Wednesday, April 8, 2020

What You Can Make with Freedom

The Story of a Pencil


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What You Can Make with Freedom is based on the famous essay “I, Pencil” published by Leonard Read in 1958. “I, Pencil” describes the complex process of making a pencil listing the different material components and workers involved in it. In What You Can Make with Freedom, the authors describe this same process using simple language and beautiful illustrations.

As it was the case for “I, Pencil,” the objective of What You Can Make with Freedom is not to describe the technical process of making a pencil but rather to highlight the invisible key ingredient present throughout—freedom.

The many people involved in the process of making a pencil participate in it only because they exercise their freedom to pursue their own goals, and in most cases, these workers are not even aware of the end product. They just want to do their best at cutting the wood or collecting the graphite so they can get paid and pursue their life goals. But the global and decentralized market process acts as an invisible hand that gathers all of these efforts into the creation of a pencil.

The authors explain that this is precisely the way everything in the world gets done. From a simple pencil to the creation of high-end technology to buildings and planes and massive ships. Everything is done and can be done if people are free to pursue their goals. What You Can Make with Freedom presents young readers with a simple way to understand these basic economic ideas and the miracles that free people can accomplish.


  • Dr. Clara Mengolini is assistant professor of Spanish literature at Mercer University. She received her PhD in Spanish literature from Vanderbilt University, her M.A. in Spanish literature from University of South Carolina, and her B.A. in Latin-American literature from University of Buenos Aires.

  • Dr. Antonio Saravia has more than twenty years of academic and consulting experience and currently teaches at Mercer University.