Communism, West Virginia Style

Cyd Malone shares a historical story with which I was not familiar, Eleanor Roosevelt's attempt to create a government-supported back-to-the-earth commune in West Virginia.  It's quite a fascinating tale, with several elements that seem stolen right out of an Ayn Rand novel.  Her goal seems to have been to reverse the division of labor:

As projected, Arthurdale was to be immune from the ups and downs of the
business cycle, with its citizens farming their five-acre plots part
time and working part time in a local factory; a perfect combination of
town and country floating through life as just the happiest little
autarkic bubble you ever did see.

I will let you read the whole story if you are interested, which is pretty interesting.  I suppose you can guess how it all turned out:

Sadly, despite all the money, tough love, removal of their "mental
and physical impediments," and grafting on of "the things that help,"
the people of Arthurdale weren't displaying the attributes of the New
American Man, or at least not the type the planners planned for.
Instead, they behaved like dirt-poor coal miners and part-time farmers
who had become accustomed to living off of other peoples' money.

They displayed what we now call "dependency." Nancy Hoffman writes
that "there were times they depended too much on her [Mrs. Roosevelt's]
help and not enough on their own resources," leading Eleanor to lament
that "they seemed to feel that the solution to all their problems was
to turn to government" (Hoffman 2001, p. 85). In one defining moment,
the town's school bus broke down and the good people of Arthurdale,
rather than fixing it themselves, had it towed over two hundred miles
to the White House garage for repairs.[16]


  1. la petite chou chou:

    I hardly know what to say. It is no surprise to me that it failed miserably.

  2. somebody:

    This doesn't mean socialism is over yet. Remember, it's a science and has to be applied correctly. Give it another few hundred years and hundreds of millions of deaths before we can safely say it doesn't work.

  3. Walter E. Wallis, P.E.:

    FDR loved projects that kept Eleanor away.

  4. MarkH:

    There is a similar community in Texas, betwen Dallas and Fort Worth:

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  9. John:

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  10. ragavendra:

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