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I, Toaster


Leonard Read’s classic “I, Pencil” is a staple of introductory economics classes the world over. I expect that the same will happen with the TED talk below, in which Thomas Thwaites details how he tried to make a toaster completely from scratch. He makes a valiant effort. At the end, he is able to get something he can plug in that ran for about five seconds before the heating element melted. I’m pretty sure he didn’t actually get any toast. Contrast that to the fact that today you can load bread into a toaster and be reasonably certain that you will get toast without killing yourself in the process.

It’s also important to note that even at the extremes to which he goes, the author is still not producing in total autarky as every stage in the production process involves tools he didn’t craft himself and knowledge he has to acquire from other sources. It’s a really interesting video, and it’s especially amazing to see Read’s lesson brought to life like this.

Click here to see the video.


Contact Art Carden

Art Carden is assistant professor of economics, Brock School of Business, Samford University, Birmingham, Alabama.

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