— 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
From the Inside Flap
While much of what has been written about the New Deal takes a bird's-eye view of the major trends and ideas that animated it, surprisingly little has been devoted to how those ideas played out in the lives of the people most immediately affected. Weaving firsthand accounts of those who lived through it with expert historical analysis, Back to the Land offers a uniquely intimate portrait of Arthurdale, West Virginia, one of the most ambitious of the many New Deal projects and, arguably, the most dramatic social engineering experiment ever undertaken in the United States.
Nestled among the Appalachian foothills of northern West Virginia's coal country, Arthurdale was the pet project of First Lady Eleanor Roosevelt who, along with a group of idealists, was inspired by a mish-mash of foreign and homegrown collectivist ideals, all wrapped together under a "back-to-the-land" mania. The culmination of a long-cherished dream for population resettlement held by FDR and the circle of like-minded men he had gathered about him, the town was more a laboratory for testing progressive theories of government than an attempt to ameliorate the plight of those caught in the maelstrom of the Great Depression. Beset by abysmally poor planning, gargantuan cost overruns, and ideological infighting among its patrons, the Arthurdale experiment was doomed to failure from its inception.
While it was once the object of intense popular fascination, Arthurdale, designed to be the incubator of a "New Man," is now remembered only by a few historians and theorists, among whom opinions vary as to what it represented. For some it was, at best, a well-intentioned but terribly ill-conceived attempt to improve the lives of the destitute while to others, it was the embodiment of a political power grab that irrevocably changed America's social and political landscape.
No matter which side of the debate one falls on, it is fair to say that Back to the Land tells a fascinating story of the profound effect that the New Deal's economic policies had on the lives of peopleboth then and now.