The amazing tale of the pencil

| October 9 2011
Christopher Cook

A couple of days ago, I was driving my five-year-old to a playdate. I decided to continue his education in the free market, so I pulled a Leonard Read/Milton Friedman, and I talked to him about the miracle of the package of Keebler™ cheddar cheese crackers on the dashboard. The drive was about 12 minutes, and I told him for the whole time about all the thousands of people whose work contributed to the making of those crackers. People who live in maybe a half-dozen or more states or countries. People who have never met each other. People who might not have even known that they were working to make those crackers.

Yesterday, I asked him to tell me what we had talked about regarding those crackers, and he told me that “thousands of people had worked to make them.” Not a bad start.

Here’s Michelle Malkin on the subject:

MOST VALUABLE TRUTHS about economics and liberty can be found in a lowly lead pencil. When my children are old enough, I will read them a classic little essay by the late philosopher Leonard E. Read that turns a mundane writing instrument into an elementary lesson about free-market capitalism.

“I, Pencil” teaches what left-wing fossils on college campuses to this day refuse to admit: Governments and bureaucrats don’t make what people want and need. They only get in the way. It is individuals, cooperating peacefully and voluntarily, working together without mandate or central design, who produce the world’s goods and services.

“I have a profound lesson to teach,” Read writes in the voice of the pencil. “And I can teach this lesson better than can an automobile or an airplane or a mechanical dishwasher because–well, because I am seemingly so simple. Simple? Yet, not a single person on the face of this earth knows how to make me.”

It’s a miracle. A miracle of free people doing a million separate things yet managing to have coordination on a level of sophistication that cannot be mapped, understood, or replicated by government. And yet some people hate that miracle, and want to replace it, and deride those who are amazed by it as mean-spirited and anti-people. We live in a bizarre world.

Here’s the original, and an audio version too.

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