons on how to use it (and maintain it), as I believe that it will be more efficient and cheaper to run (as well as more fun).

There’s no denying that the strimmer was an ingenious invention, but I think that in the long-term we may look at it as a backward step in the world of weed management…. As far as I can see, the only real advantage of the strimmer over the scythe is that it requires little or no skill to operate; I doubt very much that it requires less physical effort.

I’m sure there are plenty of examples of backward steps in invention (some successful, others not). E.g. the Sinclair C5 was a major backward step in the development of the bicycle (and also a commercial failure). [It may however, yet prove to be one of the tiny incremental steps in development of the future electric bicycle]. A single person using a car to commute 10 miles from the suburbs into the city centre takes about the same amount of time as someone using a bicycle (or longer), but costs more – so for that usage specifically, the car might be considered a (commercially successful) backward step.

kirby July 5, 2011 at 9:15 am

New Coke
… or was it

vidyohs July 5, 2011 at 9:38 am

I want you to come to any city in Texas, Missouri, Mass., Louisiana, Miss., Alabama, or Wash. D.C., and ride your bicycle 10 miles to work.

You could do it, but you’d have to pack your clean work clothes in a pack, and leave early enough so you could shower when you get to work because I guarantee you that in those places I mentioned you’d arrive drenched in sweat beginning about late March all the way around to middle fall. I am just as sure that in most places there are periods where riding your bike would produce much the same results from late spring to early fall.

Riding a bike to work sounds so romantically wonderful for the planet and to conserve raw materials, but in general it is a stupidly impractical idea when there are alternatives much more attractive to how we use our time.

kirby July 5, 2011 at 10:25 am

However I would imagine that a majority of the time people buy SUVs for their kids and then drive that by themselves to work every day, or something of that ilk. The problem is that people buy big cars, not that people buy cars at all. Like government.

yet another Dave July 5, 2011 at 11:46 am

Why is buying big cars a problem?

Methinks1776 July 5, 2011 at 1:10 pm

My point was that driving cars isn’t so much a problem as driving cars unsuited for the task or that consume too many miles to the gallon. However, Yam makes many excellent points.

Methinks1776 July 5, 2011 at 1:17 pm

Y.a.Dave,

It appears Kirby has decided he’d rather be me. If you notice anything out of character written under my nom de plume, you now know why.

kirby July 5, 2011 at 2:01 pm

nope, I’m back. Now please, no more flaming. Intelligent conversation is almost never too much to ask.

yet another Dave July 5, 2011 at 2:05 pm

@kirby disguised as Methinks,

Who are you to decide for somebody else what vehicle is or isn’t “suited for the task”, or what the acceptable fuel efficiency is? (I’m assuming your statement was backwards.)

yet another Dave July 5, 2011 at 2:06 pm

@ Methinks,

Thanks for the tip – I was confused for a moment.

Yam Slemho July 5, 2011 at 1:02 pm

I live in London, and here we have something called ‘rain’. Rain gets you just as wet as sweat, believe it or not… but generally you can wear some modern breathable waterproof clothing and you won’t arrive wet or sweaty.

You don’t have to carry clothes everywhere, you can (presumably) leave some at the office, but in any case, clothes don’t actually weigh very much so they aren’t such a terrible bind to carry on a bicycle in a pannier bag (especially a paltry distance of 10 miles).

As for leaving time to shower, fair enough! That’s more than made up for by the time not spent sitting in stationary traffic. And the reasons for riding in to work have little to do with any ecological romance: it’s fast, it’s (almost) free, and it’s fun. In many large cities (e.g. London) it is actually much faster during peak periods than any other form of transport with the possible exception of the motorbike.

vidyohs July 5, 2011 at 4:03 pm

Rain, you speak of rain. It’s been a long for us here in Texas, but I seem to have a vague recollection of that. Isn’t it water falling from the skies or some sort of fanciful thing?

BTW, how did the SUV get into this? I don’t believe I said anything about an SUV, that’s an assumption on your part. For personal transportation, I’d be perfectly happy my old Spanish SEAT 600D, 4 cylinder aluminum block engine. that got me 45 MPG in 1976/77 and which would cruise down the road at 65+ MPH all day long. I still kick myself for selling it when I left Spain in 1977.

The point dear Yam, is that not everyone’s work lifestyle is conducive to riding bikes long distance to work. It would take a dramatic regearing of lifestyles and expectations across the board to make that happen.

Not saying that it wouldn’t have its advantages and its benefits (health as you mentioned), just that in our world it is impractical to the extreme.

Yam Slemho July 6, 2011 at 6:35 pm

You think 10 miles is a long distance? wow.

With regard to your comments on the ‘impracticality’ of cycling as transportation (for short distances of 10 miles), I’m afraid to say that you very much epitomize Hayek’s definition of a ‘conservative’. I guess it’s up to us true liberals to be in the vanguard on this…

Yam Slemho July 6, 2011 at 6:48 pm

btw, the weight of the Seat 600 is 580 kg. The weight of a heaviest modern bicycle is about 15kg (if you want to splash out on something really fast, you can get this down to less than 7kg). Given that the engine efficiency of the both vehicles (internal combustion versus human body) is roughly equivalent – which do you think is the more efficient means of transporting a solitary person on a commute?

Yam Slemho July 5, 2011 at 1:07 pm

One more thing. Yes, you can drive 10 miles in your SUV, but it’s gonna cost you money, and let’s say you’re not snarled up in traffic and you actually manage to save a few minutes every day over the bicycle journey… what are you gonna do with that time? Spend it in the gym trying to get fit whilst sitting on a stationary bike? Hilarious!

yet another Dave July 5, 2011 at 1:54 pm

The greater safety provided by the SUV is well worth the added costs. Even the little Smart Fortwo golf-cart, er “car” is tons safer than a bicycle.

kirby July 5, 2011 at 2:03 pm

Nobody needs SUVs except the army (and even they discontinued buying hummers because they were gas-guzzling pieces of junk)
Get a four-door sedan and you just saved 8-30 MPGs on an SUV.

yet another Dave July 5, 2011 at 2:10 pm

kirby,

Who are you to decide what kind of vehicle somebody else needs? Many people find SUVs to be the perfect solution for the varied uses they require from a vehicle; should they all put their opinions aside because you don’t like their choices?

ettubloge July 5, 2011 at 7:01 am

Rain and snow.

Yam Slemho July 5, 2011 at 1:55 pm
Daniel Kuehn July 5, 2011 at 8:03 am

Eh – FDR killed lots of thug Nazis. That seems like a fair achievement.

I don’t like this tendency you have to present it as if we have to choose between Ballas and FDR. We don’t, and it’s as simple as that.

RIP Ballas indeed. An edged and mowed lawn is an order of magnitude nicer than simply a mowed lawn. I don’t think I have to diminish anyone else to celebrate that.

Methinks1776 July 5, 2011 at 8:48 am

Did he suddenly spring from his wheelchair, grab a gun and put himself in harm’s way to kill a bunch of thugs Nazis? No? Then he didn’t kill any thug Nazis. He was just a thug who sent others to kill and die.

What were FDR’s “achievements”? Oh, that’s right – to frustrate and prevent the George Ballases of the world.

Oh, yes. It is always a choice between thugs like FDR and the George Ballases of the world because it is a zero-sum game between government thugs and producers.

kirby July 5, 2011 at 9:16 am

And they called Rand radical.

kirby July 5, 2011 at 9:17 am

that came out wrong. I meant that she was right, not that you are more radical than Ayn Rand.

Daniel Kuehn July 5, 2011 at 10:00 am

re: “it is a zero-sum game”

Zero sum game thinking about human society was bad social science in Smith’s time, bad social science in the 1930s, and its still bad social science.

Methinks1776 July 5, 2011 at 10:07 am

Not everything in society is zero-sum, but that doesn’t mean that zero-sum does not exist.

Unless you’re arguing that extortion and preventing wealth creation is wealth creation?

Daniel Kuehn July 5, 2011 at 10:02 am

And on the FDR point – he was a part of a command structure of the organization that killed lots of Nazis.

Ballas didn’t build the vast majority of his weed-wackers – if he built any (I’m assuming he built a few). We can still acknowledge the centrality of his role in the contribution.

Methinks1776 July 5, 2011 at 10:41 am

George Ballas invented the weed whacker. That was a contribution much greater than the contribution of those working the assembly line to piece his creation together. The assembly line workers would not have been assembling weed whackers if George Ballas did not invent it. Their jobs would not exist. Thus, George Ballas was much more than “a part of a command structure of the organization”. He created something. He increased the world’s wealth.

FDR created nothing and, in fighting a war, destroyed wealth and sent people to die. He decreased the world’s wealth. He imprisoned innocent people in the weirdly named “internment” camps. He worked very hard to eradicate the George Ballases of the world. He was a destroyer. A thug.

You’re rather desperately trying to equivocate thugs and creators.

Mark Anthem July 5, 2011 at 11:33 am

Requiescat in pace George Ballas. Wealth creator, job creator, a towering virtuoso of mind and harmonious order.
The son of Greek immigrants, air force bombadier, father, inventor, and author. George C. Ballas, Sr., the founder of over 100 companies. Major corporations laughed at his weed whacker so he engineered and built it himself in his Houston home.
He was the president of Fred Astair Studios from 1960-1964, and founded many of the dance syllabus that are still in use today. George Ballas owned and operated the largest dance studio in the history of the world: The Dance City USA Studio. with over 43,000 square feet and 120 dance teachers under one roof.
The 13-story Westchase Hilton in Houston, Texas was built in 1980 by developer George Ballas and a group of investors he assembled.
Mr. Ballas wrote a book titled “The Love Formulas”. He is survived by his wife Maria Louisa Marulanda a flamenco dancer, his son Corky and grandson Mark Ballas both also professional dancers.

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