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Unsung Chilean mine heroes

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Image: Brandon Fisher and Center Rock

The rescue of the Chilean miners gave two small Pennsylvania drilling-equipment companies a priceless opportunity to display their products on a global stage.

The drilling rig that blasted though more than 2,000 feet of rock was made by Schramm Inc. of West Chester, Pa., near Philadelphia, and the drilling bits came from Center Rock Inc. of Berlin, Pa., 80 miles southeast of Pittsburgh.

This news has not received much attention, and I'd like to take a moment to step even farther back, away from West Chester (my father's home town) and note that Brits who developed the tools for the Industrial Revolution and the creation of precise, phenomenally powerful machines made this rescue possible - even as that same revolution put men inside the earth in the first place. Inventiveness and engineering have given us inexpensive clothes, warm, well-lit houses, high speed transportation and comforts we take for granted - initially at a tremendous cost in wellbeing to 19th century Brits working in factories. What pulled them through was a rebellious spirit and teamwork as they created trade organisations which achieved higher wages and improved working conditions and as hard-working, job-creating entrepreneurs built globally successful companies. You can hear that same spirit in the words of Brandon Fisher -

'We have the ability to help them out, and that's the whole reason we are here. Miners are miners; it doesn't matter what country they are from.'

Well, there's another reason, too.

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 innovation.

There were Japanese, Korean and German companies involved in saving the miners, too. They were there because they had built for-profit companies in the spirit of the free economy first described by Adam Smith. He understood that the free economy was created over many generations, and that it was based on liberty, honesty and co-operation. In Britain and in America, there are people who have forgotten that, and since those are the same people who think they can run our lives from Washington and Westminster, we are living with the consequences.

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