Balkinization  

Saturday, October 16, 2010

Would Eric Cantor or Paul Ryan (let alone Rand Paul or Glen Beck) have saved the Chilean miners

Sandy Levinson

PBS reports that the cost of rescuing the 33 trapped Chilean miners was $10-20 million. A third apparently came from private donations, with the rest from a mix of the state-owned copper company in charge of the effort and the government of Chile itself. Every American law student is told that there is, in the United States, no "duty to rescue." It is, of course, just such a notion of "good Samaritanism" that is the foundation of the welfare state, in which haves see their funds redistributed to have-nots lest the latter end up starving or freezing on the streets or watching their houses burn down because they can't afford to pay the user fee to the local fire department.

The modern Republican Party and its rising "top guns" are Social Darwinists who seem altogether happy with the idea of dismantling the welfare state and leaving it up to rugged individualists to take care of themselves. Glen Beck tells us that "compassion," at least if it takes a governmental form, leads straight to Naziism, and he, even more than Rush Limbaugh, has become the de-facto leader of the current Republican Party. So I ask, entirely non-rhetorically, if anyone who takes pride in this assault on the welfare state--let's repeal Medicare and Social Security, etc., etc., etc.--would have supported spending even a penny of federal funds on a similar rescue in the United States. After all, there are lots of better alternative uses for $10-20 million than rescuing miners who "assumed the risk" of mine accidents. It's scarcely a secret that mining is one of the most dangerous occupations in the world, after all.

Or, let me ask the question in another way: If one was genuinely inspired by the display of social solidarity both by the miners themselves and the Chilean people, including their government and President, can one sturdily cabin that admiration and continue to support those who would dismantle the welfare state? (No doubt some will reply that relying on the market will make things better for everyone, including trapped miners, though there is, of course, not a scintilla of evidence for this ravingly ideological proposition.)

I've done a quick check of recent entries to the Volokh Conspiracy, which I take it is the leading collection of libertarians in the legal academy, and I notice that none of them saw the rescue as worthy of comment. Might it be too threatening for, say, David Bernstein, who announced his forthcoming talk to the Federalist Society (with a comment to follow by Jack Balkin) on his new book that attempts to rehabilitate Lochner, to admit that at least sometimes there is a role for the "rescuing state," which, almost by definition, must take from those who have in order to provide for those who don't? Or is there an ostensible "public purpose" in rescuing miners that doesn't cover, say, supplying medical care to children or food or shelter, among other things, to hungry infants or persons at the other end of the life cycle who, say, saw their savings wiped out by an economic collapse?

Comments:

I see this meme all the time on the left: That if something is worth doing, it ought to be done by government. Ideally at the federal level, because if it's done at the state level, some state might decide not to do it.

And, conversely, if you think something shouldn't be done by government, it can only be because you think it shouldn't be done.

The idea that you could think something isn't an appropriate function of government, but should be done anyway, seems to be anathema to liberals.
 

I interpret Brett's comment as a vote to let 'em die.
 

Since the mine and company are at least partly state owned that will guarantee no clear response to this question. I suppose with the Massey mine accident still fresh in the mind they usual suspects are wary of claiming the state owning the mine was causal in the accident in Chile.

Oh, now I see the first post, which starts from the claim that the 'left' wants state owned mines, and everything else.

That said the 'government' didn't really fund the rescue directly, the company did. Would Massey have funded a rescue effort like this if had been appropriate? We can't know.

The Massey miners killed themselves. The electrician disconnected the gas alarm because they got sick of hearing it, they just wanted 'to get er done'. No union electrician would have done so.

People are free to die for the boss if they want to and others are free to call them free. I call them slaves.
 

Of course, this all assumes that those deemed unworthy of help will stand by passively and await their deserved fate.

I suspect when such people come to believe they've been unjustly denied the succor a civil society should provide, their docile acceptance turns into something pretty nasty.
 

"No union electrician would have done so."

An ironic aside, I hope...
 

Would Eric Cantor or Jonah Goldberg or George Bush have gone down in a mine with a disconnected methane gas alarm? Stupid question. The poor delicate sissys wouldn't work in the worlds safest mine if they could turn tricks in washrooms for Larry Craig first.
 

If we're going to play partisan on a deadly serious topic, let's play partisan. Let's imagine what this would have looked like if the Obama administration had run it:

--First things first, they'd be polling and focusing grouping a response.

--Rahm would remind everyone in the administration that you should never let a crisis go to waste.

--Obama and his telepromter would have been on the scene quickly.

--The unions would have insisted that only union workers be involved in a rescue attempt, and would insist on special new wage and benefit levels for the important work. It's for the miners, after all.

--The place would have been crawling with trial lawyers.

--Democrats in Congress would establish a new federal agency for future rescues.

--The fact that a state-owned mine was the site of a disaster would be taken as an argument for increased involvement by politicians and the state in running the country--both success and failure both are good arguments for a bigger government.

Meanwhile, back in the real world, Layne Christensen, a small public company in Kansas, did the drilling work on the project--Americans with no personal stake dropped everything and traveled half-way around the globe to be of assistance. That's what they do. Which is a hell of a lot more than Levinson has ever done.
 

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I don't understand Sandy's attempt at a gotcha here. He admits that "there are lots of better alternative uses for $10-20 million" than this, but still suggests that only an evil anti-welfare state libertarian would oppose it.

Do people who support the welfare state think that government has unlimited funds and doesn't need to prioritize? Or are they just really bad at math?
 

"The idea that you could think something isn't an appropriate function of government, but should be done anyway, seems to be anathema to liberals."

Brett, I think you're missing the point. The point is not that liberals want the specific entity "the government" to do this. It is that they want an absolute guarantee that if it is possible (like in this situation), they be rescued.

Now, in this particular case, "the government" seems like the most logical entity to do this. The government could mandate the mining company do it, but then there is a chance that the mining company won't or can't comply (or goes bankrupt trying). They could mandate that if the mining company doesn't do it, the remaining mining companies pitch in (and highly regulate their rescue plan), but you would find this an intrusion of big gubmint blah blah blah.

It seems like any solution which provides a guarantee of rescue would not satisfy you -- in other words, you would only be satisfied if there is NO guarantee of rescue. THIS is EXACTLY what liberals have an anathema to, and rightly so.
 

"I don't understand Sandy's attempt at a gotcha here. He admits that "there are lots of better alternative uses for $10-20 million" than this, but still suggests that only an evil anti-welfare state libertarian would oppose it."

David, I don't believe he is "admitting" that there are better alternative uses for $10-20 million from a non-libertarian's perspective. He is playing the character of an absolute libertarian, and saying that an absolute libertarian would find that there are better uses (given that miners "assumed the risk").

A non-libertarian, on the other hand, would say, given that we have orders of magnitude more than tens of millions, we perform the rescue immediately, and relegate all talk of "better uses" of the money directly to the trash bin. Relative to the cost of this mining accident (or the costs of all potential rescues in a given year, etc), we do indeed have "unlimited funds." And furthermore, if the cost reached the point where Congressmen were worried about the budget, the rescue would likely be impossible in time.

So the issue isn't really prioritization, or being bad at math. (If anyone is bad at math, it would be people who think that we don't have unlimited funds relative to this amount of money.)
 

It is correct, that the common law imposes no duty on a citizen to go to the rescue of, say, a drowning man while in civil law countries there is often a provision of criminal or tort law categorised as a "failure to give assistance to a person in danger"

But legislation has long given the UK state the power and the duty to provide rescue services such that there is no part of UK territory not covered by a Fire and Rescue Authority which is publicly funded. Ambulances are provided for the whole country by the Health Authorities.

In our untidy British way, there is a hotchpotch of public and private service. Thus helicopter rescue services are provided by the Air Force and the Navy, some services are provided by HM Coastguard - while the Lifeboat service is the hands of a private law charity - The Royal National Lifeboat Institution.

But none of these services would be regarded in the UK as part of the welfare state" but as part of the structure of government to attend to the public safety.

The expression "welfare state" by contrast covers (i) the provision of a health service for all which is free at the point of delivery; (ii) the provision of compulsory unemployment, sickness benefits and old age pensions for all; (iiii) the provision of long-term benefits for the disabled and others who are unable to work and (iv) the provision of benefits to promote child welfare.

As for the Chilean mine rescue: Firstly, the mine operator was a private company and it went into bankruptcy as soon as the disaster took place. To their credit both the Minister for Mines and the President admitted that the regulatory framework for private mine operators was deficient and took over conduct of the rescue operations.

The drilling of the shaft through which the miners escaped was conducted by a US company, the Chilean Navy designed and constructed the escape capsule and so on - all on the footing that one way or another the state would pick up the bills.

The miners are suing both the company and the state for breach of regulatory duty and since the President has admitted that breach on BBC Television, it seems as if liability will not be a issue.

So I question whether rescue services should be categorised function of the welfare state. Perhaps they are more properly to be regarded as part of the duty of the state to provide emergency response services.
 

"The point is not that liberals want the specific entity "the government" to do this. It is that they want an absolute guarantee that if it is possible (like in this situation), they be rescued."

I'm missing the connection between having the state do something, and ending up with an absolute guarantee that it will be done.

What you really want it an organization dedicated to nothing BUT mine rescues. So that it's not going to prioritize anything else above doing that. Why can't such an organization be privately funded?

See, that's my issue here: Government isn't a last resort for liberals, it's the first resort. You guys don't even try to find a private solution to problems before resorting to government.
 

Sandy --

This "ravingly ideological" post is beneath you, filled as it is with straw men, false dichotomies and gross mischaracterizations. It reads like the left-wing equivalent of a talk radio host who suggests all liberal Democrats are doctrinaire Marxists who wish to abolish private property.

As for the question at hand, one need not believe in a massive welfare state to believe in social solidarity, and believing the current welfare state is too big and wasteful does not make someone a social darwinist or rugged individualist, nor does it mean that the private and public sector should not cooperate to address disasters of this type. I would also note that were it not for the private donation of privately developed technologies, such as the Center Rock Drill bit (donated by the American company that had invented it) the Chilean miners, there would have been no way to save the miners, government action or no.

Jonathan H. Adler
 

Sandy:

There is a fundamental difference between the basic government function of public safety to protect and rescue and the redistributionist welfare state.
 

This "ravingly ideological" post is beneath you, filled as it is with straw men, false dichotomies and gross mischaracterizations.

Given the comments of Brett and DMN, the post seems pretty accurate.

one need not believe in a massive welfare state to believe in social solidarity

Fine words, but what do they mean specifically? Do you see the government as having a rescue duty? I infer that you think it does, but at least some of those usually on your side seem to disagree.

believing the current welfare state is too big and wasteful does not make someone a social darwinist or rugged individualist

Maybe not always, but the comment sections on your own blog demonstrate that it's common enough.

I would also note that were it not for the private donation of privately developed technologies, such as the Center Rock Drill bit (donated by the American company that had invented it) the Chilean miners, there would have been no way to save the miners, government action or no.

If the company had refused to turn over the technology, would you have supported seizure of it (with compensation) for the rescue?
 

Looking at press coverage and their own website, I find Thomas' description of Layne Christensen as a "small" country that the comment implies went "half way around the globe" (Kansas to Chile?) curious.

The website notes its size, subsidiaries and work around the world, including in Afghanistan. The press coverage notes it joined with another firm in the 1990s, and its Latin America associate was involved with the rescue effort.

Talking Points Memo suggests Prof. Levinson's post makes good campaign fodder, Paul's opponent citing his "accidents happen" mentality in response to other major mine disasters in a campaign ad that admittedly has a bit less bit as this post.

One reply over at VC is a bit amusing. It uses the "well, I'm not really qualified" approach. This is what one participant said about torture, mixed with "not really my interest." But, the blog has a diversified interest, multiple times talking about stuff they admit they do not know much about. Things they find "interesting."

It is not really a legal issue directly, which is VC's focus, but this "we aren't qualified" dodge is a bit annoying.
 

small "country" should be "company"

BTW, congrats on the Rangers winning last night.
 

Joe, one of the guys went from Afghanistan to Chile. If you'd like a pointer to google maps, you're out of luck. Layne has a market cap of about $500 million, which I think can be accurately characterized as small. Had you ever heard of it before my comment? That's another example of small.
 

In regards to the post above, I have a comment:

It seems to me that the Philadelphia convention represented a fundamentally different type of "constitutional moment" from subsequent events being given the same title. The transition from the Articles of Confederation to the Constitution, while illegal under the Articles, was over in the space of a few years, and represented a transition from one formal system of governance to another.

While the "constitutional moments" we've seen since have not involved the formal government system being replaced. It's still the same written Constitution, it's just being 'interpreted' as though it were a very different constitution. And the process is still ongoing.

I don't think we can really call this a "constitutional moment" until the formal system changes to ratify the changes.
 

First, this is hindsight bias. A (quasi-)government solution worked out well in this case, ergo government is awesome. Never you mind all those times it isn't.

Second, you're trying to use the most sympathetic beneficiaries of the welfare state to justify all of the welfare state, which doesn't fly. There's a big difference between victims of an industrial accident (atypical) and people who have children they can't afford to take care of (typical).

On top of that, there's a perfectly viable private solution to the problem of rescuing people: Life insurance.

Finally: "...or watching their houses burn down because they can't afford to pay the user fee to the local fire department." is just silly. If you can't afford fire insurance, you can't afford a house. It really is as simple as that.
 

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Just to remember ...

"a small public company in Kansas"

Not "small in its field" or whatever. "A small public company," one "in Kansas."

Now small is one with a 500M cap. And, "in Kansas" means where the home base is, I guess. "Latin American affiliate Geotec Boyles Bros. brought in a Schramm T130 tophead drill, the [press] release stated."

From its website:

"operating more than 50 integrated offices worldwide, staffed with over 2900 permanent employees"

Just a small Kansas company. As to coming from Afghanistan. My confusion was the "no personal stake" comment. Drillers who do international work have "no personal stake" when a major firm (sorry, "small firm") call them to do an international drilling job?

And, since "in Kansas" has a somewhat selective meaning, you can see how I might be confused.

Your post selectively quoted the facts. Toss in your snarky comments beforehand, taking it at face value is not compelled.
 

Mr. Berg.

[1] The fact that he thinks government had a role to play here does not mean he thinks it is "awesome."

[2] The welfare state, like its alternative, has "sympathetic" beneficiaries. He offered this to ask people to draw a line given their philosophy.

[3] Life insurance? You mean paying their survivors when they die? That's probably cheaper than rescuing them, I guess.

[4] He could afford fire insurance. His claim is that he forgot to pay it. Fair bargain, I guess, to have the home burn down (putting aside the animals who died inside) for the few thousand which he could have been docked (with treble damages if necessary) after the fact.

"Mandatory insurance" here would seem useful for the community (a burned shell that might be an invitation for vandals and other miscreants alone seems problematic), with fiscal benefits to the community when some who forget to pay or fall behind have to pay late fees.
 

BTW Thomas, I and many others have not heard of loads of major companies, so I'm unsure how helpful that is to help define "small."
 

I'm not sure what to say to Mr. Adler, since I obviusly don't believe that my tempered comments are 'beneath me." And, yes, it's true, as Mr. Berg suggests, that I'm deliberately picking up on an unusually attractive example (from the perspective of those of us who like the welfare state); but, then, we've all had to suffer through tales of "welfare queens" etc. from opponents of the welfare state. Can't we agree that almost any and all government programs have both "deserving" and "undeserving" recipients, and then we can argue, preferably with evidence, about the relative percentages of each?

I agree with Joe's equation of "buy life insurance" with "let them die." Reading the respones here, and to Ilya Somin's posting on the Volokh Conspiracy, I do believe that the rescue is, at the least, an embarrassment for libertarians, since it really is hard to figure out a justification for rescuing the miners (by the state, with taxpayer money) that doesn't end up defending some form of the welfare state for other vulnerable people.
 

"[4] He could afford fire insurance. His claim is that he forgot to pay it."

And "claim" is the word; We're talking about somebody with a history of not paying his fire coverage, despite having had his burning house extinguished just a few years earlier. But I suppose acknowledging that he was gaming the system would make him less useful fodder for propaganda.
 

But it's not an embarrassment for libertarians. The fact that this accident happened at a state owned mine ought, rather, be an embarrassment for non-libertarians.

Why the relentless insistence on equating, "This isn't a job for government." with, "This job shouldn't be done."? Is it really that hard to envision things like this being done in the private sector?
 

Brett, do you have a source for the claim that the Chilean government owned the mine? I've seen elsewhere that a private company owned it (or at least had an operator's lease).

BTW, I think it's often true that extraction companies don't own the land. Logging companies almost never do, and it's often that way with mining companies as well. Do you therefore believe that the government should take responsibility in all such cases?
 

I'm not sure what to say to Mr. Adler, since I obviusly don't believe that my tempered comments are 'beneath me."

There's nothing you should say. Even if you were harsh -- and I don't think you were -- you posed what is obviously a very uncomfortable challenge to the libertarians, as can be seen in the comment threads at VC.
 

What I believe is that, if you want a job done, you want an organization which does little else. Not to assign the job to an organization which does 20,000 other things.

And I believe that you should try doing something in a non-coercive fashion, and prove you can't do it that way, before resorting to coercion to accomplish it.

And, having done that, and failed, you should consider whether the moral cost of accomplishing it by government isn't higher than the moral cost of not accomplishing it.

And only once you've passed those three hurdles should you resort to government. Which resort does, after all, boil down to deciding that you'll shoot people who won't kick in for your cause.

On the question of whether the mine was privately run, I was wrong. Happens occasionally...
 

@Brett:

Ok, so we should wait for the market to provide dedicated mine-resuce operations. Until then, we should let miners in such accidents die. Yes?
 

What I believe is that, if you want a job done, you want an organization which does little else. Not to assign the job to an organization which does 20,000 other things.

I don't think anyone believes that the Chilean president should have dug them out personally. The issue is whether the government should be responsible for the rescue, i.e. whether the government should organize it or pay for it or supervise it if the mining company can't.

I can't tell what your response is to this, since you might decide to weigh the costs differently than I would (your second consideration).
 

The idea that you could think something isn't an appropriate function of government, but should be done anyway, seems to be anathema to liberals.

Utter nonsense. Religion, for example, is something that should be done anyway, but isn't an appropriate function of government. Reducing the number of abortions is another, more controversial, example. You could make a list as long as Highway 40 of things that liberals think government shouldn't do, but should be done anyway.

If touting the power of government is a liberal conceit, touting the power of private concerns is the conservative conceit. Both camps--such as they actually exist--are dead wrong.

What I believe is that, if you want a job done, you want an organization which does little else. Not to assign the job to an organization which does 20,000 other things.

Fair enough. Of course, the reason that the government can do 20,000 things is that there are 20,000 different organizations within it. It's not like Biden would be running the drill.

But even a mine rescue company that only does mine rescues must diversify itself, else its business plan will be:

1. Rescue miners
2. ???
3. Profit!

Even a non-profit has expenses. Who pays them? The miners? The company? The American people (voluntarily out of the kindness of their own hearts)?

What incentive does a private interest that is focused on maximizing profit have to establish safeguards for its employees? Do they start one of Ian's accounts ("we'll have 30 accident-free days this month or we'll pay out 30 million dollars?")?

See, that's my issue here: Government isn't a last resort for liberals, it's the first resort. You guys don't even try to find a private solution to problems before resorting to government.

That's my issue here, too. A lot of the "private solutions" bandied about have already been tried in the late nineteenth century and early twentieth century. We know what happens when business runs unchecked. What assurances are there that such abuses won't occur again, given a contemporary climate of supposedly "oppressive" government intervention wherein CEOs can still piss away the lives/livelihoods of their employees and collect bonuses in the progress?

For both paths, there is a desperate lack of accountability. In my opinion, politicians are more liable to be held accountable for their action or inaction (and that of their subordinates) than business leaders are. However, given the interconnectedness (perhaps best noted by Mills' "power elite" concept) between these arenas, accountability seems impossible to enforce. It's all about foxes guarding the henhouse--the question is which henhouse you prefer to have guarded: autarkophilic independence or societal well-being.

There are good reasons to support either--and better reasons to support both, but such a thing would require some level of compromise--a dirty word in both camps, but much dirtier among conservatives in my experience.
 

Brett, you really need to get your ignorant ass over to Somalia.
 

"Ok, so we should wait for the market to provide dedicated mine-resuce operations."

Why should we wait? The market is just the non-coercive actions of all individuals; You don't wait for the market to do something, you freaking DO IT, in the market.

Don't be so passive: If you think something is important, get off your rear and do it. Don't just wait for the government to do it...
 

If you think something is important, get off your rear and do it. Don't just wait for the government to do it...

Brett, the market doesn't care about "important", it cares about profit. There isn't a lot of profit in rescuing poor miners. Seriously, get your ignorant ass to Somalia.
 

Joe, honestly, you're an idiot, and, worse, you're an annoying one. Definitional games are great when done well, but your game playing is awful and a waste of time. The Mexican restaurant around the corner from me dominates the neighborhood market for Mexican food, and if I were a moron I might say that it's not a small operation because of that. So let me be clear that I'm just using terms in the ordinary sense, and no in some specialized and ridiculous way, as you'd have it. So when I say, no personal stake, I mean, no personal stake, as in no personal reason to be there round the clock for weeks. Not friends, not neighbors, not countrymen, just fellow human beings.

I jokingly suggested that someone would propose a permanent bureaucracy, and we see beginnings of that in all seriousness now. If the market can't do it--even though, in this case, it actually did--we'll need a permanent government agency, presumably with well paid unionized workers, and presumably advised by the poor graduates of Levinson's law school.

Adler has it wrong, by the way: this isn't beneath Levinson. This is right on par with his typical political commentary. Adler just hasn't been paying attention.

Solidary is a funny concept. Presumably if the state doesn't have enough resources, those who suck at the public teat and have more than enough can give some back. I'm thinking in particular of highly paid law professors at state universities. Surely there's a kid in Texas to whom Levinson can start showing some solidarity. I mean, he could do something for a change, other than just vote for Democrats and make this kind of argument.
 

Mr. DePalma, for all that he sometimes irritates me with his arguments, has never been dicourteous to me in his postings. That is also true of Brett. I appreciate that.

Let be clear (though, for some on this list, I think it may be hopeless to try to clarify): I don't believe that the state need have available all the machinery necessary to rescue trapped miners. It is fine with me if they purchase such services from the market, as Chile presumably did. The point is that Chile was willing to spend public funds to hire the private agencies, which is absolutely fine with me. It is always open to argument whether it is better to rely on the private market to create certain goods and services (such as highly expensive drilling units) or to have the state do it. The whole argument vis-a-vis the welfare state is what happens when vulnerable people can't afford to pay the market price. Should, at least on occasion, a solidaristic state step in and purchase the good and/or service to "rescue" the vulnerable. None of this need occasion the creation of new gigantic bureaucracies.
 

"The point is not that liberals want the specific entity 'the government' to do this. It is that they want an absolute guarantee that if it is possible (like in this situation), they be rescued. … It seems like any solution which provides a guarantee of rescue would not satisfy you -- in other words, you would only be satisfied if there is NO guarantee of rescue. THIS is EXACTLY what liberals have an anathema to, and rightly so."

John's post gets to the crux of the difference between liberals (really, a synonym for statists) and conservatives:

Liberals/statists believe that the average citizen is clueless, and/or myopic, and/or reactionary, and/or greedy, and/or egotistical, and/or racist, and/or (neo)fascist, and/or unloving of his fellow man — in one word, unworthy of trust and therefore in need of his betters, the enlightened people in the élite, aka the epitomes of tolerance and generosity (such as the Great Helmsman of our age, aka the Spiritual Guide for clueless American clods, Barack Obama), to take the reins and rule in the interest of all.

Conservatives believe — nay, they know — that the average citizen is good and generous in addition to being endowed with common sense and that, generally speaking, society can be trusted to take care of itself without chaos (and weeping and gnashing of teeth) erupting. Without that premise, without the truth of that premise, Americans should have remained under the rule of George III, because the Declaration of Independence and the Constitution, along with the natural laws of man, make no sense at all.

Incidentally, Glenn Reynolds has (very specific) examples of the latter viewpoint…

http://pajamasmedia.com/instapundit/108104/

"…if you’re looking for counterexamples, I think the post 9/11 'American Dunkirk,' where roughly a million people were evacuated from lower Manhattan by private action seems pretty good…"

Reader John Burgess writes: “Don’t forget US Airway Flt 1549, ditching into the Hudson. The 155 passengers and crew were rescued by commercial vessels, not the fire department, not the Coast Guard, not the NYPD.”

And then there's
"How American industry aided the Chilean rescue"

http://www.washingtonexaminer.com/opinion/How-American-industry-aided-the-Chilean-rescue-1229692-105064024.html

The millions who watched should know that it was mainly American ingenuity and technological prowess that made the rescue possible. Unfortunately, President Obama is apparently so invested in demonizing American free enterprise that it never occurred to him to give credit where it's due.
 

"The point is not that liberals want the specific entity 'the government' to do this. It is that they want an absolute guarantee that if it is possible (like in this situation), they be rescued. … It seems like any solution which provides a guarantee of rescue would not satisfy you -- in other words, you would only be satisfied if there is NO guarantee of rescue. THIS is EXACTLY what liberals have an anathema to, and rightly so."

John's post gets to the crux of the difference between liberals (really, a synonym for statists) and conservatives:

Liberals/statists believe that the average citizen is clueless, and/or myopic, and/or reactionary, and/or greedy, and/or egotistical, and/or racist, and/or (neo)fascist, and/or unloving of his fellow man — in one word, unworthy of trust and therefore in need of his betters, the enlightened people in the élite, aka the epitomes of tolerance and generosity (such as the Great Helmsman of our age, aka the Spiritual Guide for clueless American clods, Barack Obama), to take the reins and rule in the interest of all.

Conservatives believe — nay, they know — that the average citizen is good and generous in addition to being endowed with common sense and that, generally speaking, society can be trusted to take care of itself without chaos (and weeping and gnashing of teeth) erupting. Without that premise, without the truth of that premise, Americans should have remained under the rule of George III, because the Declaration of Independence and the Constitution, along with the natural laws of man, make no sense at all.
 

"the market doesn't care about 'important', it cares about profit. There isn't a lot of profit in rescuing poor miners."

Bartbuster's comment illustrates perfectly my previous post about the liberal/statist viewpoint (about the average citizen having no humanity whatsoever and thus being in need of oversight).

On the contrary, caring about one's miners (one's workers) as well as one's clients is not only correct and human, it is in one's (financial) interest and therefore (immensely?) profitable.

Remember when leaders of Congress hauled in the CEOs of airline companies, saying that without federal oversight, planes would be falling out of the sky? Nonsense. Having content (and trusting) passengers (clients) as well as content (and trusting) employees is the only way to run a business…

What a public relations coup the mining rescue — and hence, future profits (financial or otherwise) — was for everybody involved (never mind the correctness and basic humanity of the deed), from Chile's president to the private American company involved in the rescue. How long would any company hope to stay in business with the public — and with the fellow companies with which it does business — knowing it had allowed its miners (its worker) to suffer and die a gruesome death?! Who would be willing to trust it?!

Even in the worst-case scenario — of fellow businesses being offhand willing to overlook such disgraceful behavior and being willing to trust its CEOs, regardless, with business deals and contracts — those companies would have their public image to contend with (never mind that of the mine itself), and would therefore have to give up any ties to it…
 

Erik, if the private sector wants to rescue the miners, that's great. Wonderful. The point is that if the private sector (for WHATEVER reason) doesn't want to rescue the miners, or doesn't do a good job of doing it, the government should step in.

In other words, it should not be simultaneously possible that the miners can be rescued but the miners aren't rescued. The government makes sure that both statements are not true simultaneously.

Now, you equate a government that provides such a guarantee, to living under George III. I think this kind of language speaks for itself, as to why very few people take libertarians seriously.
 

Bartbuster, the market includes these entities known as 'charities', which are neither required to make a profit, nor empowered to shoot you if you don't ante up. I'd assumed you'd heard of them...
 

Bartbuster, the market includes these entities known as 'charities', which are neither required to make a profit, nor empowered to shoot you if you don't ante up. I'd assumed you'd heard of them...
# posted by Brett : 6:14 AM


Yes, I've heard of them. That's the Somalia rescue plan. When are you leaving?
 

How long would any company hope to stay in business with the public — and with the fellow companies with which it does business — knowing it had allowed its miners (its worker) to suffer and die a gruesome death?! Who would be willing to trust it?!

Massey Energy seems to be doing quite well, despite a number of well-publicized mine disasters. Do libertarians ever notice how regularly the real world refutes their dogma?
 

Erik's comment is, not surprisingly, the exact opposite of the truth. For over 200 years liberals have taken the optimistic view of other people, while conservatives have been more skeptical. It's one of the enduring, definitional characteristics of the two sides.
 

How long would any company hope to stay in business with the public — and with the fellow companies with which it does business — knowing it had allowed its miners (its worker) to suffer and die a gruesome death?! Who would be willing to trust it?!

Have you ever entered a Wal-Mart? People want low prices (so do companies!) and mostly they don't seem to care about whatever abuses might be taking place in the factories and mines of places like China and Indonesia.

And who can blame them? Those places produce goods cheaply, so their products regularly appear in stores aimed at the cost-cutting family. Those families could certainly choose to buy the American brand equivalent, but in doing so, they might not be able to afford the goods they require. Freedom of choice is a luxury, not a right.

There's no economic incentive for them to avoid a product made by a company that disregards the safety of its workers. Likewise, if regulations are thrown out in favor of "small government" or "free markets," there's little incentive for an American company to show any special regard towards the safety of its workers or clients--at least not on the basis of a relationship with the public or other companies.
 

As I understand it, the Chilean mining company was (or went) bankrupt at the time of the accident. Staying in business wasn't an option, regardless of logical incentives.

And to PMS's point about the impact of incentives on worker safety, the historical record of the US demonstrates very strongly that mining companies in particular can stay in business despite abysmal safety records.
 

I hope that I wasn't thought to be discourteous for pointing out that solidarity might require that law professors who are getting rich off of public funds might need to give up something so that their fellow countrymen in need can have more. Surely that's obvious to the proponents of solidarity. I say, let's get all the law professors off the public fisc and put those resources toward the poor.

Levinson suggests that he isn't necessarily committed to the view that the state needs to have the machinery available to rescue trapped miners, and isn't committed to the view that we need a new bureaucracy to handle such tasks. I think perhaps this means he isn't as committed to solidarity as he suggested. What if the market doesn't develop the tools needed? Are we to just let people in need--like these miners--die? It isn't right to say that the "whole argument vis-a-vis the welfare state is what happens when vulnerable people can't afford to pay the market price." Much of the welfare state is simple transfers of resources, but not all. There's plenty of examples of government provision of goods. Come on Levinson, have some courage here: insist on the right to the rescue, even if the market doesn't want to provide it.

Of course, there will need to be responsibility for those receiving Levinson's largesse. We can't have people taking unnecessary risks, not when we're commmitted to their rescue. Perhaps some kinds of adventures should be banned, and some kinds of food, and obesity taxed, and indolence discouraged, and we should all be required to see our physicians at least once a year, and so on. Levinson is commmitted to these infringements on liberty too, and he should advertise that commitment as well. If you are the sort who is inspired by these rescue attempts, Levinson should remind you that someone was probably taking unnecessary risks here, and since we're paying for these rescues, we need to think hard about whether those choices were appropriate. Levinson forgot to be the scold here, he was so busy chasing the libertarians.
 

If libertarians back then had had their way, would there be an FDA today?
 

Statistics on relative approvals of drugs in this and other countries, compared to harm done by mistakenly approved drugs, suggest that we'd be better off if we DIDN'T have a FDA; A pity the people who die from bad drugs make the headlines, but the people who die because the treatments for their conditions were delayed or prevented die in anonymity.

Bartbuster, I'll make you a deal: You stop suggesting I move to Somalia, and I'll refrain from suggesting you move to North Korea...
 

Bartbuster, I'll make you a deal: You stop suggesting I move to Somalia, and I'll refrain from suggesting you move to North Korea...
# posted by Brett : 5:44 PM


Brett, I'm not trying to bring North Korea here. You, on the other hand, are definitely trying to bring Somalia here. You want lots of guns and no government, move your ignorant ass to Somalia.
 

Statistics on relative approvals of drugs in this and other countries, compared to harm done by mistakenly approved drugs, suggest that we'd be better off if we DIDN'T have a FDA

Ignoring for the moment that approving drugs is not the only thing the FDA does, I like to see those stats.
 

So the medical free market should determine radiation and chemo levels of treatment for whatever medical conditions? Who knows, a full head of hair might result as a side effect. And damn those limitations on vaccines! Let's go for the water cure, and enjoy the quack, quack, quack of medical quackery. Maybe a Christine in the Senate might bring back witch doctors. New Libertarian bumper sticker: GIVE ME LIBERTY AND GIVE ME DEATH!
 

The millions who watched should know that it was mainly American ingenuity and technological prowess that made the rescue possible. Unfortunately, President Obama is apparently so invested in demonizing American free enterprise that it never occurred to him to give credit where it's due.

Yeah, except when it did.

"Let me also commend so many people of goodwill, not only in Chile, but also from the United States and around the world, who are lending a hand in this rescue effort -- from the NASA team that helped design the escape vehicle, to American companies that manufactured and delivered parts of the rescue drill, to the American engineer who flew in from Afghanistan to operate the drill." --Barack Obama, Oct. 13, 2010

For those playing the home game, that speech was given two days before David Jackson's article posted. So it's not only a false statement, but bad journalism, too.
 

Brandon Berg writes:-

"Finally: "...or watching their houses burn down because they can't afford to pay the user fee to the local fire department." is just silly. If you can't afford fire insurance, you can't afford a house. It really is as simple as that."

Silly?

Citizen A has a house which he insures. It is next to a house owned by Citizen B which carries no insurance.

Citizen B negligently allows a fire in his garden incinerator to get out of control - it sets fire to B's House and the flames spread to house A.

A has a claim in negligence against B which he (or his insurers by subrogation) can pursue. But B is unlikely to be worth powder and shot because what is likely to be his principal asset has just burned down. Should B's insurance premium be inflated because of that risk?

Therefore the optimum solution is for everyone in an urban environment to be obliged to bear the costs of the fire and rescue service paid for out of property taxes so as enable the fire to be put out irrespective of the insurance position so that the insured neighbour's house is not at risk from a spreading fire.

If one lives on a ranch in the depths of the wilderness, no fire engine is going to attend in time so the position may be factually different.

The same argument could apply to a municipal sewage system. Ought individual householders be allowed to cause a public nuisance by discharging their untreated domestic sewage as they see fit or is this a matter for reasonable regulation in the interests of public heath? Either you join the public system and pay the charges or you provide an adequate self-contained treatment system such that your effluent does not represent a health risk.
 

Here you go, bartbuster. The bottom line: The FDA is considerably slower at approving drugs than many of it's foreign counterparts, but not appreciably better at filtering out bad drugs. The result is that Americans get the disadvantage of new drugs being available later, without any compensating advantage.

"Who knows, a full head of hair might result as a side effect."

Heh, funny you should mention that. Chemo was more effective than rogaine in that regard, in my case. (Not at all unusual, my oncologist says.) I should really update that picture, now that I've got my hair back...

Aside from that, I'm not at all sure what your argument is, beyond, "Libertarian, ghah!" (To be sure, a common argument on the left.) Working for the government does not endow people with any special moral virtues, and in many cases provides them with quite perverse incentives.

It's hardly lost on regulators that they get no credit for the good drugs they approve, but stand to catch hell should they ever let a bad drug slip through. They, thus, have a pretty strong incentive to error on the side of not approving new drugs, even though this can have a major cost in human lives.

You add up all the suffering caused by Thalidomide, and it's not a blip compared to the suffering the FDA has caused by slowing medical progress.
 

Brett concludes:

"You add up all the suffering caused by Thalidomide, and it's not a blip compared to the suffering the FDA has caused by slowing medical progress."

The FDA is not perfect. Nor was the medical free market. But for the FDA, going back to the early 1920s, what would the medical free market have wrought upon the public based upon the history of medical quackery? To repeat, the FDA is not perfect. But as a high school classmate of mine used to say: "Halitosis is better than no breath at all." Just look at the history of medical devices despite the FDA until it became necessary to adopt the Medical Device Act in 1975 (as I recall). Can Brett tell us, other than anecdotally, what FDA slowness has caused as compared to what the medical free market might provide at who knows what costs that most probably most could not afford? Hair-raising? No, Brett is not the center of anyone's universe other than from his own libertarian view through the wrong end of the telescope. I agree with Mark Field's interpretation responding to Brett's initial comment. Brett doesn't give a rat's ass for anyone but his own personal universe.
 

Here you go, bartbuster. The bottom line: The FDA is considerably slower at approving drugs than many of it's foreign counterparts, but not appreciably better at filtering out bad drugs. The result is that Americans get the disadvantage of new drugs being available later, without any compensating advantage.

# posted by Brett : 5:26 AM


Brett, that article does not support your claims. It's not enough to claim that X number of lives would have been saved if drug Y were approved faster. You also have to show that the FDA didn't save even more lives by stopping drugs that were unsafe. You didn't even attempt to do that.

BTW, whether the FDA is not as efficient as it's counterparts is irrelevant. It's counterparts are also government agencies. You have to show that the drug companies would do a better job of policing themselves. Good luck with that.

Brett, this is an argument that you can't possibly win. Every country that fits the criteria you have set (lots of guns and weak/no government) ends up looking like Somalia. There are no exceptions.
 

There are no exceptions.
# posted by Bartbuster : 9:11 AM


Actually, there are some exceptions. They sometimes end up looking like Nazi Germany.
 

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