Thursday, October 14th, 2010

Actually Big Government, Foreign Intervention and Charity Saved the Miners

GOVERNMENT RESCUEEDaniel Henninger'sWall Street Journal op-ed column today is mind-boggling. He comes out hard, so it's easy to summarize: "It needs to be said. The rescue of the Chilean miners is a smashing victory for free-market capitalism." His point is that the drill and the drill rig used for the miner rescue were developed by two smallish companies, right here in America. Other bits of technology were also created by companies! The free market innovates! Companies make things! So capitalism saved miners. Pretty much everything about this column is utterly undone by the facts.

The miners were also employees of a "free-market capitalist" corporation which is undergoing an (state-run!) audit and is likely going into bankruptcy. The miners were rescued by a government-sponsored intervention, supervised by Codelco, the state's copper company, and by gifts from foreign governments. What's more, the rescue seems to have convinced Chile that Codelco should remain state-run and not be privatized.

Likewise, the expertise of Nasa-the American government agency?-is credited with keeping the miners healthy.

The free-market capitalist company who ran the mine, Empresa Minera San Esteban, was an out-of-control, anti-union, government-regulation defying safety nightmare who allowed its workers to become trapped as par for the course of its worker mistreatment.

Many of the mines in Chile are actually owned by foreign entities.

So, the entire rescue was overseen and funded by the government. The president of Chile-a rightish billionaire, by the way, who now plans to raise taxes for foreign companies operating in Chile-has fired leaders who ran the government's mining regulatory agency.

He also demanded a halt to mining in Chile (shades of the much-criticized U.S. government intervention after the Gulf Oil Spill!).

In short there has been no greater misreading of the actual politics of a situation ever.

37 Comments / Post A Comment

Well, sure, there's that, but as rebuttal:
profit = innovation
Can't argue with math.

Wouldn't NASA be part of that rebuttal? I know they get credit for some things they didn't invent, like velcro, but they have innovated.

Er, I mean, rebuttal to your rebuttal.

It's not my rebuttal, it's part of the subheading of the WSJ article.

Whoops! Sorry, carry on.

Hector Salgado (#7,958)

Sorry, but I must add here the Irish twist. Luis Urzua, the leader of the miners and responsible for their survival and happy ending is a direct victim of the staunch capitalist Chilean dictator, Augusto Pinochet. Both, his father and grandfather were killed October 17, 1973 in the Chilean dessert. And the hammer that helped to make contact with the miners was build in Ireland were the supervisor of the company is a Chilean named Hugo who was exile by Pinochet in 1973. I am not kidding!!

brianvan (#149)

On the other hand, if miners keep getting trapped in precarious situations, we can finally start buying media company stock again!

Matt (#26)

Needs more #h8 u capitalism!

dr.funke (#336)

Thank you for this. The miners have been stressing me out. I'm tired of them. GAH! THERE! I SAID IT!

Can we have safety reforms and regulations now so we don't have to do this every couple years, please?

caw_caw (#5,641)

The "WSJ op/ed page" is shorthand for batshit crazy.

deepomega (#1,720)

My favorite is when I read conservative bloggers claiming that three different rescue attempts "racing each other" is just like free market competition. No, it is not – it is a race where the prize is…. a little media attention, I guess?

lawyergay (#220)

I have been thinking about exactly this for a couple of days now. And what I was thinking was that this disaster was a failure in every conceivable way of "free-market" capitalism. Thanks for the facts and the links.

Here in the good ol' U S of A, we expect people who are trapped through no fault of their in our socio-economic cave-in to help themselves. In the meantime, our betters in government and business systematically deprive them of the merest of tools for bettering themselves, all while calling them losers.


Abe Sauer (#148)

"Celebrating american greatness" LIVEBLOG!
"Joy of life."

Lockheed Ventura (#5,536)

Only in America.

Abe Sauer (#148)

What should be added to Choire's excellent summation here is that Jeff Hart the Hollywood-character-named hero of american capitalism pointed to by "America Saves" crew makes his money a sa private contractor for the US Government by drilling water wells at FOBs in Afghanistan.

MParcells (#375)

Ahh, but all of these government entities were paid for with taxes that are levied on economic income, holdings, and transactions. Capitalism wins!!

Abe Sauer (#148)

Made possible with infrastructure paid for by government and so on and so on.

Niko Bellic (#1,312)

"Capitalism wins"

Let me guess: you have a job.

KarenUhOh (#19)

Free-Market capitalism, you say? The driving engine that puts premium prices on commodities like coal, and copper? Or, that priceless saviour of the Free-Market economy: Gold?? While we're down there digging, how about some diamonds? To fuel fossil fuel industries, high-end industrial, commercial, and residential components, luxury goods, and ephemeral totems of wealth? To sell ads to Glenn Beck listeners for a mineral they either buy in tiny quantities, or can't afford in the first place?

The same F-MC that drives men and women thousands of feet below the earth, in the service of an desperately antiquated energy industry, industrial systems, and the thirst for profit from the "harvest" of these materials?

Yes. A triumph. Thank God these men are safe. Pray for the thousands who are digging for this stuff, right now.

KarenUhOh (#19)

Stop typing with the hammer, honey.

garge (#736)

Karen, I find that I always find your hammering to be precise and poignant.

Mindpowered (#948)

It's a small "h" hammer.

HiredGoons (#603)

A friend's family owns an African diamond mine. I have to put this in the back my head when visiting them to remain cordial

hockeymom (#143)

Silly Choire.
It's a WSJ OpEd.
It doesn't HAVE to be true.

I know! Choire, honey. If you keep reading the WSJ OpEds and trying to make sense of them, your face will stick that way (i.e. looking confused, disgusted).

Niko Bellic (#1,312)

So what's the WSJ's point here? That free-market capitalism is not a complete failure? Sure, the global economy is going down the shitter, but hey… at least saving 33 Chilean miners from death was a smashing victory! Never mind that they, other miners, and heck… other workers, engineers, teachers and what not around the world (even in US and EU) will continue to live in poverty and desperation, but at least they will not be buried alive and die in horrible deaths underground – a smashing victory for free-market capitalism indeed!

I mean, WSJ is celebrating free-market capitalism the way North Korea celebrates Kim Jong Il: by declaring the greatness. Isn't the whole point of free-market capitalism to abandon such ideological arguments, and to just let it work? It's like boasting of your own modesty. It's completely idiotic.

keisertroll (#1,117)

Capitalism? More like CRAPITALISM!!!


Moff (#28)



Drill baby, drill! Everything might be fucked up and unfair, but at least there's technology. iPads!

mrschem (#1,757)

'…an out-of-control, anti-union, government-regulation defying safety nightmare…'

This sounds familiar.

Mindpowered (#948)

April 5th 2010 West Virginia.

The unhappy, free enterprise, mirror to this.

mrschem (#1,757)

@Mindpowered -

thank you for that.

propertius (#361)

WSJ's aim is to push the definition of capitalism in the direction of market fundamentalism. They'll keep hammering at it in the hope (expectation) that the more moderate view will be forced out.

The side that gets its definition of the terms accepted, wins the debate.

Matt (#26)

You've gotta admit, though. Batman has a lot of money. And he's saved a lot of lives. And millions in property damage alone.

hman (#53)

But the chances of my buying a pair of Oakleys is pretty slim.

Rodger Psczny (#3,912)

The capsule that ferried the miners out (and rescuers in) was made by the Chilean navy. At least, according to Dianne Sawyer.

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