NCPA - National Center for Policy Analysis

Capitalism Saved the Miners

October 18, 2010

The rescue of the Chilean miners is a smashing victory for free market capitalism, says Daniel Henninger.

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.

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, says Henninger.

This profit equals 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 cell phone 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.

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 wellbeing.  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, says Henninger.

There are tens of thousands of stories like this in the United States, as big as Google and small as Center Rock.  What's needed now is a new American economic model that lets our innovators rescue the rest of us.

Source: Daniel Henninger, "Capitalism Saved the Miners," Wall Street Journal, October 14, 2010.

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