“I, Pencil” is an essay by Leonard Read first published in 1958 which tells the story of how a pencil is made. But not just the manufacture of the pencil itself, but a history of all the products and materials that go into making the pencil. It is intended as a parable about the spontaneous order of the free market.
Here’s Nobel Prize winning economist Milt Friedman talking about the story in 1980:
The story has been updated for modern audiences in, fittingly, a YouTube video called “I, Smartphone.”
This is a devastating rebuttal to the notion, most recently espoused by President Barack Obama in his now-infamous “you didn’t build that” comments, that order comes from the government. It does not. Order comes from free people voluntarily exchanging goods and services in a free market. The government’s role is to keep that market free, not to manipulate it.Tags: free markets, i pencil, i smartphone, leonard read, milt friedman, milton friedman