In 1958, Leonard Read wrote one of the most famous essays in the history of libertarianism, “I, Pencil.” It begins, “I am a lead pencil — the ordinary wooden pencil familiar to all boys and girls and adults who can read and write.” It is one of the most simple objects in human civilization. And yet “not a single person on the face of this Earth knows how to make me.”
Later in the column Goldberg quotes Austrian economist F. A. Hayek in explaining why the market economy and decentralized decision-making are so vital for prosperity.
Friedrich Hayek did the heavy lifting on this point half a century ago in his essay “The Use of Knowledge in Society.” The efficient pricing of markets allows millions of independent actors to decide for themselves how to allocate resources. According to Hayek, no central planner or bureaucrat could ever have enough knowledge to consistently and successfully guide all of those economic actions in a more efficient manner.