The miracle of why did communism fail in the soviet union essay well-functioning free market: not a single person really knows how to make an object as seemingly simple as a pencil. How Can This Possibly Be True?
In any case, what can the pencil teach us about our global interdependence — and the proper role of government in the economy? Below is a transcript of the episode, modified for your reading pleasure. For more information on the people and ideas in the episode, see the links at the bottom of this post. And you’ll find credits for the music in the episode noted within the transcript. Anne Trubek studies the history of handwriting and handwriting technology.
In a world that is increasingly digital, Trubek argues, teaching handwriting in schools is time poorly spent. TRUBEK: I think it will continue to diminish in elementary education. It will continue to diminish in our everyday lives, as it has already. And as handwriting diminishes, so does our need for writing instruments. TRUBEK: The numbers of examples of things that you still need to be able to use a pen or pencil and paper in the ordinary course of a work day — it’s shrinking.
Indeed, the market-research firm Euromonitor International has found that, in the U. That said, sales of pens have been rising slightly. It’s the pencil that is fading in the bright light of the digital age. That means that someone like, say, Steven Spielberg could buy up every single new pencil this year, around the world, and still have a billion dollars left, for popcorn, or pie, or a dozen Gulfstream G650s. CAROLINE WEAVER: We sell only pencils. New pencils, rare pencils, antique pencils, novelty pencils, pencil accessories.
Caroline Weaver is the proprietor of CW Pencil Enterprise. WEAVER: I grew up in Marietta, Ohio, which is in the southeast corner of Ohio, just across the river from West Virginia. Weaver is only 25 years old, which is young to be the proprietor of any shop, much less a pencil shop. But then, after you speak with her a bit, it’s hard to imagine Weaver doing anything else. WEAVER: It was just kind of a lifelong obsession. On the inside of her left forearm is a pencil tattoo. WEAVER: My mother drew it for me.
I asked her to take a black Ticonderoga, sharpen it three times and draw it to scale. And you can surely guess what Weaver and a friend dressed up as for Halloween. WEAVER: We both wore these paper pencil-point hats that we made and we wore pink shoes like an eraser and then painted whatever the logo of our pencil on our clothes. What is it about the pencil that so captured Caroline Weaver’s imagination? WEAVER: I like to make things, and I’m really interested in the way that things are made.
And so at a really young age, I developed an interest in these objects that appear to be really, really simple but are actually very complicated in the nature in which they’re made, and kind of the nuances to all the parts that they’re made of. Japanese and German and British and Swiss and Indian pencils. WEAVER: Every country kind of has its own normal as far as pencils go, and often those things aren’t available outside of their home countries. DUBNER: So, talk for just a second about the economics of your shop.
WEAVER: Believe it or not, it is profitable. It turns out there are a lot of closet pencil nerds out there who want these things as much as I do. But let me tell you why we’re really here today. It is not just to celebrate a young entrepreneur with narrow tastes. But no, that’s not why we’re here. DUBNER: Oh, this is the 482.
WEAVER: That is the 482, yeah. DUBNER: Mongol 482 from Eberhard Faber. DUBNER: Ok, so how many different pencils did Eberhard Faber make? They were mostly known for the Mongol, and the Blackwing, and the Van Dyke, and the Microtomic. DUBNER: Was the Mongol 482 kind of the star of the line? WEAVER: I would say that the Blackwing was the star of the line but the Mongol was their, sort of like middle-range, everyday pencil. By the point that this one was made, graphite technology had advanced a little bit, and so it’s generally a much smoother pencil because that’s when they figured out that if they put wax in pencils, they were a whole lot smoother than just using graphite and clay and some sort of binder.