I am blessed to live a wonderful town, the great Lamar, South Carolina. Lamar is a small town of less than 1000 people, and it has many of the possibilities and problems of any small Southern town.
The possibilities, I believe, far outweigh any problems we face. As any Human Resources rep will tell a prospective employee, “our people are our greatest assets.” Of course, that bit of treacle is usually a sign that the people are not considered the company’s greatest asset, and often precedes the stab in the back to the unwitting employee.
I do not mean it in that sense; in other words, I am sincere when I write that the residents of Lamar truly are the town’s greatest resource. There are dozens of residents who are ready and willing to pitch in at a moment’s notice to help out, often without being asked.
This phenomenon is quite American—and, perhaps, even more enhanced among Southerners of every race and background.
It is not, unfortunately, universal. Broadly speaking, it seems that civic engagement across the country is well below the traditional standard I believe exists in my little town. The drying up of civic organizations like the Kiwanis and the like is suggestive of a general decline in civic involvement.
While pulling weeds Saturday, my girlfriend’s dog started nosing at a little frog—possibly a toad—hopping around in one of the rocky beds along the side of the house (I thought it might be a gopher frog, but now I think it’s more likely a Southern toad; if anyone can tell from the video, please leave a comment):
I get quite a few of our amphibian friends around the house, often hiding out in planters and shady spots in the yard. After the Spooktacular in October, I found quite a few hunkering down inside of the ceramic and red clay Jack O’Lanterns and votives I had on the porch.
Indeed, one morning I found one chilling on my toilet seat! I sucked him into my vacuum’s canister and emptied him safely outside.
Well, my two summer camps for the season are all wrapped up, so the rest of summer vacation is a combination of private music lessons, blogging, gardening, and loafing around the house. I’ll also get in some family time, and will help schlep my girlfriend’s stuff to Athens. I hope to get a little fiction writing done in there, too.
With my camps done for the summer, I thought I’d dedicate this Sunday to looking back at some posts about my various summertime endeavors:
A few weeks ago, I wrote a piece, “Fast Food Premium,” which argued that, as restaurants began offering higher wages and even signing bonuses to employees, those increased wages would get passed along to consumers, and would result in wider inflation (a big “thank you” to jonolan at Reflections from a Murky Pond for expanding upon the premise of my post with his own, excellent piece, “UBI —> UBM“). My observations might be deemed “prophetic” if they weren’t so blindingly obvious: higher input costs mean higher prices. That’s basic economics.
Of course, the ongoing labor shortage is not due to a booming economy, per se, but due to excessively generous federal unemployment benefits, which have effectively increased the minimum wage for restaurant employees: many such employees are paid more to stay at home, collecting unemployment, than they are to flip burgers, wait tables, etc. Mogadishu Matt highlights this phenomenon in a reblog of a John Stossel piece: the issue is not a labor shortage, but a problem of incentives.
Last Wednesday I wrote a piece, “The King of One’s Castle,” in which I wrote about the joys of home ownership, and the sense of import that goes with that responsibility. Putting time in working on and around the house gives me a sense of accomplishment, and deepens the pleasure of ownership.
As a corollary to that post, I’d love to offer up this slight counter: to whom much is given, much is required. I’ve been hearing that bit of Biblical wisdom from Luke 12:48 my entire life, often when I resisted doing something with my musical or oral talents (I possess a deep, rich, chocolate-y radio voice, and am often called upon to announce).
I am blessed to have been given much by way of talents, though I quickly temper that proud statement with sincere humility—there are many others far more gifted and talented than I am. Nevertheless, I do think I possess some attributes that increase my responsibilities to those around me.
That burden is not always easily borne, but it must be, whether easily or not.
There’s been a lot of discussion of UBI—Universal Basic Income—over the last few years, especially with the presidential primary run of Andrew Yang. The concept is seductive in its simplicity: gut the welfare state and its behemoth apparatus of bureaucratic pencil pushers and middlemen, and just cut every adult citizen a monthly check.
For fiscal conservatives, it’s a particularly toothsome Devil’s Bargain: streamline an inefficient and wasteful bureaucracy and simply direct deposit a grand every month into Americans’ checking accounts. Of course, it’s a siren song: we’d just get the payments and still suffer with an entrenched bureaucracy, claiming $1000 a month isn’t enough to meet the specialized needs of whatever community they pretend to support.
Even if the deal were struck and every redundant welfare program were eliminated, there UBI would still be a bad idea. Besides the absurdity of merely paying people to exist, it’s inherently inflationary: if you give everyone $1000 a month, prices are going to go up. Just as college tuition has soared because universities realized they could jack up the price and federal loans would expand to cover the costs, UBI would cause a similar rise in prices. Sure, it’d be great at first, but the inflationary effects would kick in quickly.
It’s no secret—I do not like meetings. It’s somewhat humorous, then, that I ran for an office that pretty much requires me to attend at least one meeting a month. But at least in a Town Council meeting we cover relevant information necessary to the functioning of the town, and occasionally discuss or debate useful topics pertaining to the interests of our residents.
But in professional settings, I typically find anything longer than an occasional half-hour meeting to be a tedious waste of time. I can never shake the sensation that most meetings are opportunities for Karens and busybodies to peacock, fanning their feathers to signal their virtue.
This piece, which is actually one of my favorites I’ve ever written, details that we waste 11.8 hours a week in meetings—over 25% of our workweek. I wonder if remote working has increased or decreased the amount of time spent in meetings; my hope is that it is the latter. At least with Zoom meetings, you can always switch off your camera and do something productive while the social justice commissars in your human resources department drone on about their latest fad.
It was, by all accounts, a meteorologically dreary weekend, with rain that started sometime Friday and lasting through the duration, but it was nevertheless enjoyable. I took in my first movie in the theaters in months, and managed to get a number of miscellaneous items completed (as I’ve always got some side hustles going, I was able to dedicate some time to them, though I still need to work on editing my collection of Inspector Gerard stories).
Besides seeing friends and loved ones, though, I try to use these days to take care of routine maintenance—on the house, on my cars, whatever the case might be. Lately I’ve been borderline fanatical about organization, particularly keeping my desk at home tidy, various writing utensils and calendars at the ready when needed.
This weekend, though, I dedicated several hours to reviving my long lost love: my busted up 2006 Dodge Caravan.