If you’ve never read Leonard Read’s classic essay “I, Pencil,” about how the manufacture of a simple (yet not so simple) pencil is coordinated by the marketplace rather than by a central planner, you’ve missed a treat. Last fall I had frequent installments here drawn from the wisdom of F.A. Hayek, and “I, Pencil” is an inverse illustration of the problem of economic coordination that Hayek spent so much of his career exploring and explaining. So here’s just one more summary from Hayek, from his later work Law, Legislation and Liberty:
The characteristic error of the constructive rationalists in this respect is that they tend to base their argument on what has been called the synoptic delusion, that is, on the fiction that all the relevant facts are known to some one mind, and that it is possible to construct from this knowledge of the particulars a desirable social order.
Meanwhile, our friends at the Competitive Enterprise Institute commissioned my pal Nick Tucker to turn “I, Pencil” into a short film. And here it is, splendidly done, in only six minutes:
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