by Jim Davies, 10/15/2010
The splendid rescue this week of 33 trapped miners in Chile drew this comment from MSNBC's Chris Matthews on October 13th:
Richard Trumka, his AFL-CIO guest on Hardball, agreed. This nicely illustrates how tightly TV moguls and Union leaders are clinging to a failed paradigm - that we need to be managed by a wise and compassionate government, which will confiscate what we earn and distribute it "fairly."
Matthews got it completely wrong, in that rather few, alas, of the "Tea Party people" desire a zero government society. But I do, so I'll respond. He's even more badly wrong in his nasty implication that if (the Chilean) government hadn't forced it, the mining company (Codelco) would have left its miners underground to die. Evidently, he didn't even check - but in fact it's the "Chilean State owned copper mining company formed in 1976 from the foreign owned copper companies that were nationalized in 1971" according to Wikipedia. So if the rock collapse resulted from some violation of rules, one part of that government was ignoring another part; a government mine that failed to observe its own safety regulations.
The rescue cost between ten and twenty million dollars, or about one-thousandth part of Codelco's $14B annual revenues. How would a free-market mining firm have handled that expense?
It would most likely have been much smaller, because giant monopolies can survive only with government protection - so let's say it was one-hundredth the size of Codelco. Then the rescue would have cost it about one month's revenue, or perhaps as much as its profit for one year. Would its directors have chosen to spend that, or let the trapped miners die? Even if we pretend its owners had no human compassion at all, a hard-nosed business decision would have been to spend that single month's revenue and perform the rescue. The cost of lost business, had they shown no compassion, would have been far greater, due to the bad reputation that action would earn them in the marketplace; and then there's the probability of being sued for compensation by the dead miners' dependents.
There's more: in this actual, Codelco case the rescue succeeded in large part because of the free-market development of a rock drill by the Center Rock Company of Berlin, PA. Funny that Matthews didn't notice this glowing account, published by his own network. Lastly, one-third of its cost was contributed by voluntary donors, even though Codelco could have relied on the relatively vast (but stolen) resources of the Chilean government. One has to wonder what twisted view of human nature is held by this apologist for statism, that he thinks people in a zero government society would have been any less generous.