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A True American Hero

Posted By Don Boudreaux On July 4, 2011 @ 7:13 am In Civil Society,Cleaned by Capitalism,Complexity & Emergence,Everyday Life,Innovation,Seen and Unseen,Standard of Living | Comments Disabled

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 [1], 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 [2].  He added welcome volume to our prosperity pool [3].

‘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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[1] Mr. Ballas, whose death at age 85 is reported in today’s Washington Post: http://www.washingtonpost.com/local/obituaries/george-ballas-dies-weed-eater-inventor-was-85/2011/07/03/AGCX5kwH_story.html

[2] weed-wacker: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/String_trimmer

[3] prosperity pool: http://cafehayek.com/2004/06/the_prosperity_.html

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