This week the Competitive Enterprise Institute released the new film I, Whiskey: The Human Spirit. The film tells the story of how commerce creates human connections, with whiskey as the example of a commercial product that brings people together. We can accomplish amazing things when we’re free to create and innovate. I, Whiskey highlights those opportunities and celebrates human ingenuity working amid the spontaneous order of a market economy.

I, Whiskey is the second film in a series. The first was I, Pencil, which was a visual adaptation of the famous essay of the same name, written by Leonard Read. That essay described the complexity of the world around us, and made two important points. First, even seemingly simple products have breathtakingly complex origins; and second, no single person has the knowledge or ability to plan that complex process of production. It’s our freedom to interact – to buy and sell, and to compete and collaborate – that makes all of the products and services around us possible.

I, Whiskey approaches these themes in a new way, focusing on the real life whiskey makers (and drinkers) for whom this everyday product has become something very special. Master distiller Rick Wasmund, bar owner Bill Thomas, and historian Garrett Peck weave together their respective experiences with the art and craft of selling drinks. Leonard Read intentionally chose the pencil as a quotidian, unemotional object to tell his original story. I, Whiskey, however, emphasizes the friendships and romance that often arise in the midst of, and are celebrated by, a fine glass of whiskey.

The Competitive Enterprise Institute, which produced the film, is a nonprofit research organization known for work on government regulation and economic freedom in the U.S. Much of that work is technical and detailed, covering federal and state rules on everything from consumer finance and air quality to pharmaceutical approvals and food safety. The I, Pencil and I, Whiskey film series takes those economic lessons and brings them to a new audience. Eschewing the frequently divisive language of political debate, the films highlight the virtues of freedom and cooperation. As my alma mater has long maintained, crescit cum commercio civitas – civilization grows with commerce.


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Richard Morrison is senior editor at the Competitive Enterprise Institute and an executive producer of I, Whiskey: The Human Spirit.