I, Pencil

If there is a justified reason Western civilization is failing it is because people aren’t taught the simple (yet complex) idea presented in this movie. Gather the children and watch and discuss. Here are some questions:

  1. Are you able to make a pencil on your own? Is anyone? (No.)
  2. How many pieces are there to a pencil? (4)
  3. How many people are required to make pencils simple and inexpensive? (Millions.)
  4. Is the construction of pencils mandated or voluntary? (Voluntary.)
  5. What is required to keep useful tools like pencils available and inexpensive? (Freedom.)

It’s that last question and answer that gets people upset. Freedom – not control – is required to make the world economy work. When it is taken away – mandates from above, regulations, limitations, power handed over to centralized governments – the availability goes down and the expense goes up.

Every time. It’s not complicated. Your understanding of how the world works makes much more sense when you understand the construction of a pencil.

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  • RickStevens

    When I was teaching economic theories (communism, capitalism, socialism), I used a very similar storyline for students. I did the same thing when “wealth redistribution” became all the rage with the Occupy movement. On the first econ quiz we did, I “redistributed” the scores from the highest grades to the lowest. Everyone averaged a “B”. On the second quiz, they started to catch on…the highest weren’t so high, the lowest were a bit lower…class average was a “C”. By the third quiz, everyone in the class failed the quiz except the two kids who wanted to maintain their high GPA. Moral of the story…when you count on someone else to do all the work and you plan on taking credit for it, you will fail miserably. Just ask anyone living in a socialist country.

    • Sounds like a fantastic lesson. Keep teaching it, bro!

  • DavidS

    The essay that this film is based on, “I, Pencil” is by an author named Leonard Read.
    Several years ago, I read a book by Read named “Anything that’s Peaceful: The Case for the Free Market”. (It is easily found on Amazon – I think the Kindle version is 2.99)

    The reading of this book was the lightbulb moment that began my transformation from a “conservative” mindset to a libertarian mindset. It painted a picture of the free market and freedom that resonated with me as an individual and was logically consistent.

    I can’t recommend this book more!
    But beware – sacred cows may become hamburger.

  • Cera Lamken

    Great video! I actually had planned to use the original essay next week in our home school econ class, so this will be a fantastic addition! Thanks


  • Chris, thank you for sharing this. It dovetails perfectly with my idea that there are “17 Parts of Life” which we must all know to succeed. A great illustration of the idea.

    • I’m not familiar with the “17 Parts of Life.” Can you post a link?