Hello. I am an iPhone. To many people, I might seem quite simple. Yet take a closer look, and you may discover a whole world of complexity.
Not a single person on the face of this earth knows how to make me. Not even Steve Jobs, if he were still alive — he could not put me together all by himself. Even if Steve Jobs had all the plastic, aluminum, glass, the rare earth metals all lying on a table in front of him, he could not put all of the components together by himself to create a fully functioning iPhone 5s.
So how does something so unlikely as an iPhone just pop into existance?
Well, my story starts with a man who was shooting at some food, and up through the ground came a bubbling crude. Oil that is.
That oil was refined into plastic pellets in a factory. The plastic pellets were shipped to . . . actually to tell you the truth, even I, the miraculous iPhone – I don’t even know how to make me!
You can google for days and weeks, and you would be completely lost in the complicated chain of production needed to make a single iPhone. It takes millions of workers from all around the world, all working together in harmony. It seems very unlikely then, that iPhones would ever exist at all. Just listen to all the nay-sayers who laughed at me before I was made:
In 2007, one blogger wrote that at $600, “Can the average American afford this? I think not.”
Another person wrote, “What people want in a phone is a phone, they don’t want all of these extras.”
Still another blogger wrote, “If it brushes up against something in your pocket, it will make or answer unwanted calls.”
Yet, I guess they just never learned this important lesson: just because something seems impossible, doesn’t mean that it is. After all, I, iPhone am living proof!
When many people think about a society based on individual liberty, they think, “It seems impossible. We need the government for roads, bridges, policemen, courts, and everything else. The free market could never create these things.”
Yet, we are already surrounded by things that seem infinitely impossible. That is the lesson of the iPhone. Or the pencil. Or the internet. Or any number of things that exist in the free market today. If one person were to try to put it all together, it would be a catastrophe. Yet – pencils and iPhones all exist today, and the sky hasn’t fallen.
Near the end of Leonard Read’s famous article “I, Pencil“, he writes:
“Once government has had a monopoly of a creative activity such, for instance, as the delivery of the mails, most individuals will believe that the mails could not be efficiently delivered by men acting freely. And here is the reason: Each one acknowledges that he himself doesn’t know how to do all the things incident to mail delivery. He also recognizes that no other individual could do it. These assumptions are correct. No individual possesses enough know-how to perform a nation’s mail delivery any more than any individual possesses enough know-how to make a pencil. “
Many people protest when anybody mentions getting rid of a law, or regulation. “But we need these laws! We need these beaurocrats! Only the government can run our society!”
But always remember I, iPhone. Or my grandfather, I, Pencil. For we are at once impossible to imagine, yet we have been made possible through a free market of voluntary exchange. And if the free market can make a smartphone, a device which allows for all of human knowledge in the palm of someone’s hand, then surely it can handle any government task.