Above is a picture of a tool I borrowed from a neighbor (or, should I say “neighbour” since I’m at my cottage in Canada.)

The main insight from the classic “I, Pencil” is that no single person knows how to make a pencil but that it is made using an extensive, international division of labor and is done so well and efficiently that one high-quality pencil costs only a small amount of money.

When I borrowed the needle-nose pliers, I had a related thought: I needed that particular size of pliers to do what I needed to do: fix something in my shower head. No other pliers would do. And a division of labor similar to the one that led to the pencil produced this highly specialized piece of equipment for my neighbor at a relatively low cost.

I go into a hardware store every summer in Kenora, near my cottage at Minaki, When i look around at the awesome collection of tools, specialized for this or that use, I think that a hardware store is a testament to two things: (1) the high cost of our time, which leads us to choose a tool that’s just right for the job, and (2) the power of the free market in delivering most of these items at a relatively low cost.

Hardware stores are one of my favorite places to browse, even if I’m buying only one item.