This is a tough one for me:
HUNTINGTON, Utah - If the six trapped miners are alive, they may be sitting in inky darkness, their headlamps having burned out. Wearing thin work clothes in the 58-degree cold, they could be chilled to the bone if water is seeping into their chamber 150 stories below ground.
How much air they might have is anyone's guess.
On Thursday, more than three days after the thunderous cave-in, a drilling rig on the mountain above the Crandall Canyon mine closed in on the men, trying to bore a hole a mere 2 1/2 inches wide to bring them air and lower a two-way communications device and a tiny camera to check for signs of life.
"We may get no noise," cautioned Bob Murray, part owner of the mine. "They may be dead."
I come from a coal-mining family. My father had black lung. One of my mother's brothers was killed in a cave-in, and a still-living uncle had his back broken. I know how dangerous it is down in the mines and how unconcerned about safety many mine owners have been. When there are incidents like this, my first instinct is to scream, "Send the government in and start throwing people in jail."
This, of course, goes against one of my core political beliefs, that the government has gotten far too involved in private matters, interferring in cooperative arrangements among willing adults. People have a choice about where to work and what they will accept and what they won't. There is risk in everything, and miners know their jobs aren't as safe as sitting in an office for eight hours a day.
Even the most hard-core conservative or libertarian accepts the role of government in protecting us against those who would cause harm, both the rogue nation with enemy combatants and the drunked-up robbers who start shooting up banks. But those enemies intend to cause harm. People who might cause harm merely as a byproduct of pursuing their own interests are in a different category. Any effort we let government make to restrain them must inevitably follow the "give 'em an inch" rule. We insist that government make common-sense rules that prevent children from working 12 hours a day in sweat shots, and, sooner or later, some bureaucrat will be hassling a retail-store owner for letting a 16-year-old high school student sell shoes five minutes past twilight.
I'm not going anywhere with this, just ruminating. Real life complicates philosophical purity.