I, American – An analogy and tribute to “I, Pencil” by Leonard E. Read

4 Aug

By: Tisha Casida

I am an American – a human being residing in the United States of America, a citizen who has come here or who resides in this country.

Liberty is both my vocation and my avocation – it is what I am.

You may wonder why it is necessary to express the purpose of explaining what I am.  I am a mystery, and sadly I have been taken for granted as a mere incident and without background.

“This is a species of the grievous error in which mankind cannot too long persist without peril. For, the wise G. K. Chesterton observed, ‘We are perishing for want of wonder, not for want of wonders’.” (Read, 1999).

I, American, as simple as I may seem, do in fact warrant your wonder, for if you can understand me better, if you can be more aware of what I am, then it can help save the freedom that mankind could so easily lose.

Simple? Yet no one knows exactly how to make me.  I am but a human, a citizen, a member of a community and country, and yet there are innumerable antecedents to what I am.

It is impossible to explain all of the antecedents that made me, however it is possible to name just a few.

My family tree begins on every continent in every country through most every part of the world.  From deserts to the tropics, the mountains to the oceans, the world was the starting point for me.  Think of all the people involved in the innumerable journeys through good times and bad to get me to where I sit today.  Think of the man-power, the machinery, the technology, the will-power to get me here today.  Think of the millions of transactions amongst people, the billions of words, the countless moments of inquiry and faith that made it possible to be in this moment.

Starting in far-away places, my ancestors made choices to seek freedom and prosperity.  In making a choice to come here, the American dream was alive and loved.  It was not just a dream; it was the reality of the journey, the faith, the motion.  My ancestors came to America to work and keep what they worked for, in a place where liberty was alive and responsibility was respected and honored.

Consider the people who have come to America.  White, black, brown; European, African, Asian, Hispanic; people who do not cling to color nor to class nor to ethnicity. For once you are here, you are American – this is the melting pot, and we are all the same, we are all Americans.  People who have come here as people, people who have come here knowing and believing that we are endowed by a Creator with certain unalienable Rights, and that among these are Life, Liberty, and the Pursuit of Happiness.  The journey has not always been pleasant or good.  The creation of America held many tragic incidents involving the very people that She now desires to protect.  That is the road and the journey that exists, and I must move forward in an effort to do better, as an individual, as an American.  We can learn from our mistakes.

Consider the technology that has moved us here.  Inventions, the revolution in industry, and the revolution with communication – all of these over thousands of years have contributed to my journey.  Although my life cycle is short, the experiences I have are created on the shoulders of giants (Newton, 1676).  Piece by piece, moment by moment, I am standing here today because of these human discoveries, theories, interventions, and practices.

Consider the human desire that has moved us here.  Human beings from around the world, people who work hard, study, love, and crave the freedom that allows them to do those things.  Consider the faith – regardless of religion or origin – consider the faith of the people who want to move forward, want to protect what they love, want to be free in their just pursuit of happiness.

No one knows how to make an American, even though the 307+ million Americans have a part of shaping each other every day.  “There isn’t a single person in all these millions… who contributes more than a tiny, infinitesimal bit of know-how.” (Read, 1999).  Each day a citizen may decide to read a newspaper, watch a television show, or go to school, however the other citizens will never truly know how this affects them – we just know that it does.  None of us know what the other millions of Americans want, however we are still all able to co-exist and prosper.  None of us know exactly how this works, but we know that we are able to make transactions and decisions when we have the freedom to do so.

There is no master-mind dictating to people what they should do, what they should want, or where they should work.  For over two hundred years, the country of America has been able to grow without the master planning of its future.  There have been mistakes, and more recently attacks on Her freedom, however the 307+ millions of Americans who are a part of my country can still make informed decisions.  This “absence of a master mind, of anyone dictating or forcibly directing these countless actions which bring me into being. No trace of such a person can be found. Instead, we find the Invisible Hand at work.” (Read, 1999).

We cannot “make an American”.  The Invisible Hand (Adam Smith), the liberty present in our country, and the free market where we all stand equally as consumers, are a part of a complex combination of miracles.  America is where you can find me, in “the configuration of creative human energies—millions of tiny know-hows configurating naturally and spontaneously in response to human necessity and desire and in the absence of any human master-minding!” (Read, 1999).  We are free men and women, there is no greater miracle.

I, American, although made from many different races, classes, and religions, do not cling to those as testimony for how others should act or be.  I, American, although a part of a social system do not expect a social system, I take responsibility for what and who I am.  I, American, although faced with displeasure, anger, and poverty, righteousness, happiness, and prosperity, do not expect from anyone anything other than interaction in a marketplace where I can work, purchase, and sell goods and services without the intervention of a master-plan that tries to decide what is best for me.  I, American, understand what I am charged with and accept the responsibility and prosperity that accompanies such “risk”.  Having the liberty to make my decisions, is all I ask for.

I, American, in a country that has had millions of immigrants come to Her for liberty and the opportunity to pursue their dreams, believe in the creative interactions that have made our prosperity possible so far.

“The lesson I have to teach is this: Leave all creative energies uninhibited. Merely organize society to act in harmony with this lesson. Let society’s legal apparatus remove all obstacles the best it can. Permit these creative know-hows freely to flow. Have faith that free men and women will respond to the Invisible Hand. This faith will be confirmed.”  (Read, 1999).

I, American, seemingly simple and often misunderstood, believe in the miracle of my creation. I believe in the liberty that rewards responsibility. I believe in the free men and women who are my fellow citizens.  I, American, believe.

References:

Newton, I. (1676, February 15). Letter to Robert Hooke. Retrieved  June 20, 2010 from http://en.wikiquote.org/wiki/Isaac_Newton.

Read, L. E. (1999). “I, Pencil: My Family Tree as told to Leonard E. Read.” Library of Economics and Liberty. Retrieved June 20, 2010 from the World Wide Web: http://www.econlib.org/library/Essays/rdPncl1.html

Smith, A. (1776). An Inquiry into the Nature and Causes of the Wealth of Nations. Edwin Cannan, ed. 1904. Library of Economics and Liberty. Retrieved June 20, 2010 from the World Wide Web: http://www.econlib.org/library/Smith/smWN.html

This post was originally posted at The Good American Post HERE.

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