“I, Pencil,” updated and animated — and not so offensive as I expected (even if free market nuts think it is)

May 16, 2013

English: Title page of Adam Smith's Wealth of ...

Title page of Adam Smith’s Wealth of Nations, 1776. Wikipedia image

This is an encore post.  The topic is probably timely just about any time — the debates about which comes first, free markets or free people, or the balance of government regulation necessary to keep a truly fair and truly free market, or the utility of regulation at all, are debates that are good to have.  It’s a pity there isn’t more discussion of Adam Smith’s ideas, instead of the idol-worshipping of a bronzed copy of Smith’s famous treatise.  In any case, a spate of links to this post reminded me that it’s good to recirculate from time to time.

Have you read “I, Pencil?” You should.  There’s a link early in the article.  It’s a quick read.

Every economics teacher knows that old Leonard Read piece, “I, Pencil.”   It’s a good, practical demonstration of the concept of Adam Smith’sinvisible hand,” free markets, and the way economies put stuff together for sale without a government agency issuing instructions, written by Read in 1958, for the Foundation for Economic Education, a once-free-market economic think tank that recently made an unexpected (by me) lurch to the radical right.

Pencils

Pencils – Wikipedia image

The essay is dated, though, for high school kids today.  Most of the stuff Read properly assumed people knew something about, is left out of modern curricula in elementary and middle school, so a high school teacher must do remedial work in mining, international trade, lumbering, manufacturing, chemistry and metallurgy, just to make the thing make sense.  Where we used to learn about pencils in first or second grade, my students in recent years labor under the misconception that pencil leads are made out of lead, and I have to explain to them that graphite is a form of carbon.  They don’t know cedar from pine, or mahogany, they don’t know copper from tin from zinc from steel, and they think rubber has always been synthetic.

Imagine my surprise on this:  I got an e-mail touting an animated, YouTube update of Read’s essay. It’s not bad, even though it’s from the Competitive Enterprise Institute, which is neither competitive, nor an institute, but is instead a propaganda arm of crazy right-wing wackoes.

Whoever made this film appears not to have had much interference from the CEI poobahs.

Am I missing something? Is this film more right-wing than I see?

I worry that I missed something, or that the producers of this movie wove a spell over the usual radical near-fascist groups.  This movie has been touted in recent days by almost all of the usual crypto-black-shirt think puddles, American Enterprise Institute, the unreasoning Reason magazine from the so-called libertarian view, the cartoonish Glen Beck effluent pipe The Blaze, the Coors family’s Heritage Foundation, the offensively-named Lexicans, the biased Cafe Hayek (which is often a good read anyway, so long as you don’t take them seriously on any science issue),  the sanctuary for authoritarian-leaning victims of lobotomy Hot Air, and even that publication from the propaganda organization, The Daily Capitalist — in short, it’s been plugged by organizations covering the entire political spectrum from Y to Z, the far right end of the alphabet.

English: From US Patent 19783 Combination of L...

From US Patent 19783 Combination of Lead-Pencil and Eraser by L. Lipman, March 1858. (Patent later invalidated — so much for free market rewards to inventors) Wikipedia image

Maybe they didn’t watch it? 

For today’s teenagers, someone should do a couple of updates.  “I, SmartPhone” and “I, Tablet Computer” could include lessons in government regulation of radio spectrum and how such regulation allows public safety functions and air traffic control to exist alongside great profit-seeking groups, and how such developments would be impossible without government regulation. There would also be a section on the mining and milling of rare Earths, of ores like Coltan, which would introduce the concept of blood or conflict diamonds and ores, the collapse of order in unregulated areas like Congo and Somalia, slave labor as in Pakistan and China.  “I, Fast Food Breakfast” could include side lessons in importing of orange juice from Brazil and other nations, artificially-flavored syrups from China and the threat from climate change to U.S. maple tree farmers, and meat from Australia and Argentina, along with the ideas of food safety regulation on eggs and egg products by USDA and FDA.  “I, Burrito” could include lessons in cultural diffusion and migrant farm workers who pick the tomatoes . . .

Colored_pencil

Color pencils. Wikipedia image

By the way, the fact that pencil leads are graphite (and clay), and not lead, should not be taken to mean that pencil manufacturers came up with a kid-safe product on their own; lead in the paint on pencils was enough to worry the health officials, until regulation got different paints used.

We need a classroom guide on Read’s piece and this new movie that seriously discusses the need for regulation in pencil manufacture, from the safety of the saws used to cut the trees, and in the mills, to the anti-child labor provisions of the graphite and rubber import agreements, to the forest regulation and research necessary to keep the incense cedar wood in production, through the anti-deforestation requirements on rubber plantations and the regulation of lead in the paint.  The movie is good, much less right-wing than those groups who fawn over it, but still in need of some real-world economic reality.

Mechanical pencil leads spilling out of their ...

Mechanical pencil leads spilling out of their plastic case. Wikipedia image

More:

More, in 2013:  


“I, Pencil,” updated and animated — and not so offensive as I expected

November 23, 2012

Every economics teacher knows that old Leonard Read piece, “I, Pencil.”   It’s a good, practical demonstration of the concept of Adam Smith’sinvisible hand,” free markets, and the way economies put stuff together for sale without a government agency issuing instructions, written by Read in 1958, for the Foundation for Economic Education, a once-free-market economic think tank that recently made an unexpected (by me) lurch to the radical right.

The essay is dated, though, for high school kids today.  Most of the stuff Read properly assumed people knew something about, is left out of modern curricula in elementary and middle school, so a high school teacher must do remedial work in mining, international trade, lumbering, manufacturing, chemistry and metallurgy, just to make the thing make sense.  Where we used to learn about pencils in first or second grade, my students in recent years labor under the misconception that pencil leads are made out of lead, and I have to explain to them that graphite is a form of carbon.  They don’t know cedar from pine, or mahogany, they don’t know copper from tin from zinc from steel, and they think rubber has always been synthetic.

Imagine my surprise on this:  I got an e-mail touting an animated, YouTube update of Read’s essay. It’s not bad, even though it’s from the Competitive Enterprise Institute, which is neither competitive, nor an institute, but is instead a propaganda arm of crazy right-wing wackoes.

Whoever made this film appears not to have had much interference from the CEI poobahs.

Am I missing something? Is this film more right-wing than I see?

I worry that I missed something, or that the producers of this movie wove a spell over the usual radical near-fascist groups.  This movie has been touted in recent days by almost all of the usual crypto-black-shirt think puddles, American Enterprise Institute, the unreasoning Reason magazine from the so-called libertarian view, the cartoonish Glen Beck effluent pipe The Blaze, the Coors family’s Heritage Foundation, the offensively-named Lexicans, the biased Cafe Hayek (which is often a good read anyway, so long as you don’t take them seriously on any science issue),  the sanctuary for authoritarian-leaning victims of lobotomy Hot Air, and even that publication from the propaganda organization, The Daily Capitalist — in short, it’s been plugged by organizations covering the entire political spectrum from Y to Z, the far right end of the alphabet.

Maybe they didn’t watch it? 

For today’s teenagers, someone should do a couple of updates.  “I, SmartPhone” and “I, Tablet Computer” could include lessons in government regulation of radio spectrum and how such regulation allows public safety functions and air traffic control to exist alongside great profit-seeking groups, and how such developments would be impossible without government regulation. There would also be a section on the mining and milling of rare Earths, of ores like Coltan, which would introduce the concept of blood or conflict diamonds and ores, the collapse of order in unregulated areas like Congo and Somalia, slave labor as in Pakistan and China.  “I, Fast Food Breakfast” could include side lessons in importing of orange juice from Brazil and other nations, artificially-flavored syrups from China and the threat from climate change to U.S. maple tree farmers, and meat from Australia and Argentina, along with the ideas of food safety regulation on eggs and egg products by USDA and FDA.  “I, Burrito” could include lessons in cultural diffusion and migrant farm workers who pick the tomatoes . . .

By the way, the fact that pencil leads are graphite (and clay), and not lead, should not be taken to mean that pencil manufacturers came up with a kid-safe product on their own; lead in the paint on pencils was enough to worry the health officials, until regulation got different paints used.

We need a classroom guide on Read’s piece and this new movie that seriously discusses the need for regulation in pencil manufacture, from the safety of the saws used to cut the trees, and in the mills, to the anti-child labor provisions of the graphite and rubber import agreements, to the forest regulation and research necessary to keep the incense cedar wood in production, through the anti-deforestation requirements on rubber plantations and the regulation of lead in the paint.  The movie is good, much less right-wing than those groups who fawn over it, but still in need of some real-world economic reality.

More:


Mercury Poisoning Prevention (video from AOL.com)

December 28, 2011

Video – Some fish have levels of mercury so high that it may be harmful, especially for pregnant women and young children. Find out if you may have been exposed to mercury.

AOL.com Video – Mercury Poisoning Prevention, posted with vodpod

Remember these prevention tips.

Ask yourself:  If mercury poisoning is not a problem worthy of EPA’s new standards to prevent mercury pollution, why are health officials warning us to restrict our intake of fish that soak up the mercury emitted by coal-fired power plants?

 

[No, I can't figure out why the video doesn't show here.  Look at the VodPod widget in the right column, a bit lower, and look at the video there.  Or, click on the link, and go to the site with the video.]


Ronald Banks: Keep EPA’s regulation

August 26, 2011

In a letter to the editor of the Leavenworth (Kansas) Times, July 11, 2011, Ronald Banks makes the case simply, succintly and quite accurately, for keeping regulatory agencies that protect our health and the environment:

Ronald Banks
Leavenworth

To the editor:

As an independent, I often find my political opinions “between a rock and a hard place.”

A big concern is cutting or defunding programs or agencies to save money. I can’t say much about SEC, FDA, or any other alphabet agency, except the EPA. As a retired Registered Environmental Manager, I have some experience dealing with those pesky, business-busting regulations.

I would like to persuade the spending hawks to reflect on why the regulations were enacted in the first place. Pesticides were abused and found in our water, air and accumulated in our food as described in the seminal 1962 book, “Silent Spring” by Rachel Carson.  Hazardous waste dumps were uncovered at Love Canal.

A dump site was also found in Leavenworth.  Water contamination as shown in the movie, “Erin Brokovich,” from PG&E plants in California; not to mention BP’s oil spill.  E. coli bacterial contamination in hamburger, produce and water, lead in paint, smog/particulate smoke in the air, acid rain, constant oil/gas/ diesel spills on land and sea, have been caused by ironical business cost-cutting on environmental compliance.

Just today I learned Massey Energy compromised safety in its coal mine accident that killed 29 workers.

Don’t get me wrong, I know environmental up-keep is expensive; but it is a public good that must be placed in the fixed costs of a business.

It is not that this information is not known to be true, most would agree they want safe water, air and food. Maybe a reason is in our own psychology? I have recently learned in the latest “Scientific American Mind” that a study by psychologist Ullrich Ecker showed that “our memory is constantly connecting new facts to old and tying different aspects of a situation together, so that we may still unconsciously draw on facts we know to be wrong to make decisions later,” (p12).

In a more political way we also like to see the other party hurt, it feels so good that the feeling unifies a party, even if it hurts us all. As long as the EPA is cut and you are passionate for the cuts factual consequences of the cuts and the emotional consolidation of cheer-leading, may overshadow the good of not cutting.  Remember, cuts at the top filter down to our state, county and city; our water, air and food.

Face it. If there isn’t someone guarding the environment, we won’t have a safe and clean environment.

So, what I have said above will be a “hard sell” no matter how good my argument. Let’s not jeopardize the nation’s health for lobbied cost-cutting budgetary reasons.

Copyright 2011 Leavenworth Times. Some rights reserved

Do you agree?


Campbell’s soups – “Eww, Eww, toxic?” BPA for lunch?

August 4, 2011

I get e-mail — this time from Moms Rising, wondering whether Campbell’s soup should have Bisphenol-A in it:

Ed,

“Eww Eww Toxic”

That’s our new jingle for Campbell’s soup.  No more  “M’m M’m Good,” we now think “Eww Eww Toxic” is more appropriate.

Why the “Eww” jingle?

Because, according to experts, Campbell’s Soup Company still uses toxic Bisphenol A (BPA) in their canned goods, despite the fact that it’s proven harmful.[1] In April, MomsRising joined the Breast Cancer Fund and over 20,000 parents to ask three major canned food manufacturers, Campbell’s, Del Monte, and General Mills, what they are doing about Bisphenol A (BPA) in their canned goods.  Two companies replied, offering rough timelines for replacing BPA, or sharing details about which products are BPA-free.

We have yet to see the Campbell’s Soup Company respond to those 20,000 people. We’re not going to let the company that markets directly to kids with products like Dora the Explorer “Kidshape Soups” get away with ignoring parents. [2]  Especially when parents have questions about a toxic chemical linked to breast cancer, infertility, early onset puberty, ADHD, and obesity. [3]

Sign on now to our open letter to Campbell’s demanding a response to one key question: What are you doing to phase out BPA in your cans and what safe alternative are you replacing it with?

http://action.momsrising.org/go/1078?akid=2863.152249.ftacUO&t=4

With two billion pounds of BPA produced annually in the U.S., it’s no wonder that over 90% of Americans have detectable levels of BPA in their bodies.[4]

Removing BPA from all canned foods is a great first step in reducing our nation’s BPA exposure.  Canned goods are used in many ways.  And, even if you have the time and resources to get canned goods out of your kitchen, it’s super hard to keep them away from your family.  BPA exposure from canned goods shows up on your plate at the local pizza joint, at a five star restaurant, in your children’s school, or at the local food bank.

Let’s work together to make sure that Campbell’s is serving up some “M’m M’m Good” answers to consumers and taking real action on BPA!

Let Campbell’s know you want a response on how they’re going to phase out BPA today:

http://action.momsrising.org/go/1078?akid=2863.152249.ftacUO&t=6

*And please forward this email along to your friends and family!

Together we can build a safer and healthier nation for all of our children.

– Sarah, Claire, Kristin, and the whole MomsRising Team.

P.S Thank you to our partners on this important issue: Breast Cancer Fund! Learn more about their exciting new study & their work here: www.breastcancerfund.org/foodpackagingstudy

P.P.S. Tell us why you want toxins out of your family’s life.  The personal experiences and thoughts of real moms and dads across this country make a big impact on legislators and can help change the way our country handles toxins.  Share your experience today.

[1] Consumer Reports  and Breast Cancer Fund
[2] Campbell’s Soup Company, Kids Soups
[3] Safer Chemicals, Healthy Families
[4] Breast Cancer Fund

Like what we’re doing? Donate: We’re a bootstrap, low overhead, mom run organization. Your donations make the work of MomsRising.org possible–and we deeply appreciate your support. Every little bit counts.

What do you think?  Justified campaign?

Why isn’t there a government agency watching out for us on this issue?  Who stands up for the little mom?

_____________

Need more information?  BPA a new issue for you?

National Toxicology Program assessment of dangers of BPA

National Toxicology Program assessment of dangers of BPA – “The NTP reached the following conclusions on the possible effects of current exposures to bisphenol A on human development and reproduction. Note that the possible levels of concern, from lowest to highest, are negligible concern, minimal concern, some concern, concern, and serious concern.”

And, again from NIEHS’s NTP:

Number seven recycling symbol

Most plastic containers with BPA, but not all, feature a recycling symbol, #3 or #7.

If I am concerned, what can I do to prevent exposure to BPA?

Some animal studies suggest that infants and children may be the most vulnerable to the effects of BPA. Parents and caregivers, can make the personal choice to reduce exposures of their infants and children to BPA:

  • Don’t microwave polycarbonate plastic food containers. Polycarbonate is strong and durable, but over time it may break down from over use at high temperatures.
  • Polycarbonate containers that contain BPA usually have a #7 on the bottom
  • Reduce your use of canned foods.
  • When possible, opt for glass, porcelain or stainless steel containers, particularly for hot food or liquids.
  • Use baby bottles that are BPA free.

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