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Is the pencil underrated? Tim Harford examines the role pencils have played in developing our world, and finds out why some writers have called them a "miracle of the free market". Do they have a point?

Release date:

Available now

10 minutes

On radio

Tomorrow 04:50GMT

Image credit

Graphite pencils (Credit: Benoit Tessier/Reuters)


Henry David Thoreau - The Maine Woods (1864)

Henry Petroski - The Pencil: A History of Design and Circumstance, Faber and Faber London 1989

The Pencil Making Process -

Leonard Read "I, Pencil: My Family Tree as told to Leonard E. Read" The Freeman 1958

Milton Friedman, Free to Choose, PBS 1980

Graphite -

Eric Voice "History of the Manufacture of Pencils" 1950 Transactions of the Newcomen Society

John Quiggin - I, Pencil, Product of the Mixed Economy