Adam Tooze: Why the Common Pencil Isn’t Just a Back-to-School Item
To Milton Friedman, it was a metaphor for free market economics.
The pencil is a humble writing instrument but also a powerful cultural symbol. It represents the universal experience of education in elementary schools, but it has become a metaphor for the free market economy, thanks to economist Milton Friedman. Friedman famously described the manufacturing of pencils as one example of the miraculous power of the capitalist price mechanism. The accuracy of that description has been challenged—but its cultural impact is harder to dispute.
Cameron Abadi is a deputy editor at Foreign Policy. Twitter: @CameronAbadi
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