That brings us to the eraser. It is made from “factice,” wrote Read, a rubber-like product that is produced by rapeseed oil from the Dutch East Indies reacting with sulfur chloride.
To be sure, an awe-inspiring amount of work goes into producing a pencil. Millions of people collaborate to produce it — millions ply their unique trades and skills — yet they have no idea they are collaborating.
Each is merely exchanging his small piece of know-how for the money he needs to buy the goods and services he wants, wrote Read.
More amazing is this: No one person is capable of making a pencil. Not even the president of the pencil company.
No one person could possibly manage the millions of people — and the millions of decisions they freely make — who produce the ingredients that become a pencil.
Despite the absence of a mastermind, billions of pencils are made every year. They’re produced with such humdrum efficiency that every one of us takes pencils for granted.
The pencil, explained Read, is the triumph of human freedom — a triumph of creative human energies spontaneously responding to human necessity and desire.
There never was a need for a presidential commission on the production of pencils.
Without one government program, the need for pencils arose. Without any meddling from an Ivy League bureaucrat, the pencil was invented, produced and sold — the demand for pencils was met.
It is a folly for any man, or group of men, to think of producing something as incredibly complex as a pencil. How much harder must it be to produce a car — one that consumers will want to buy, anyhow?
Read concluded his essay with this advice: The best thing our government can do is leave our creative energies uninhibited — remove the obstacles that prevent human creativity and innovation from flowing freely.
Not create more obstacles by using taxpayer dough to take over a private company.
Thank goodness our government hasn’t taken over any pencil companies yet. It would be that much more costly and difficult to write to our congressmen.
Tom Purcell is a Pittsburgh Tribune-Review humor columnist.