November 15 2012
"I, Pencil" Essay Becomes a Film
Often, in terms of economics, our political ideologies are spread on a spectrum from Left (redistribution) to Right (free market). The Left makes enormous inroads politically by appealing to our desire to care for our neighbor and create equality by taking from some and giving to others. The Right faces a more difficult challenge: The market has no central planner, no mastermind behind the creation of new products or ideas. And yet, it is the sum of many complex interactions that make us all better off. How do we explain how valuable the free market is to us all?
A 1958 essay called "I, Pencil" by Leonard E. Read was one attempt at showing (through the example of a pencil) how seemingly simple, inexpensive items that we take for granted are only produced because thousands, or millions, of people across the world can work together, exchange goods and servies voluntarily, and create something valuable. The web that connects us all, depending on what role we play as consumers and producers, is the marketplace. And it's beautiful!
Now the beauty of that process decribed in "I, Pencil" the essay is displayed visually in a video. Click to watch it below!
This video should be shared widely. When I learned about supply and demand in high school, admittedly I found the concepts boring at first. Economics typically involves a great deal of math. And numbers, while some people find them beautiful, do not have the mass, humane appeal that is communicated in this video.
I wish that President Obama could see this video. Does he understand that every regulation, every tax, and every subsidy touches a strand in the complex web, creating downstream effects for us all? I know he wants to transform the American economy to be more equal, in terms of how much money we all make or what resources we have. But the unintended consequences of too much government intervention is a twisting and tangling of the free-market's web, turning something beautiful into something that harms us all, from the CEO of the logging company to the waitress's daughter in this exceptional video.
Bravo to our friends at the Competitive Enterprise Institute for adding a visually stunning video to the mounting case for free-market economics.