11-1-16 – The Vermont Commune Adventure

by John McClaughry

Kate Daloz has just published an interesting new book titled We Are As Gods: Back to the Land in the 1970s on the Quest for a New America. I haven’t read it but I did read a long and rather friendly review of it in the December Reason magazine, by Brian Doherty, who is a libertarian.

As the subtitle suggests, this is a sympathetic history of the commune movement, mostly in Vermont, by the daughter of two early Vermont communards.

Doherty opens his review with this amusing line: “In 1971 a young man named Bernie Sanders visited Myrtle Hill Farm. .. Myrtle Hill had an all-are-welcome policy  – for three days. Then the core owners would decide by consensus whether you were cool to hang around. Sanders tendency to just sit around talking politics and avoid actual physical labor got him the boot.”

Daloz explains the mentality of these escapees from a despised America, and also highlights the difficulties they faced. Few if any had any idea how to actually wrest a subsistence living from the rugged Vermont soil and climate. She notes the highs of free love, and tobogganing through the snow with your loving comrades, drunk on your homemade dandelion wine; and then there was spreading meningitis and staph to each other.”

Back then the communard lifestyle seemed to me to be a depressing and doomed exercise by screwed up kids, and I’ve had no reason to change my mind since.

- John McClaughry is the vice president of the Ethan Allen Institute

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