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The Most Hopeful Event of the 21st Century

The most popular, the most interesting, the most humane and the most emotional event of this century is the saving of 33 miners who were trapped for 69 days in a mine in Chile. The whole world watched the proceedings and the whole world celebrated their freedom. I believe this is by far the most hopeful event for humanity that has occurred in the 21st century.

In the old spirit of competition, everybody is taking credit for this great feat. The Wall Street Journal gives the credit to capitalism. Without capitalism, they say, the rescue could not have happened; in their inimitable words:

... Longer answer: The Center Rock drill, heretofore not featured on websites like Engadget or Gizmodo, is in fact a piece of tough technology developed by a small company in it for the money, for profit. That's why they innovated down-the-hole hammer drilling. If they make money, they can do more innovation.

This profit = innovation dynamic was everywhere at that Chilean mine. The high-strength cable winding around the big wheel atop that simple rig is from Germany. Japan supplied the super-flexible, fiber-optic communications cable that linked the miners to the world above.

Wonderful capitalism. William K. Black expounds on other aspects of capitalism that may have worked in the opposite direction:

We know that the Chilean mine was private, that it had a bad safety record, and that it has been ordered to shut down permanently. The BBC reports that the (strongly conservative) President Pinera promised the people of Chile that: "never again in Chile would people be allowed to work in such inhumane conditions." Reports from Chile stress that the mine violated the law in failing to have a second entrance to the mine (which would have greatly reduced the risk of the miners being trapped by the collapse of a portion of the shaft). Local officials have claimed that the only way the mine owners could have gotten away with such an obvious violation of the safety rules was through bribery of the regulatory officials.

Reports from Chile also state that the mine did not have the required ladder that would have allowed the workers to escape the mine in the immediate aftermath of the collapse through a ventilation shaft that subsequently became inaccessible. The "innovation dynamic" that was "everywhere" in the Chilean mine due to the profit motive also explains why the ladder was not there. To sum it up, the miners wouldn't have had to be rescued but for the perverse incentives of that unregulated capitalism inherently produces (which is what Obama warned about). (The governmentally-owned coal mines in China also have a far better safety record than the private Chinese coal mines.)

Capitalism got the miners into trouble. Capitalism helped to get them out of trouble. Capitalism is not the main factor to celebrate.

Some credit technology. Chile did not have the needed technology. It brought in Jeff Hart, an American drill expert:

When the nation's government discovered that the job was beyond the capabilities of its state-owned drilling company, it brought over American expert Jeff Hart and his U.S. made T-130 drill and drill bits to ultimately bring the trapped miners to safety.

Others credit the Chilean government or the mine leader or others. But the real reason everything worked out so well in this great rescue is that it was a great cooperative effort. All Chile mining companies contributed, the Chilean government contributed, many scientific and engineering experts contributed and governments all over the world contributed. It was the most heartwarming exercise in cooperation that I have ever seen in my 91 years of life.

Competition is OK. But it is overrated. To solve our big problems we need cooperation. The Chilean mine rescue shows that cooperation on a big scale can be effective. The rescue of the 33 miners in Chile is the most hopeful event of the 21st century!

Posted by Paul Siegel at October 16, 2010 4:42 PM
Comment #310481

Being that the 21st Century is so young I do hope that the Human Race has a lot more to offer than 33 Miners lives being saved due to the failure of Corporations ability to provide a safe work environment; however, I am amazed that the Main Stream Media kept the story alive even though it did not have death and destruction everyday. For maybe there is hope that bad news is not the only thing that sales.

And like the BP acident I do believe it does go to show us today some corporations are willing to put Human Life above Profit. I have to wonder how much of the Stage Show was done out of PR and how much was done out of the concern for the Miners. Because why the 33 lifes were spared through the act of foresight and forthought this time, the next cave in might not find Labor and Management so lucky.

Thus, we need to give praise to the Men and Women who helped make this event turn out for the better. I do believe or have to have hope that sometime in the 21st Century mining accidents may see more and more miners able to walk out instead of adding to the ranks of their ancestors who were not so lucky.

Posted by: Henry Schlatman at October 16, 2010 6:51 PM
Comment #310482

All that you say is true, Paul, and then some.
What amazed me was that for a small block of time, we all seemed able to put away our hate and venom and disagreements. We watched worldwide and hoped and prayed all in our own ways, that these men would walk away alive!! That feat, in and of itself was incredible. Beyond that, though, I don’t think there was even a whisper about them being a different color…speaking a different language….believing in a different god….or voting from a different preference.
It can be done..

Posted by: jane doe at October 16, 2010 7:08 PM
Comment #310559

Daniel Henninger in the Wall Street Journal yesterday: “It needs to be said. The rescue of the Chilean miners is a smashing victory for free-market capitalism. … The president of the U.S. is campaigning across the country making this statement at nearly every stop: ‘The basic idea is that if we put our blind faith in the market and we let corporations do whatever they want and we leave everybody else to fend for themselves, then America somehow automatically is going to grow and prosper.’ Uh, yeah. That’s a caricature of the basic idea, but basically that’s right. Ask the miners. If those miners had been trapped a half-mile down like this 25 years ago anywhere on earth, they would be dead. What happened over the past 25 years that meant the difference between life and death for those men?

Short answer: the Center Rock drill bit. This is the miracle bit that drilled down to the trapped miners. Center Rock Inc. is a private company in Berlin, Pa. It has 74 employees. The drill’s rig came from Schramm Inc. in West Chester, Pa. Seeing the disaster, Center Rock’s president, Brandon Fisher, called the Chileans to offer his drill. Chile accepted. The miners are alive.

“This profit = innovation dynamic was everywhere at that Chilean mine. The high-strength cable winding around the big wheel atop that simple rig is from Germany. Japan supplied the super-flexible, fiber-optic communications cable that linked the miners to the world above. … Samsung of South Korea supplied a cellphone that has its own projector. Jeffrey Gabbay, the founder of Cupron Inc. in Richmond, Va., supplied socks made with copper fiber that consumed foot bacteria, and minimized odor and infection. Chile’s health minister, Jaime Manalich, said, ‘I never realized that kind of thing actually existed.’ That’s right. In an open economy, you will never know what is out there on the leading developmental edge of this or that industry. But the reality behind the miracles is the same: Someone innovates something useful, makes money from it, and re-innovates, or someone else trumps their innovation. Most of the time, no one notices. All it does is create jobs, wealth and well-being. But without this system running in the background, without the year-over-year progress embedded in these capitalist innovations, those trapped miners would be dead.

Transcript from Rush Limbaugh program last Friday

Posted by: Skeptical Boomer at October 17, 2010 10:37 PM
Comment #310573

Cooperation between private corporations, government agencies, nations and people made the difference. I wonder why conservatives are so blind that they cannot see that simple truth…can anyone here say, “obstructionism”?


We are headed for a return to the nineteenth century days of sweatshops and child labor, so your heartfelt defense of the savagery that is capitalism is duly noted, as is that of the Wall Street Journal and the National Chamber of Commerce. Thanks to you all for bringing us down from the plateau we achieved while splashing a little social value onto our national bent for just that capitalism.

Posted by: Marysdude at October 18, 2010 9:18 AM
Comment #310593


Our POTUS should take a lesson from the Chilean President. He did not blame, he did not demonize an entire industry, he did not put a moratorium on all mining, he did not extort millions of dollars from a private company without due process. He simply saw a problem, found the help he needed no matter where it came from, coordinated the effort, and solved the problem. Our President has to grandstand and score political points. Why are liberals so blind that they cannot see that we would not even have the innovative technologies and the wealth that they seek to spread around if it were not for our capitalism. It is the only economic system that exists which rewards innovation and risk taking by the ambitious and creative leading to employment opportunities and wealth creation. Savagery? It has given us the highest standard of living in the world which put us on that plateau. Has it been perfect? No. Have some been abused? Yes. It is also the only system which allows any man no matter how humble his beginnings, to achieve wealth and success beyond imagination. Stop with your return to the nineteenth century claptrap. You and I both know that we have progressed way beyond that and there is no way we will ever return to it. You are just being overly dramatic. Explain to me how many legal immigrants come here dirt poor and within a very short time are more successful than most people who were born here. Answer. They don’t come here with an entitlement mentality. They live and breathe liberty, many for the first time in their lives and they set about achieving success. You on the other hand seem to look around this country and see nothing but victimhood and misery. I simply prefer to see the good that this country has done in the world and will continue to do if we can keep from becoming France.

Posted by: Skeptical Boomer at October 18, 2010 4:54 PM
Comment #310596


I pretty big brag. Capitalism has given us all you speak of and even perhaps more. I am grateful for that and appreciate it as well. I have NOTHING against capitalism…period. Now, my problem is with the excesses of capitalism. Capitalism did not GIVE us any of that without some reins on it. It gave us an Industrial Revolution that included sweatshops, child labor, squaller, hopelessness and pain, until it was mellowed by some pretty important social programs and activities. People were being robbers of their property, their birthrights and their lives…progress was being made on the backs of those helpless to fight against that onslaught. The capitalism you espouse has no reins, and will soon put us right back were we stood before the improvements began.

Posted by: Marysdude at October 18, 2010 5:58 PM
Comment #311037

And yet the parallel of the miner’s fate with that of billions of people trapped in poverty, seems not to have resonated. I found the parallel to be inescapable.

Posted by: David R. Remer at October 23, 2010 3:21 PM
Comment #311107

The parallel IS inescapable. Capitalism created both, but can only assist in the one that affected the least people. Poverty has evaded the capitalists radar, or blinders have prevented the viewing. I guess ‘bragging rights’ has a lot to do with it…if poverty is limited by a lot or a little, there would be no bragging rights…no claim to fame…no riches to gain.

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