For several years in high school, I worked at a beef farm, feeding calves. As I measured out and mixed the milk replacement powder for the little beasts, I often listened to talk radio, in particular, The Mark Levin Show.
Levin would on occasion read in his nasally voice, an essay by Leonard E. Read entitled “I, Pencil.”
Here is an introductory sample: “I, Pencil, simple though I appear to be, merit your wonder and awe, a claim I shall attempt to prove. In fact, if you can understand me— no, that’s too much to ask of anyone—if you can become aware of the miraculousness which I symbolize, you can help save the freedom mankind is so unhappily losing. I have a profound lesson to teach. And I can teach this lesson better than can an automobile or an airplane or a mechanical dishwasher because—well, because I am seemingly so simple.
Simple? Yet, not a single person on the face of this earth knows how to make me. This sounds fantastic, doesn’t it? Especially when it is realized that there are about one and one-half billion of my kind produced in the U.S.A. each year.
Pick me up and look me over. What do you see? Not much meets the eye—there’s some wood, lacquer, the printed labeling, graphite lead, a bit of metal, and an eraser.”
The essay goes on to detail the myriad different little jobs that go in to making a “simple” pencil: harvesting timber, milling the wood to the right size, drying and dying the outside of the pencil, mining the graphite inside, making rubber for the eraser, cutting the eraser to the right size, manufacturing the alloy for the band that holds the eraser on, and assembling all the pieces of the pencil, and that’s not to mention the industries which supply power to these various workforces or the transportation industry which brings together the ingredients.
Read’s article comes to this conclusion: “Man can no more direct these millions of know-hows to bring me into being than he can put molecules together to create a tree.”
The point of the essay is that there’s no hope for an economy centralized under one authority, directing resources to what it deems most important.
In other words, the government is not equipped to label any industry as “essential,” or “non-essential.”
That farm that I worked on, and many others like it, today is seeing that first hand. Due to the state’s blanket bolstering of unemployment, the packing plant they send their cattle to – although it is essential - finds itself shorthanded and cannot handle the usual shipments of beef. And so the farms and ranches are stuck with cattle who will soon be too big and fatty to be sold at a good price meaning the farms will take a loss, even while the cost of beef will likely go up as the demand stays consistent, but the supply of good beef goes down. Who knows what companies and families that will affect?
This is merely one example close to me of a situation that our governor and her advisors never even thought to think of. Who could expect them to? No one would see that coming, unless they were in the industry themselves.
On Thursday, April 16, I joined tens of thousands of unappreciated, but vital, cogs in our economic machine in a protest against Governor Whitmer’s overreaching executive order for a state wide shutdown.
It had been brought together in a matter of days via social media groups and word of mouth – an in-car protest in the capitol city. We’d stay in our cars and gridlock traffic around the capitol building – which was pretty much a ghost town as most employees in the surrounding area were either shutdown themselves or working from home anyway.
Although our small town is several hours north of the capitol, Bill Johnson, I, a small business owner friend of mine, and likely others from our community made the commute. It was worth four hours in our cars to be able to push back against the governor’s usurpation of power from Michigan’s citizens.
Sadly, much of the attention due the protest was taken by a handful of unassociated, armed protestors who chose to congregate together on the Capitol steps, in spite of the fact that the day was organized specifically as an in-car protest.
That is unfortunate. The overwhelming majority of the thousands of people in attendance stayed in their cars. They honked their horns to draw attention to the reason for their protest often written on their vehicle windows.
As I write this, we’re still under a stay at home order. The governor didn’t change her mind, but we can hope that it makes an impact on future decisions.
The governors of the states who have prevented their citizens from earning their own livelihood have no idea what the implications of these shutdowns could be, but the laid off workers do and the small-business owners do and the farmers do. It will ruin families. Generations will face poverty that would have grown up in economic ease. It will erase lifetimes and generations worth of work. It will drive people to despair and suicide as the causes they’ve devoted their lives to disappear.
It’s time to reopen and begin to rebuild.
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American Decency Association is a member of the Evangelical Council for Financial Accountability.