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Capitalism Saved Chilean Miners’ Lives

October 15, 2010

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.

We have witnessed how our own government miserably botched the August 23 hostage crisis that killed Hong Kong nationals and marred the first 100 days of President Noynoy Aquino. This tragic incident simply exposed the incompetence of some people in the government. The government cannot be trusted in running people’s lives. However, despite the fact that the government is a big failure in almost everything it does, there are some groups of misguided people who are determined to give our statist politicians more power to rule our lives. If enacted, a legislative proposal called the Reproductive Health bill would entrust too much political power in the government to control and regulate the business industry and the medical profession, to provide taxpayers’-funded welfare to poor and women, and to legislate that mythical ‘overpopulation’ problem.

The government is not the solution to social and economic problems. In fact, it’s the main cause of many economic and social crises in this country. The only solution to our domestic problems (e.i. the so-called overpopulation problem, poverty, unemployment, economic crisis, budget deficit, high foreign debt, etc.) is more respect for individual rights and free-market capitalism.

Let me tell you how free-market capitalism works. I give as example the case of the Chilean miners who were recently freed in what is called “flawless rescue”. After 17 days of ordeal, the 33 men trapped underground in a mine in Chile were reunited with their families. But who or what saved them? The answer is: the free-market system.

Here’s an excellent story from the Wall Street Journal:

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.

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.

A remarkable Sept. 30 story about all this by the Journal’s Matt Moffett was a compendium of astonishing things that showed up in the Atacama Desert from the distant corners of capitalism.

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.

Here are the seven U.S. private firms that helped save the Chilean miners:

Pennsylvanian drill bit manufacturers…
Berlin, Pa.-based mining firm Center Rock offered the rescue operation the unique drill bit that created the 2,000-foot-deep hole through which the miners were lifted in a metal capsule. The town of Berlin may be “too remote to have cable television,” says Joe Mandak at Business Week, but its drilling company is “at the center of the world’s biggest news story.”

… and drill rig builders
Another Pennsylvania company, Schramm, built the drill rig that drove the Center Rock bit into the earth. “Companies exist to make money,” Schramm’s vice-president of business development, Fred Slack, told USA Today, “but there’s no greater satisfaction to the soul than saving somebody’s life.”

Kansan drill contractors
The Schramm rig was operated by Layne Christensen, a drilling contractor based in Mission Woods, Ks. The firm could be in for an enormous boost from their role in the drama, said brand strategist Adam Hanft, quoted by Portfolio. Layne Christensen “represents a segment of American manufacturing that has been battered and bruised. People want them to win.”

Atlanta-based shipping experts
Seven shipments of mining equipment arrived at the Atacama rescue site care of United Parcel Service, the Atlanta-based delivery giant, which waived its fee. “We’re just so happy, like everyone else around the world, to get those miners out of there,” a spokesperson told Atlanta’s 11 Alive.

Medical technology designers from Maryland
Zephyr Technology of Annapolis, Md., designed and built the chest harnesses that monitored the miners’ vital signs as they were pulled to the surface — and had its Chilean partner send a physician to the site to analyze the data. “Of course there’s publicity, but at the end of the day, we have the technology,” the firm’s Asher Gendelman told Business Week, and “they need it. It happens to be the right thing to do.”

Sock innovators from Virginia
Cupron, a Richmond, Va., firm specializing in copper-fiber socks that prevent infection, donated its specialized wares to the rescue mission. “We are deeply touched that our technology and products help people in need to improve their lives where and when it counts the most,” said the firm’s website.

Californian sunglasses manufacturers
To guard the miners’ eyes from the sun (which they hadn’t seen in over 10 weeks), Oakley donated dozens of pairs of its $400 “Radar” sunglasses with Black Iridium lenses. “Talk about product placement,” says Kevin Voigt at CNN. Analysts reckon the company got “the equivalent of $41 million in television advertising time” as a result of their charitable act.


One Comment leave one →
  1. Seluj Albatini permalink
    October 18, 2010 3:38

    Epic WIN for technological innovation.

    This is a good example of rational self-interest breeding compassion for human beings.

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