Capitalism Makes Miracles; Socialism Makes Dust

Monday, June 10, 2019
By Paul Martin

By William Sullivan
June 10, 2019

G.K. Chesterton once observed that “we are perishing for a want of wonder, but not for a want of wonders.”

It is a simple and profound observation of the human condition. I first read this sentence in Leonard E. Read’s brilliant essay, “I, Pencil,” which provides an essential and fascinating defense of a free market by breaking down the logistical marvels required to bring into existence the simplest of things. (Milton Friedman provides a good summation in this short video.)

There was a time when I had never considered all of what goes into the production of what is now an 8-cent pencil. How many industrial miracles occur as a means to produce that simple pencil? How many individuals are employed, in entirely separate industries, subsisting on mining the ore and extracting the metals used to produce the machinery that harvests the timber, later sawn to appropriate sizes by equally complex machinery? What could the common man know about the intricate details of what goes into the extraction or assembling of the components used to make its simple eraser, the painted and indented lettering on one side, or the brass casing that houses the eraser, or the yellow lacquer, or the “lead,” which is not lead, but an amalgam of compressed graphite shaped into small cylinders and laid between tightly conjoined pieces of wood?

The pencil is a microcosm for a larger observation that I was incapable of understanding as a child. Millions of adults still just can’t seem to grasp that such simple things are the wonders created by humanity, and it is only a free market comprising individuals — not central planning by powerful government officials who lack the imagination of individuals motivated by profit — that can produce such things at such low costs, thereby making them so commonplace in our lives that we don’t recognize how miraculous they are.

The Rest…HERE

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