Thanks to Daniel Henninger. His commentary in Thursday’s Wall Street Journal is the catalyst for our commentary today.
The 33 miners in Chile who were quite literally resurrected from their grave this week owe their lives in no small measure to two men. The first is Chilean president Sebastián Piñera. The second is a 38-year old man in Pennsylvania named Brandon Fisher.
First, President Piñera. I know next to nothing about the Chilean president save for what I have seen of him in connection with the Chilean mine crisis. But what I have seen is indeed impressive. He is apparently South America’s answer to Rudy Giuliani. When news of the mine disaster first broke, Piñera became engaged. He made timely and repeated visits to the site of the caved in mine, he actively embraced the families of the trapped miners and he used the power and influence of his office to bring forces to bear on solving the problem. Unlike President Obama during the BP oil well blowout, when genuine offers of help poured in from around the world, President Piñera cleared the way for that assistance to come into his country and get to work.
During the BP oil crisis, President Obama fumed and postured and cast about for backsides he could kick. There may very well be some posteriors that need to be kicked as a result of the mine collapse in Chile. But if there are, we have seen no posturing to that effect from President Piñera. He has apparently been too busy trying to actually get the problem solved.
That’s what leaders do.
And then there’s Brandon Fisher. If the Chilean mine had collapsed in 1990, it is unlikely that President Piñera’s best efforts would have led to this week’s triumphant conclusion. But fortunately Brandon Fisher dropped out of college about a decade ago to pursue his fascination with drilling. He is today the founder and CEO of privately held Center Rock, Inc. of Berlin, Pennsylvania. Center Rock is the maker of an innovative drill bit from which it has profited handsomely.
When the disaster broke, Fisher called the Chileans and offered his bit as a means to bore a rescue tunnel to the miners. The Chileans wasted no time accepting.
The miners are now out of the mine.
Center Rock was not alone, however. The drilling rig itself came from Schramm, Inc. of West Chester, Pennsylvania. A German company supplied the cable. A Japanese company supplied the fiber optics that made communication with the miners possible. A Richmond, Virginia company supplied socks that are resistant to bacteria and foot infection. The list goes on. As Matt Moffett reported in the Wall Street Journal on Sept. 30, innovative products that you likely have never heard of poured in to Chile from nearly every corner of the Earth.
Two very important things happened in Chile. First, profit seeking companies from around the world, each armed with the products and innovations from which they seek to get rich in the free market, successfully brought their collective force to bear and averted a heartbreaking human tragedy. And second, the government of Chile was wise enough – and confident enough – to get out of their way.
The lesson is profound. Thirty-three otherwise doomed men are alive today thanks to capitalism and limited government.
Thus the question you can’t help asking, even if you ask it only to yourself, is this: based on what you’ve seen of the two men, when the next crisis hits here at home, whom would you rather have making the decisions, President Piñera or President Obama?