In this age of the Internet, iPads, smart phones, GPS, cloud computing, and phantasmagorical CGI animation, what wonders might one possibly unlock from studying a pencil? Yes, the common, lowly, old-school, wooden pencil. What can it possibly teach us moderns of the digital age, many of whom rarely even pick up one of those ancient cedar and graphite relics anymore to scrawl on processed cellulose?
Well, if this very ordinary instrument could speak, he might tell us that his humble appearance belies a very extraordinary reality. He might explain to us what a complex and elegant marvel he truly is and how his very existence and the multitude of processes that created him teach us some very wonderful truths about our human family and life on this planet.
Ah, but this mundane fellow has spoken, and what an eloquent spokesman is he! In a beautifully animated six-minute film, the Competitive Enterprise Institute (CEI) has brought to life Leonard Read’s I, Pencil, one of the classic essays of free-market thought in the 20th century.
In announcing the release of I, Pencil, the movie, on November 15, CEI noted — as Read had explained in his original essay — that no single person on Earth knows how to make a pencil, and yet, many billions of them are produced every year and distributed throughout our entire planet.
“The pencil, like most modern wonders, is the end product of an intricate chain of human activity that spans the globe,” notes the CEI press release. “There is no mastermind dictating the making of a pencil; not even the CEO of a pencil company could tell you exactly how to make one.” The CEI release continues:
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