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What could one essay, written in 1946, have anything to do with the present day? With me? With... you? I don’t—in fact, I couldn’t have—known Mr. Leonard E. Read personally. But that feeling of wonder, that unquenchable longing for something miraculous, the very thing that drives artists and writers on their quest for something beautiful, he knew. He understood. So he took something that human beings overlook. Something people glance at and think, “I’ve seen millions. It's not exactly beautiful. It's not expensive. In fact, there are billions of them scattered across the planet. Why should I gaze upon the common pencil with wonder?” And Leonard Read gave us a gift. A gift to quench the unquenchable. A gift to open our eyes to see the beauty in the simple things around us, the thing we overlook everyday of our lives. The things we don’t appreciate.

So... what makes a pencil so extraordinary?

It is not the shiny lacquered surface, the pink eraser, the ferrule. It is not exquisite. It is not breathtakingly beautiful. It is extraordinary because a pencil is more than purpose. It is more than outward appearance. It is symbolic of the beauty that human beings can create, without even knowing what they are doing! It is a symbol of human collaboration. It is something indispensable that millions help to create. Bits and pieces of a pencil come from all corners of the globe, people that don’t speak the same languages, don’t believe in the same ideals or religions, they are unknowingly united behind an item that will serve the multitudes. And that, friends, is the beauty of a pencil.

Leonard E. Read wanted human beings to collaborate. He wanted us to see the profits of unity, how prosperous we become when we are working together. He wanted us to see the fruits of our labor, the beauty of collaboration. We don’t need a boss or an overseer. The government doesn’t have to control every interaction. We can join forces to create something indispensable because UNITY is indispensable. We all can become artists. We create only one piece of a world-wide puzzle. Leonard E. Read wanted us to see the beauty of spontaneous order. How, joined together, we can create something beautiful.

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  1. Hey, guys! Its Ariana Goforth.
    I just wanted to let you guys know, as a heads up, that I messed up the date at the beginning of this essay. If you are interested in “I, Pencil” and its author, Leonard E. Read, here is the correct timeline:
    1946: Leonard E. Read founds FEE, (the Foundation for Economical Education) an organization dedicated to spreading and promoting libertarian and free market ideals.

    December 1958: “I, Pencil” Leonard E. Read’s most famous essay is published in The Freeman.

    I hope this helped anyone needing to research “I,Pencil” or Leonard E. Read!

    All the best,

    Ari 🙂

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