ww i sopwith camel, the tension between democracy and greed, the mini-rocket helicopter

Sopwith Camel in Flight

Sopwith F-1 Camel in Flight. World War I allied fighter plane. The Sopwith was introduced on the Western front during 1917. While it was difficult to learn to fly because of maneuverability issues, once a pilot got the hang of it, the Sopwith proved to be a very effective fighter plane. They were used by both the U.S. and Great Britain.

This is interesting reading. It runs counter to the way most economists teach economy and the way much of the media portrays the connection between capitalism and democracy. Whether one agrees with every word is not as important as understanding the tension that exists between those who see freedom almost solely in terms of pursuing money and those who see freedom as a more complex combination of pursuits, Democracy versus capitalism: take two

At this point two directions appeared open: continuation of a restricted freedom and limited representative governance of society; or a Marx inspired march towards socialism. The middle way of democracy was a hard fought for compromise. It was resisted by conservatives as a precursor to socialism. The tyranny of the masses, don’t forget, is what stopped democracy from being America’s early form of government, and the series of social upheavals rocking Europe from the 1780’s through to 1848 simply strengthened conservative opposition to any broadening of the right to vote and thus to anything remotely like modern democracy.

But the excesses of capitalism came to be too much. The hardship and exploitation embodied in early industrialization led to both the Trade Union movement and to other social changes. The right to vote became pivotal in the fight against those excesses.

In other words: the creation of modern democracy was a reaction to, and very much in opposition to, capitalism. It was, from the outset, designed to mitigate the excesses. It was not at all to foster freedom, but to limit it. This limitation coming in the paradoxical form of extending participation in government even to those without property. The very definition of freedom was thus amended. Freedom was now the right to vote regardless of property ownership, which was still protected, but which was now abridged.

I picked up the piece about half way through. The introduction, with a brief history and the conclusion put this part in perspective.

A one-man 100 lb helicopter,

A one-man 100 lb helicopter. The following is from a press release,

“A one-man 100 lb helicopter, powered by rockets in the tips of two small rotor blades, would be tested soon by the navy, it was announced to-day.
It is the nearest approach that has been made to [strapping] a pair of rockets upon the back of a man and shooting him into space “comic strip fashion,” said the designer (Mr. Gilbert Magill).

The liquid fuel rockets, he said, were controlled by a throttle. The rotors were fixed to a [steel] tube which supported fuel tanks and an open air pilot’s seat.”

Cairn’s Post, Wednesday 24 October 1951. There was also a feature article in Popular Science of January 1952. Other than that Magill and his rocket helicopter have been largely forgotten.