Public administration is necessary for the adequate functioning of all spheres of human life, ensuring the safety of citizens and their property. Unfortunately, modern realities indicate that American society has moved far from this ideal. This paper aims to examine four cases of mine explosions in which dozens of people died, as well as discuss the need for government in this context, applying the principles developed by Ezra Benson and Aristotle.
Four Mine Disasters – Similarities and Common Threads
One of the most famous cases is the explosion at the Centralia bituminous and lignite mine, Illinois. The explosion occurred in 1947 and killed 111 people, 31 more miners managed to escape. Mine inspector Scanlan, who investigated the causes of the disaster, suggested that the explosion was caused by the formation of coal dust and failure to adopt measures that would prevent dust. Scanlan subsequently stated the need to solve the problem of coal dust, or to close the mine and create a team of well-equipped rescuers.
Half a century later, the American people were shocked by another disaster – the explosion at the Sago mine in West Virginia, which killed 12 people. The explosion occurred on January 2, 2006, immediately after the New Year holidays. Sago Mine is owned by Wolf Run Mining Company, a subsidiary of Hunter Ridge Mining Company, which, in turn, is a subsidiary of International Coal Group Inc., founded by investor Wilbur Ross.
According to the owner’s version, the explosion occurred because of a lightning strike and the subsequent ignition of methane. Nonetheless, the Mine Safety and Health Administration (MSNA) investigation determined inadequate technical conditions to be the real reason, the only survivor of the disaster also testified to this. Presumably, the tunnel spraying equipment did not work, resulting in coal dust and sparks. Moreover, the ventilation system was not set up in the mine after workers had discovered a serious methane leak a few days before. Only one person died in the explosion, and another 11 suffocated from toxic gas, waiting for rescuers in the corridors of the mine.
Another case of the death of 6 miners occurred at the Crandall Canyon mine in Utah on August 6, 2007. MSNA issued warnings to the mine owners about the non-compliance of the mine with technical requirements. These warnings were ignored, even though from 2004 to 2007, MSNA issued 325 such alerts. Crandall Canyon Mine is owned by Utah American Energy, a subsidiary of Murray Energy Corporation (Grey). The president and CEO of Murray Energy Robert Murray is “a major Republican party donor who is closely associated with the Bush administration and the leadership of the Republican Congress” (Grey). He insisted that the explosion occurred as a result of a local earthquake, which was recorded by the US Geological Survey. But MSNA denied this version, noting that it was the explosion that caused an earthquake. It is noteworthy that the mine was located in the Manti-La Salle National Forest, in the protected area.
Finally, the most recent explosion happened in the Upper Big Branch in West Virginia, owned by Massey Energy. The disaster occurred on April 5, 2010, and claimed the lives of 29 miners. MSNA noted that improper technical conditions led to the accumulation of coal dust and the formation of sparks, which met a source of methane gas and caused the explosion. However, the Massey Energy representative mentioned that “the explosion was caused by an unpredictable and natural infusion of methane” (Berkesh). Thus, the mine owners once again decided to deny the responsibility for the lives of their employees.
The Necessity of Government
The attitude of the authorities regarding occupational safety indicates that the interests of companies owning mines are often higher than those of mine workers. In his book “Politics” Aristotle says that since a person is a “political animal,” he needs to live in society, and this society must have the form of a state and have a ruler. Then, the ruler leads the community in the right direction. Sadly, in our days, this principle is not fully respected.
According to Aristotle, if people obey the authority of the city-state, this will make their life happier. The philosopher also notes that social life is much more virtuous than private. According to Aristotle, a person has such a nature that only a community can curb it, and outside of society, a person becomes worse than an animal. These are reasonable statements, but in this case, the life of the community strongly depends on how virtuous the ruler is.
The Role of Government
In his article “The Proper Role of Government,” Ezra Benson notes that God endowed man with inalienable rights and freedoms, and therefore only God can take away these rights. Besides, the government can possess only those freedoms that one person owns. Consequently, the actions of the government should be aimed exclusively at protecting the safety and well-being of an individual. In this regard, citizens should participate in ensuring the implementation of these tasks by paying taxes. Benson emphasizes that laws and government actions should preserve freedom. The politician also assigns a vital role to the local government, noting that any task should be performed by the representative of the government at the lowest level.
Thus, four cases of the mine explosions were compared and discussed. Besides, the explanations were given regarding the role and necessity of government following Aristotle’s and Ezra Benson’s ideas. To summarize it, the government must first protect the security of its citizens and must exist solely for the well-being of its citizens. However, in modern society, this principle is too often violated, which leads to sad consequences.