Pencils Reveal the Impossibility of Government Planning


I, Pencil is one of the most important and influential writings that explain the necessity for limited government. A simple object that we may not give much thought to, the story of the pencil illustrates the importance of markets and the impossibility of centralized economic planning.

The size and scope of government, both at the national and local level, has been growing. Now our country is entering a period where the possibility of even larger and more intrusive government, growing faster than it has been, is very real. Those who love liberty must keep principles like those illuminated in I, Pencil at the forefront of debate.

From the afterword to I, Pencil by Milton Friedman:

Leonard E. Read’s delightful story, “I, Pencil,” has become a classic, and deservedly so. I know of no other piece of literature that so succinctly, persuasively, and effectively illustrates the meaning of both Adam Smith’s invisible hand — the possibility of cooperation without coercion — and Friedrich Hayek’s emphasis on the importance of dispersed knowledge and the role of the price system in communicating information that “will make the individuals do the desirable things without anyone having to tell them what to do.”

Link to a pdf of I, Pencil:,%20Pencil%202006.pdf

Link to Leonard E. Read reading I, Pencil:


Leave a Reply

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.