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I, Smartphone

Why Watch “I, Smartphone”?

“I, Smartphone” video is based on the essay “I, Pencil” penned by Leonard Read, in 1958. ‘I, Pencil’ has had a lasting impact on how we think about the market process. Why would the Institute for Faith, Work and Economics care about how a smartphone is made and why would we want you to care? Because God has given us the market process as the most powerful tool we have in a fallen world to serve each other by using our gifts.

Yes, that’s right.

Smartphones allow thousands of dispersed people from across the globe to bring their gifts to serve people they don’t even know, and most likely never will know.

At IFWE, we see Jesus in that: helping people without knowing who they are, without discrimination, but within the context of using your gifts as God has called you.

While we are called to help our families, neighbors, and community in personal, and local ways, there is more we can do. Markets provide us with an opportunity to go beyond one-on-one assistance to those in need, and in that we can help many more people than we otherwise could.

You may think working in a copper refinery in El Paso, Texas as a Process Superintendent is benign, boring, and unimportant — it’s just a job, right? Wrong. If you are faithfully pursuing your calling in obedience to God’s will for your life, it is never “just a job.” You are serving, you are helping, and you are contributing to the common good.

In fact, you become a part of something much bigger than yourself. After all, copper is not refined for its own sake. The market sends signals to producers which encourage them to choose copper in the production of the smartphone, among many other products.

So it’s not just about us: it’s about our very important role in something much bigger than we can even comprehend.

There are five primary lessons that we can learn from this video, and at IFWE, we think it is incumbent upon Christians to understand them:

  1. Markets bring people together without any one person in charge.
  2. No one person has enough knowledge to create the things we use every day.
  3. Markets allow people to use their gifts to serve others.
  4. Each one of us has a role in serving the common good.
  5. The innovations which markets bring can benefit all society.

We believe that how and why we work is directly connected to overall stewardship. God has gifted us with scarce resources in our mental capacities, our skills and talents, and our physical resources. Understanding how markets help us to best harness those scare resources for the common good is critical.

There are two other important implications from this video:

  1. Markets are the best form of global poverty alleviation known to date. Allowing markets to operate across the globe in the 20th and 21st centuries has lifted millions if not billions out of poverty. According to the World Bank, embracing market reforms has helped lift 400 million people out of abject poverty in China alone, because people were allowed to work. For most of us, our work takes place within the market setting, so markets are critical for allowing people to use their talents.
  2. Markets embrace the dignity inherent in our creation by allowing us to unleash our creativity. Markets allow us to be innovators, to take risks on ideas, to be entrepreneurial. Markets have made it possible for us to have electricity, air travel, indoor plumbing and even the smartphone. Those creative innovations, through the market, can make our lives easier, more efficient and less costly.
As more and more of us embrace the market as a process for creativity and innovation, and as we focus on our job as a way we can help others by providing much needed goods and services, we lower the prices of goods and services and provide opportunities for others to serve the common good. This alone is the best mechanism for being good stewards, serving the common good and lifting the poor out of poverty.


Want to learn more about economics? Check out our “Economics 101” series on our blog, “Creativity – Purpose – Freedom” or sign up to receive our new research on the form above.