Taiwan's China Post wrote a pretty good editorial about the trapped Chilean miners a while back, and concluded on this note:
...the Chilean miners' first steps above ground gave us a timely reminder of what can be achieved when there is optimism, ingenuity and an unerring faith in the human spirit.
None of which can be gainsayed, but the editors seem to have missed one key ingredient to the miners' survival:
We know now that pretty much ALL of their decisions were made democratically. This approach wasn't a panacea -- in the coming months, we'll hear more about personal conflicts that occured and even about physical altercations. But at some point, the miners realized that the best way to minimize the MAJOR frictions existing within their little society was to put matters to the vote.
For them, democracy represented not merely an idealistic dream but a practical neccessity for their own survival.
So yes, "optimism, ingenuity and faith in the human spirit" all had their roles to play in the outcome. But ponder for a moment how different the conclusion might have been had a small, self-appointed elite resorted to coercion and violence to lord it over the others, all the while cynically trumpeting their own "benevolence".