Luke Wachob on Complexity Without Conspiracy in Campaign Finance

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Group CHANGE sign in campaign crowd
relux./flickr

What's more difficult to make: a pencil, or a political campaign? In the classic 1958 essay "I, Pencil," Leonard Read makes the provocative claim that nobody in the world knows how to make a standard #2 pencil. At first this seems impossible, but as Read outlines the process, it becomes more and more believable. By the time Read goes through the shipping and millwork of the wood, the metal end of the pencil, the graphite core, and the eraser, millions of people all around the globe are involved in the creation of just one pencil. This is incredible, and not just because it's astounding that an object as simple as a pencil requires labor and resources from millions of people all over the planet. Even more impressive is that all of this activity is coordinated to useful ends without anyone being in charge. We don't have to fret over shortages or surpluses even though no one is responsible for ensuring the right quantity is produced. The point Read illustrates, writes the Center for Competitive Politics' Luke Wachob, that production is a complicated, decentralized, and global process, is one many activists and reporters apparently haven't learned, judging from this year's trend of articles "exposing" groups working together towards common policy goals. 

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