In 1958, Leonard E. Read published “I, Pencil.” This essay, which has become a classic, details the complex steps involved in making a simple product–the pencil.
I, Pencil, simple though I appear to be, merit your wonder and awe, a claim I shall attempt to prove. In fact, if you can understand me—no, that’s too much to ask of anyone—if you can become aware of the miraculousness which I symbolize, you can help save the freedom mankind is so unhappily losing. I have a profound lesson to teach. 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. This sounds fantastic, doesn’t it? Especially when it is realized that there are about one and one-half billion of my kind produced in the U.S.A. each year.
The lessons of “I, Pencil” are worth remembering the next time you hear some politician offer a new government program to create jobs, stimulate the economy, or anything similar. If they can’t even make something as simple as a pencil, why should we believe that they can make the economy run any better?