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Market innovation helped the miners; counselling was counter-productive

Today I read two contrasting articles about the wonderful rescue
of the Chilean miners that I strongly recommend, even though both
are a few days old.

The first, by Brendan O’Neill, in Spiked (hat tip: Frank
Stott), reveals the degree to which the miners helped themselves to
cope by defying the psychological experts 700 metres above

The inconvenient truth is that the 33
miners survived underground not as a result of psychological advice
and intervention but by sometimes rebellingagainst
the psychologists who kept a watchful eye on their every move. The
real story of the Chilean miners, for anyone who cares to look, is
that the interventions of the various wings of the trauma industry
often make things worse rather than better, and people are mostly
happier and healthier without them. 

When they rebelled against having hour-long sessions with
therapists, the therapists punished them by witholding treats!

The way the men were treated was like
a microcosm of today’s therapy industry. The censoring of letters
spoke to the idea that people are psychologically fragile and
easily harmed by other people’s words. The deprivation of certain
‘prizes’ if they didn’t speak to the mental-health team revealed
the authoritarian dynamic behind today’s therapeutic interventions.
The notion that they wouldn’t survive without external expertise
highlighted the general view of all of us as needing guidance from
the new gods of emotional correctness.

The second article, by Daniel Henninger in the Wall Street Journal,
reminds us forcibly that it was market-driven innovation that saved
the miners’ lives. Take the center Rock drill bit, for example:

This is the miracle bit that drilled
down to the trapped miners. Center Rock Inc. is a private company
in Berlin, Pa. It has 74 employees. The drill’s rig came from
Schramm Inc. in West Chester, Pa. Seeing the disaster, Center
Rock’s president, Brandon Fisher, called the Chileans to offer his
drill. Chile accepted. The miners are alive.

It was not a government that invented this technology, nor was
life-saving the motive for inventing it.

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. That’s why they innovated down-the-hole hammer
drilling. If they make money, they can do more

Undirected innovation raises living standards all over the
world. And it raised the miners, too.


By Matt Ridley | Tagged:  Uncategorized