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Back to the Land: Arthurdale, FDR's New Deal, and the Costs of Economic Planning

ISBN: 978-1-118-02357-0
320 pages
February 2011
Back to the Land: Arthurdale, FDR
How New Deal economic policies played out in the small town of Arthurdale, West Virginia

Today, the U.S. government is again moving to embrace New Deal-like economic policies. While much has been written about the New Deal from a macro perspective, little has been written about how New Deal programs played out on the ground.

In Back to the Land, author CJ Maloney tells the true story of Arthurdale, West Virginia, a town created as a "pet project" of the Roosevelts. Designed to be (in the words of Eleanor Roosevelt) "a human experiment station", she was to create a "New American" citizen who would embrace a collectivist form of life. This book tells the story of what happened to the people resettled in Arthurdale and how the policies implemented there shaped America as we know it. Arthurdale was the foundation upon which modern America was built.

  • Details economic history at the micro level, revealing the true effects of New Deal economic policies on everyday life
  • Addresses the pros and cons of federal government economic policies
  • Describes how good intentions and grand ideas can result in disastrous consequences, not only in purely materialistic terms but, most important, in respect for the rule of law

Back to the Land is a valuable addition to economic and historical literature.

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Arthurdale from 1933 to 1947 vii

Acronyms Used in the Book ix

Introduction 1

Chapter 1 The Damnedest Cesspool of Human Misery 19

Chapter 2 The Angel of Arthurdale Arrives 55

Chapter 3 The Defi nition of Insanity 71

Chapter 4 We Lucky Few 91

Chapter 5 "Spending Money . . . Like Drunken Sailors" 107

Chapter 6 The Darkening of the Light 125

Chapter 7 "A Human Experiment Station" 151

Chapter 8 At Long Last, Arcadia 179

Epilogue: To the Victor, the Spoils 193

Acknowledgments 215

Notes 219

Bibliography 275

About the Author 285

Index 287

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C. J. Maloney lives and works in New York City. A graduate of NYU's Stern School of Business, he has contributed writings on economics, history, and politics to, among others, RealClearMarkets.com, Mises.org, LewRockwell.com, Antiwar.com, DailyKos.com, Liberty magazine, and blogs for GMU's Liberty & Power. He has spoken before numerous groups, including the NYC Campaign for Liberty, the Manhattan Libertarian Party, and Ivy League Alliance/Students For Liberty at Columbia University.
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“A compelling history of one of the government’s most radical, if largely forgotten, domestic programs. . . . Maloney has managed to finely balance the duties of the historian with the role of storyteller. Instead of being bogged down by the (impeccable) research that provides the book with so much valuable detail, he uses this plethora of information to strong effect, highlighting the human stories and the bigger picture impact that Arthurdale had on both the area and the country, so that the reader feels less like he is reading an economic history than a fascinating story with a profound historical lesson. The writing has a smoothness and ease that evades most books of similar historical depth. . . Perhaps even more importantly, the book reveals a great sympathy and understanding for the impoverished people who signed up to live in a government-funded town. . . By sticking to the astonishing historical record, Back To The Land avoids the pitfalls that plague the ideologues who too often direct the national debate. Ultimately, what makes the book so successful is that the story is able to speak for itself.”
— The Brooklyn Rail

“Capably reveals the certain costs of central planning, thus making Back to the Land an essential story for the political class to understand better. As for the many who view government spending as an economic good in its own right, Maloney's tale of the costly creation of Arthurdale, West Virginia (a town built by the federal government as a model for the nation) will surely give them pause. . . Back to the Land is an interesting book, and even better it's an important one for showing up close the bungling ways of government officials. . . skillfully reminds us why we shouldn't entrust our lives or treasure to those who work in government.”
— Real Clear Politics

“Enlightening, well-written, and very timely book. . . . In the year 2006, the mayor of the town of Tal Afar, Iraq, chastised the government that invaded his country — the government of FDR's heirs — by stating, "What you are doing is an experiment, and it isn't right to experiment on people." No it is not, which makes books like this one so important. Those who do not know and understand history are condemned to repeat it. . . Books like Maloney's that are factually accurate, economically consistent, and engagingly written can help to reverse this disturbing trend.
—Ludwig von Mises Institute

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