24 January 2011

I, Pencil

I, Pencil - Leonard E. Read

This book was too short for me to count and keep a clear conscience. It was 16 pages total. That being said, it was a very powerful story and deserves to be blogged.

The story is written from a first person perspective, but the person is a pencil. Yes, a pencil is the narrator. That in itself was pretty cool.

The pencil tells it's story as a genealogy. Who are the pencil's ancestors and how did pencil get to be pencil? Wood, graphite, enamel, brass, rubber, etc. All ancestors of pencil.

The story has a message and that is that a central planned economy can never achieve the things a free economy is capable of doing. It uses the pencil, something simplistic from a manufacturing standpoint, and tells the story of how a pencil is made. How thousands of people all over the world are involved in the production of something as simple as a pencil. How no one, not one person in those thousands, is capable of making a pencil on thier own nor are they capable of even knowing everything that is required to make a pencil.

Is making a pencil simple compared to something like an airplane or a car or a computer? Sure it is. That is precisely why Mr. Read chose to write the story as a pencil and not something very complicated. The process is supremely complicated even for a simple product.

Lawrence Reed says "It explains is plain language why central planning is an exercise in arrogance and futility."

F. A. Hayek wrote "This is not a dispute about whether planning is to be done or not. It is a dispute as to whether planning is to be done centrally, by one authority for the whole economic system, or is to be divided among many individuals." Mr. Read answers the question with this story.

Adam Smith's "invisible hand" theory is alive and well in "I, Pencil"

Take fifteen or twenty minutes and read the story. You can find it on line.

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