Aug 20, 2007

In Praise of Public Servants

After reading Velociman's post from today (Ack!) I got to thinking about who the real, "public servants" are in our society. No, it's NOT the men who can proudly boast of their elimination processes (what is it with you guys??!!) but the men who can quickly and efficiently make sure that none of the rest of Jacksonville had to do anything more than imagine the scene.

Seriously, would you rather live 30 days without a politician or 30 days without a sewage treatment facility in your neighborhood?

The septic tank pumpers, the garbage collectors, and the electricians are the only folks who hold back the threat of a new Dark Ages. They stand alone along the thin, brown line between anarchy and order. Some of the dirtiest jobs are the most vital. And over in Velociville, the truly reliable public servants certainly are doing yoeman's work keeping back the tide of vile bile that would certainly decimate the surrounding civilisation.

If the world was a fair place, the sump-pumpers and bilge-bailers of this world would make as much as a Congressman. They do more for the public good than both houses of Congress.



Update: It's officially moved beyond Will Rogers humor.

28 comments:

Elisson said...

The Thin Brown Line indeed.

Actually, what I really prefer is to not go without the services of the sewage treatment facility in someone else's neighborhood. Pipe is cheap.

There's a water treatment plant about two miles down the road from us. Its aromas are never a problem for us, but some genius built a little shopping area right next to it - fair enough, but said shopping area included a Brewster's ice cream parlor. Which meant that you'd order your ice cream and then stand around in the Caca-Miasma trying to avoid imagining that you were eating Doodie Ripple.

The ice cream place has folded, but there's still a Starbucks. Which tells you something about the Evil Mermaid.

Joan of Argghh! said...

Heh. You said, "doodie!"

My little town is so evil, the Mermaid isn't allowed into the heart of town. Eeeeevvviilll!

I have a story about the local doyenne here that would make you gasp.

'mouse said...

Heinlein (and probably other great thinkers) have played with a not-quite-socialist idea whereby (and I'm sure I've not got this quite right) the govt. figures out what the minimum required needs are for a person and then send every person a government-issued check for that amount each month. If you choose to do no work at all, you have just enough to live on.

If you want something to do, you can be a writer or artist, but you'll only "make" what people are willing to pay for what you produce -- maybe a little or maybe a lot.

Jobs, then, have to attract people willing to do the job whose basic needs are already met. Therefore, sewage treatment people will be highly paid. People will choose to do the work in order to get well paid so they can go buy some books or take a vacation or such.

Fun jobs, like research scientist or lawyer (or pirate?) don't pay nearly so much.

Joan of Argghh! said...

Well, I'd like to know, then, what a socialist Party member would make, and I'd like to be one so that I could vote for larger sums of minimum wage...er...living allowance for my constituents, and thus assure my place at the top of the Socialist Food Chain.

De said...

I'd vote for my local trashman before I'd vote for Hilary.
What does that say about me?

Joan of Argghh! said...

It says you're smarter than most Democrats!

zonker said...

"They do more for the public good than both houses of Congress."

A-frickin'-men, Joan.

Joan of Argghh! said...

Hey, Zonker!

Welcome to my blog. Stick around, I rearrange the place regularly, just to make it interesting.
:)

Anonymous said...

I work at a wastewater treatment plant and the "We didn't know what those huge smelly tanks were for/we were told you were going to close down/it's your fault I can smell bad stuff even though I knew you were there when I built or bought my $250,000 house downwind from you!" syndrome is endemic- my favorites are the ones who call and complain even though they're actually UPwind of us. Hey- we were up and running long years before you moved in, bucko. Now hush, or we'll make your toilets run backwards...

Joan of Argghh! said...

I always suspected you guys could do that. LOL!!

Anonymous said...

Could we make that 30 (years,centuries,millenia) instead of days?

Erica said...

My first hit from you would come from this post...I happen to live 2-minute's walking distance from a Sewage Treatment Plant, a.k.a. "The Doodie Factory," which I think is what Jimbo might have been referring to in yesterday's darling post, when he said, "Be watchful for floaters coming from Sheepshead Bay."

Of course, he'll pay with his hair for that remark.

This may be the best sentence I've ever read in my life: "Which meant that you'd order your ice cream and then stand around in the Caca-Miasma trying to avoid imagining that you were eating Doodie Ripple."

I would avoid the Chunky Monkey and Rocky Road.

Anonymous said...

Sewer and sanitation workers aren't a threat to human rights and constitutional governance either, unlike politicians and the police.

Anonymous said...

'mouse and Joan: Not just Heinlein, but Milton Friedman advocated this sort of system (usually called a Negative Income Tax). Neither of them were what most people would call "socialists". :-)

The proposed FairTax system would have a similar effect, with the added advantage that it would involve far less record-keeping and opportunity for cheating (the only way to cheat on a large scale would be to buy all your goods and services on the black market -- unlikely, to put it mildly). It would also provide a large incentive for savings and other investments

lizardbrain said...

I'm trying to figure out why, when a 10-visit day is cause for celebration on my blog, I have 21 visits so far today just from Primordial Slack; 10 of them from this thread.

Sure, I've done my share of sewer unclogging, but I don't think I've let that slip to anyone here. Until now.

Or do you people just expect to find alligators in the sewer?

Anyway, thanx for dropping by.

Joan of Argghh! said...

Enjoy it while it lasts, LB!

Tomorrow, it's back to the swamps of the TTLB Ecosystem for us.

:o)

Andrew1243 said...

Our society certainly spends much more money on waste treatment and disposal than we spend on all legislative salaries combined, and top waste disposal executives probably make more than a Congressman.

But, legislators certainly waste more resources than we spend on waste treatment.

Cuneiandro said...

I've been in the "environmental" business (wastewater treatment) since 1985. The public servants who work for cities, municipalities and special districts (the ones that do the actual work) do more to protect the environement and the public's health on a day-to-day basis than legions of well-meaning but ignorant Hollywood socialists and chickin-little politicians.

Most of the "terdherders" I know were motivated to get into the field by a Boy Scout-ish attitude of wanting to help their communities (including me).

The market has done a pretty good job of keeping service and treatment prices low and weeding out the goof-off's. But there's still quite a few agencies out there engaged in empire-building with unnecessary staff, equipment and headquarters as well as folks engaging in chummy "research" with engineering firms, etc. whose purpose seems only to be to bring accolades to those involved with little real benefit--all at the expense of the rate payers.

Bottom line: Keep an eye on your water and wastewater agencies and keep them honest.

Joan of Argghh! said...

Great comment, cuneiandro! Thanks.

When infrastructure can be bought and sold by politicians, we are in a worse peril than we understand.

It happens all over the Third World, and the only people who suffer from the politics are the governed.

Anonymous said...

Joan: Unfortunately, we really can't. But sometimes we wish we could...
Something Cuneiandro (secret handshake, lodge-brother!) does not mention is that, unlike elected officials, if WE screw up we can be fined, fired... even blacklisted or sent to jail. There's state and federal agencies who have a say in what we do and how we do it, and displeasing them can have bad consequences.

Everyone uses water. Everyone wants it to be clean- no matter if it's from the tap or under the keel of your canoe.

lizardbrain said...

This thread reminds me of Philip Jose Farmer's The Phantom of the Sewers. The title pretty much describes it.

comatus said...

Ever wonder why bottled water is so European? Nobody in
Yerp will drink their tap water. They don't trust their water treatment systems. That's the biggest difference twixt Us & They. That's why I see bottled water as so fundamentally un-American.

Wahrheit said...

Follow-up on the Heinlein-related comment: In Beyond This Horizon my understanding is that it was that interest payments, instead of going to banks, were distributed equally to everyone. And this was enough for the basics. But he doesn't go too far into the details.

'mouse said...

I finally wandered over to Wikipedia and figured out what it was I was thinking of -- "For Us: The Living" which was written in 1939 but not published until 2003. It's described as "little more than a disguised lecture on Heinlein's social theories."

But interesting social theories they were, reflecting the musings of a smart young man in 1939.

That "anonymous" has Milton Freidman getting to a similar thing from a different direction makes for interesting musing. Alas, I know not enough economics - nor anything else, really - to begin to keep up in such a discussion.

Joan of Argghh! said...

I haven't read Heinlein since I was about 12 years old, so I really can't keep up on competing theories.

But, between the anarchists and Socialists, and the Sociologists... well, let's just say you could put 'em all in a burlap sack, hit it with a stick, and not hit the wrong person. Throw a politician of any strip in there as well.

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