I, Pencil: My Family Tree As Told to Leonard E. Read
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I, Pencil: My Family Tree As Told to Leonard E. Read

4.38 of 5 stars 4.38  ·  rating details  ·  183 ratings  ·  24 reviews
Leonard E. Read skillfully teaches a lesson in economics, through the story of a pencil and its makers. "Not a single person on the face of this earth knows how to make me"

I, Pencil by Leonard E. Read, c2006, 6"x9", staple bound, 11 page booklet. Heavy paper cover, glossy paper pages.
11 pages
Published (first published 1958)
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Atlas Shrugged by Ayn RandI, Pencil by Leonard E. ReadThe Law by Frédéric BastiatThe Road to Serfdom by Friedrich HayekCapitalism and Freedom by Milton Friedman
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2nd out of 25 books — 11 voters
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280th out of 862 books — 366 voters

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please take 10 minutes and read this. its online at fee.org. oh, then don't go vote for Big Government...
Kevin Dermody
I first read this in college, It was a required reading in a Human Sociology class, or something to that nature. I remember the professor going off on the essay and the evil powers of propaganda. And I vaguely remember the half assed essay response I wrote basically proving capitalism is just the modern chains and whips of slavery. What I do remember was getting a good grade on the essay. Let us fast forward 13/14 years or maybe more. I have less hair more wits and I think I may have learned a t...more
Milica Pandžić
I’ve heard about this essay so much, that when I started reading it I thought it was going to be boring because I already knew what it was all about, but I was definitely wrong. Before any thought on market regulation, one must know what markets actually are. Leonard E. Read, with an amazing ability to synthesize and present (through storytelling) what markets are really made of: infinite and complex voluntary exchanges; constructs a sound argument for getting rid of any political mastermind (an...more
Peter Namtvedt
May 11, 2009 Peter Namtvedt rated it 5 of 5 stars
Recommends it for: Everyone who thinks a pencil is a simple thing and everyone who loves liberty.
No one knows how to make all of the things it takes to produce a pencil. If there were no pencils, what would you get if we all voted to have the government provide them?

It seems like a simple thing. However, myriads of things are used directly or indirectly to make a pencil possible, and many people.

This is a story with a moral. It is a very short story, which is now accompanied with commentaries. Google "I Pencil"
Benjamin Wirtz
This short essay is one of the most profound things I have ever read. It is written from the perspective of a pencil and the thesis is "not a single person on the face of this earth knows how to make me." This seems like an odd claim to make since obviously people make pencils all the time and i know the process used in the factory to make pencils. However, by the end I was convinced that the statement was entirely accurate. Looking at only the process used in the factory is a very superficial v...more
Joe Haack
As Friedman points out in the afterword, this is a persuasive illustration of Smith's "Invisible Hand" and Hayek's "emergent order" in less than 10 minutes.
Apr 22, 2010 Zinger rated it 4 of 5 stars
Shelves: 2010
This is a wonderful and simple story praising the "unplanned" economy. Which is simply the accumulated decisions of each individual making their own decisions free from "planned" government force, coercion, and interference.

In the story, the pencil is the triumphant symbol of the peaceful production of goods and services created by thousands of independent people and decisions being made voluntarily to benefit themselves resulting in a byproduct that benefits others.

If more people understood wh...more
Helps you think about where things come from, and how long it would take for the world to recover after the zombie apocalypse.
This article by Leonard E. Read tells about the making of a pencil. He explains that even though a pencil is such an ordinary object no one person can make it on his own. The pencil has wood, graphite, rubber eraser, and metal piece at the end, which were all made by different people in different places who may never see each other in their lives, but work together to produce a pencil.
Sean Rosenthal
Interesting Quote:

"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."

-Leonard E. Reed, I, Pencil
This was a simple and profound tale about the intricacies of capitalism and how any government couldn't hope to control all facets of the economy. I believe this should be required reading for all of Congress, especially with the looming Boeing case/bill.

(It's a really quick read that can be found for free online)
Hans de Zwart
Leonard Read defending the free economy by explaining that not a single person in this world know how to make a pencil and that it is futile for governments to try and direct this process: only a free market can do that.
Dayo Adewoye
A short but brilliant story illustrating how the free market effectively coordinates the activities of thousands of economic agents in getting us products and services, in the absence of any central planner. A great read.
A short piece which illustrates simply and beautifully the interconnectedness of what we call "the economy", and why a top-down approach can never work. Told through the eyes of a seemingly simple item: the pencil.
Can be read in one sitting. Short booklet that outlines the role capitalism plays in making the world go round, the the eyes of a pencil, as it describes what went in to creating it.
I enjoyed this short essay. It identifies the necessity of faith in free people in order to have true liberty and freedom. Who knew so much goes into the creation of a simple pencil.
Wow. I LOVED THIS ESSAY. I finally found what I'd been trying to express and explain for so long. Everyone should read this!!!
If you want to begin to understand the fascinating complexity of the world you must read this short and incredible book.
Aug 03, 2011 Ange rated it 5 of 5 stars
Shelves: kindle
It's actually an essay. An easy read explaining a deep economic problem. Delightful.
Mary Catelli
A reflection on a writing tool, and a useful thing for world-building as well.
Jason Keisling
One of the most brilliant essays I've ever read.
My first encounter with "The Invisible Hand"!
so good! love style, made you think
Good for High School students.
Nov 25, 2011 Krishnan marked it as to-read
Abbie added it
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“The lesson I have to teach is this: Leave all creative energies uninhibited. Merely organize society to act in harmony with this lesson. Let society's legal apparatus remove all obstacles the best it can. Permit these creative know-hows freely to flow. Have faith that free men and women will respond to the Invisible Hand. This faith will be confirmed. I, Pencil, seemingly simple though I am, offer the miracle of my creation as testimony that this is a practical faith, as practical as the sun, the rain, a cedar tree, the good earth.” 2 likes
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