There is no better, more easily understood, and more fun explanation of the complexity of markets than Leonard. Read's “I, Pencil.” It ought to give considerable. [PDF] I, Pencil. By Leonard E. Read. This essay illustrates the principle of how human innovation, demand and freedom to produce, combined with the market. I, Pencil. Introduction by Richard M. Ebeling. Afterword by Milton Friedman. My Family Tree as Told to. Leonard E. Read. Foundation for Economic Education.
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I am a lead pencil — the ordinary wooden pencil familiar to all boys and girls and adults who can I, Pencil by Leonard Read I goudzwaard.info I am a lead pencil–the ordinary wooden pencil familiar to all boys and girls and adults who can read and write. [From “I, Pencil”]. Sign, add text, highlight, and connect PDF documents together with these excellent apps.
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Some among them never saw a pencil and would not know what it is for. Each saw his work as a way to get the goods and services he wanted—goods and services we produced in order to get the pencil we wanted. Every time we go to the store and download a pencil, we are exchanging a little bit of our services for the infinitesimal amount of services that each of the thousands contributed toward producing the pencil.
No one sitting in a central office gave orders to these thousands of people. No military police enforced the orders that were not given. These people live in many lands, speak different languages, practice different religions, may even hate one another—yet none of these differences prevented them from cooperating to produce a pencil.
How did it happen?
Adam Smith gave us the answer two hundred years ago. Why, even the processes by which the lacquer is made a beautiful yellow involve the skills of more persons than one can enumerate! Observe the labeling. That's a film formed by applying heat to carbon black mixed with resins. How do you make resins and what, pray, is carbon black?
My bit of metal — the ferrule — is brass. Think of all the persons who mine zinc and copper and those who have the skills to make shiny sheet brass from these products of nature. Those black rings on my ferrule are black nickel. What is black nickel and how is it applied? The complete story of why the center of my ferrule has no black nickel on it would take pages to explain. Then there's my crowning glory, inelegantly referred to in the trade as "the plug," the part man uses to erase the errors he makes with me.
An ingredient called "factice" is what does the erasing. It is a rubberlike product made by reacting rapeseed oil from the Dutch East Indies with sulfur chloride. Rubber, contrary to the common notion, is only for binding purposes. Then, too, there are numerous vulcanizing and accelerating agents.
The pumice comes from Italy; and the pigment that gives "the plug" its color is cadmium sulfide. Does anyone wish to challenge my earlier assertion that no single person on the face of this earth knows how to make me?
Actually, millions of human beings have had a hand in my creation, no one of whom even knows more than a very few of the others. Now, you may say that I go too far in relating the picker of a coffee berry in far-off Brazil and food growers elsewhere to my creation; that this is an extreme position.
I shall stand by my claim. There isn't a single person in all these millions, including the president of the pencil company, who contributes more than a tiny, infinitesimal bit of know-how.
From the standpoint of know-how the only difference between the miner of graphite in Ceylon and the logger in Oregon is in the type of know-how. Neither the miner nor the logger can be dispensed with, any more than can the chemist at the factory or the worker in the oil field — paraffin being a byproduct of petroleum. Here is an astounding fact: Each one wants me less, perhaps, than does a child in the first grade. Indeed, there are some among this vast multitude who never saw a pencil nor would they know how to use one.
Their motivation is other than me. Perhaps it is something like this: I may or may not be among these items.
There is a fact still more astounding: No trace of such a person can be found. Instead, we find the Invisible Hand at work. This is the mystery to which I earlier referred.
It has been said that "only God can make a tree. Isn't it because we realize that we ourselves could not make one? Indeed, can we even describe a tree? We cannot, except in superficial terms.
We can say, for instance, that a certain molecular configuration manifests itself as a tree. But what mind is there among men that could even record, let alone direct, the constant changes in molecules that transpire in the life span of a tree?
Such a feat is utterly unthinkable! I, Pencil, am a complex combination of miracles: But to these miracles that manifest themselves in nature an even-more-extraordinary miracle has been added: Since only God can make a tree, I insist that only God could make me. Man can no more direct these millions of know-hows to bring me into being than he can put molecules together to create a tree.
The above is what I meant when writing, "If you can become aware of the miraculousness that I symbolize, you can help save the freedom mankind is so unhappily losing.