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The Wonderous Story of the 2B Pencil

This is the world we live in. If we weren't surrounded by it every day, if we didn't take it for granted, we'd be dumbstruck by its very intricacy and brilliance.

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This is the world we live in. If we weren’t surrounded by it every day, if we didn’t take it for granted, we’d be dumbstruck by its very intricacy and brilliance.

With all the technology that surrounds us, a pencil might seem among the least impressive. But if you had all the basic materials of a pencil – graphite, cedar, metal and rubber – no single person on the face of the earth could do it without the help of countless others.

The short film below, I, Pencil, was made by the Competitive Enterprise Institute  (CEI) and was adapted from an 1958 essay by Leonard E. Read. It is not about the pencil per se, but about the complex, interdependent web of people and infrastructure necessary to bring any consumer product to our shelves.

In a 2010 article, I looked at British author Matt Ridley’s Ted Talk “When Ideas have Sex”, which expatiates on the nature of idea sharing. Ridely views it as an organic process analogous to sexual reproduction and makes a very similar argument to I, Pencil using the misleadingly simple example of a computer mouse. It’s worth a watch: “The Mating of Two Voices

In the extended commentary videos below the CEI further explains some of the free market ideas which arose in I, Pencil. In particular these ideas are:

Connectivity

Spontaneous Order