Many have already read George Will's fine essay, Pencils and Politics. It's a brief intro to Econ 101. A quote:
Producing this simple, mundane device is, Ruth says, "an achievement on the order of a jazz quartet improvising a tune when the band members are in separate cities." An unimpressed student says, "So a lot of people work on a pencil. What's the big deal?" Ruth responds: Who commands the millions of people involved in making a pencil? Who is in charge? Where is the pencil czar?
Her point is that markets allow order to emerge without anyone imposing it. The "poetry of the possible" is that things are organized without an organizer.
Yes, it's the miracle (or poetry, or spontaneous order) of markets and the free flow of goods and services. Read the whole thing. Another quote:
The spontaneous emergence of social cooperation the emergence of a system vastly more complex, responsive and efficient than any government could organize is not universally acknowledged or appreciated. It discomforts a certain political sensibility, the one that exaggerates the importance of government and the competence of the political class.
When I think of trade and markets, I think of the paleolithic (500,000 years ago) trade in amber (for jewelry) and flint (for tools). Scandinavian amber being found in Italy. Or obsidian from Idaho being found in Indian sites on Long Island.
But when I think of pencils, I think of the Thoreau Pencil which, in the 1830s, was the finest pencil made in America. Thoreau supported himself during most of his life by working at that Pencil Factory. There is no reason to think that he enjoyed a minute of that work, but everybody has to make money.
We have to give Henry David Thoreau credit for this, though: He was a practical Civil Engineer and inventor and not just a dreamy transcendentalist with a love for nature and a way with words.