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The 33 trapped Chilean miners have moved to stop any individual from profiting at the expense of the group, drawing up a legal contract to share the proceeds from the story of their ordeal.

The group have already rejected requests for interviews and have instead made plans to jointly write a book about the days spent trapped below the Atacama Desert following the mine collapse on August 5.

We'll see if that holds up.  The full story is here and for the pointer I thank Eric Hartley.  Is it unethical to pay an individual miner for the story of the group?

Comments

How good can the story be? "Day 2: Sat in the dark. Day 3: Sat in the dark. Day 4: Sat in the dark. Day 5: Sat in the dark...."

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I'm willing to bet that the first 18 days before the first relief well had been drilled could hold some pretty interesting and/or disturbing details.

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I don't know if it's unethical. I guess it depends. If others are willing to talk, then yes it would be unethical because a more accurate story is likely to come about if you get it from multiple people. If only one person is willing or able to talk about it, then no it's not unethical. Another possibility is that one person's story differs radically from everyone else's. Then it might be unethical unless there is some physical evidence that the minority viewpoint is likely to be more accurate.

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The contract creates an implicit 32/33 (=97%) tax rate on any work done by the miners on the book (or other related work). And then you add income taxes, making the final implicit tax rate closer to 98 or 99%. So who's gonna write the book?

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"How good can the story be? "Day 2: Sat in the dark. Day 3: Sat in the dark. Day 4: Sat in the dark. Day 5: Sat in the dark...."

That was my original thought.

Anyway, seems this collusion is a bad idea. Anyway, I find the question, "Is it unethical to pay an individual miner for the story of the group?" to be wrongly construed. The individual miner would be presumedly paid for his perspective of the events. There is no group story to be told, as a group doesn't have one conciousness. Moreover, it seems there would be more money to be made if the miners agreed to share all profits relating to recollection of the events, rather than collude to make one book on the matter.

That this isn't the tract they took suggests maybe there are details some wan't quelled.

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This contract is the only ethical thing that they could have done. There is no market for 33 ghostwritten books on this, and simply rushing to be the first to get a book out both will result in a crummier product for the readers and a slap in the face (or stab in the back) to the other miners.

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I thought miners weren't allowed to enter into contracts.

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They face the prisoners' dilemma of oligopolistic cooperation, we'll see if they end up at the Nash equilibrium.

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Couldn't they make more money if they come out with more than one book?

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liberal economists just don't get that fairness matters to people.

The miners have experienced something as a group, together and have vowed not to use the shared experience for opportunistic purposes. This seems only fair.

Will some, perhaps more outspoken, miners break with this pact? Maybe. But will the loss of friendship that probably will proceed from this action be worth it? I think at the end of their lives they will look back and probably say no. By which time they will not be able to learn from their selfish mistakes.

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The fairness issue is a big one, part of I think an even larger issue of individualism versus willingness to submerge one's individuality within a group.

I'm not sure if many groups of Americans, even American miners, could have lived cooped up in those close quarters without extreme friction or even a breakdown of the social order. Reports say that the miners worked out numerous details of daily life: everyone divided into three shifts; everyone required to eat at the communal table, etc. Most Americans consent to those regulations only in strongly hierarchical situations, e.g. the military, or primary and secondary school.

When put into a stressful, long-term environment, Americans sometimes react like (pick your favorite -- the crew of Apollo 13, the Lewis and Clark Expedition, whatever), but they also sometimes react like say, the Donner Party or the crew of the whaleship Essex (I don't mean the cannibalism part, I mean the breakdown of social order: dissolving into factions, rebelling against authority, and resorting to violence).

Individually, many of us Americans could survive fine cooped up for two months underground; soloists go on tran-oceanic voyages or cross-country backpacks all the time. But 33 random Americans (or even 33 co-workers) forced to live and cooperate with each other continuously for two months? I don't know how many of us could do it.

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The decision of the miners to split the profit was the best action to take in their situation. This gives all the miners equal compensation for their story. They all had to go through it so why should one miner get paid more for his story then another miner sharing the same story from his point of view. In the end the miners decided to be ethically responsible and split their compensation evenly.

Also, being trapped in a mine don't you think the miners are more worried about surviving rather than the money they could possibly make when getting out? I do not know maybe it is more comfortable in a mine than I thought.

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"How good can the story be? "Day 2: Sat in the dark. Day 3: Sat in the dark. Day 4: Sat in the dark. Day 5: Sat in the dark....""

No, this is the story of the financial crisis, from the bank officials or financial regulators standpoint. Miners probably found ways to adapt to darkness and get a life.

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Well, history is always a good place to start as a reference point. In this case the story of "Alive" or The Andean Flight Disaster comes to mind. Terrible things happened in there, and the story came out in many forms, firstly as a group story but eventually some individual heroes emerged from it. Both sides equally fascinating!

In the end, history is only written by the survivors and inevitably every situation gives room to a personal experience and a very personal point of view from each individual involved.

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Jim and Ryan, I actually think that the agreement arises from individual self-interest. Thus, you do not need to put this is a coercive format. In fact, I think you could show that each is better off acting as a group than collectively, if you inpute all costs and benefits.

1. They get higher total revenue acting as a cartel. Think of their problem if they do not coordinate. Each of them shares, really, a common story--oh, sure, there are differences, but how many different books would you read of each persons first person account. I'd tire after one. So, consider that Jose individually gets approached by one book agent: Hey, Jose, sign this contract or I'll go over to Emmanuel, who will agree to do it for less. Nah, Jose's story isn't much different. Jose and Emmanuel can lock arms with others and hold out for a higher price.

2. Consider the alternative again: individual contracts, each by each, of potentially 33 competitors. First one out gets the most publicity, starts talking into his tape recorder, etc. He also ignores his health because he is busy writing or talking to a reporter--he has to make a trade off, his health and time in the hospital OR a quick book. The one's behind him also have the same incentive to ignor health. Also, when I say health, I also include mental health--how you decompress, and to whom, (a reporter or psychiatrist) has a cost in future years. OR Go slow, knowing you and everyone else shares in the contract, decompress, get composure and meet with your psychiatrist. In other words, consider costs AND benefits, not just benefits, of each alternative.

3. Get your story straight and bargain with others to withhold the truth by publishing one document. Do you want your children to know you were crying and wetting your pants. That won't be in the single book, but it would come out in the individual books because you couldn't negotiate with the other authors, and each would have the incentive to make you look like a woosey, and themselves as the he man.

Anyway, I don't think this is clear cut. And, no one has discussed the different cultural aspects of this. Not everyone acts like an American, believe it or not; some societies are more communitarian, and some "societies" formed under pressure endure and extend into other spheres. Think: Semper fi.

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Great comments. I like what I'm hearing. I really enjoyed reading these comment which I think may have been taken out of context by a few other writers on this thread. I think what V.D.'s trying to say is that, in societies where the people are "forced" to live a "simpler" life, is causes a certain closeness of communities, maybe even a certain type of comradery that we haven't seen in this country since the, "Hunter/Gatherers" were picking berries and trading with each other for necessities to survive. Here, we put people who have sacrificed their own sweat and blood for very little for very long, trying to make a difference in their lives and the lives of their families and risking their lives to do so. Then all of a sudden everyone starts throwing dollar signs around and greed shows up out of nowhere, the community gets disheveled and starts breaking apart, and all while 2500 feet below the earth. The were forced to make deals with the devil. The devil being man's own greed but also the possibility of all of their wildest dreams finally coming true. It would be hard not to want to go it solo. But what Reader Bill has pointed out is that if they can come together for this, they will be far more successful at making their dreams a reality. This book will sell millions, and like Bill, I would probably only read one book. Individual interviews or articles are great--after, but one story, one book, one movie, (in my opinion). You can "friend" the miners on fb, just search for, "Chilean Miners" :) Thanks, A. Bird

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