Ludwig von Mises Institute

I, Pencil

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"I, Pencil" is an essay by American economist Leonard Read. The full title is "I, Pencil: My Family Tree as Told to Leonard E. Read" and it was first published in the December 1958 issue of The Freeman. The essay is written in the first person from the point of view of an Eberhard Faber pencil. The pencil details the complexity of its own creation, listing its components (cedar, lacquer, graphite, ferrule, factice, pumice, wax, glue) and the numerous people involved, down to the sweeper in the factory and the lighthouse keeper guiding the shipment into port.

The piece was included in a 1964 collection of Read's writings titled Anything That's Peaceful: The Case for the Free Market. Three decades later it was reprinted in The Freeman in the May 1996 issue, and as a pamphlet entitled "I... Pencil" in May 1998 with an introduction by Milton Friedman and afterword by Donald J. Boudreaux. Friedman also paraphrased the essay in his 1980 PBS television program Free to Choose and the accompanying book of the same name.[1]

The latest edition was published in 2006 with an introduction by FEE president Lawrence W. Reed and an afterword by Milton Friedman.

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