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G By: Donald Boudreaux Donald Boudreaux is Professor of Economics at George Mason University. He blogs at www. cafehayek.com 22 : presidentandceomagazine.com : August, 2011 Ballas’s lack of celebrity is a cause for both applause and regret. We should applaud the fact that the inventor of a familiar and won- derfully useful device is less widely known than is the likes of Snooki Polizzi, because this very lack of fame means that useful inventions such as the weed-wacker, and the successful businesses built on them, are so exceedingly common in modern society that almost none of them are newsworthy. Only if creativity of the sort that drove Ballas’s invention were rare would it be newsworthy. Only if profitable products for the mass market were uncommon would their inventors’ names be widely known and celebrated. But our world is so filled with creativity – and with countless suc- cessful businesses and consumer marvels that spring from it – that we understandably take this creativ- ity and these marvels for granted. We’re blessed to be blasé about these matters. But we’d best also beware of being blasé. One means that society uses to encourage certain behaviors of its members is praise – praise ex- pressed in every medium from big marble statues to small simple talk. The economic historian Deirdre McCloskey, in her book Bourgeois Dignity, goes so far as to credit the widespread praising of economic innovators and merchants for spark- ing the industrial revolution. The emergence in 18th-century western Europe of generally favorable at- titudes towards business activity – attitudes revealed chiefly in the way people spoke about such activity and about the men and women who carried it on – unleashed as never before humankind’s innovative genius. The resulting torrent of inno- vation is arguably the greatest human achievement since the invention of agriculture. For the first time in history, in those parts of the globe marked by capitalism parents came legiti- mately to expect never to suffer the On Economics eorge Ballas died on June 25. Have you heard of him? Probably not. But you’ve certainly heard of – and likely used – his most famous invention: the weed-wacker. In 1971, Ballas was inspired to invent this labor-saving device by watching the whirling discs of soapy mops in an automatic car- wash. Today, Ballas’s weed-wacker is a staple in suburban households throughout the land. Yet not one in a million Americans knows of George Ballas or of the inspiration behind his hand-held lawn-care marvel. Bourgeois Heroes