Pop Quiz: Do You Know Your Utopias as Well as Glenn Beck?
Feb 1st 2013 4:00PM
Updated Feb 1st 2013 4:01PM
Recently, former Fox commentator Glenn Beck proposed the creation of "Independence USA," a libertarian community that would house workshops, a video production studio, a research and development center, a working ranch, and a church modeled after the Alamo. While his vision is unique, Beck joins a long, rich history of pioneers who set out to create utopian communities. If you're interested in learning about some of the other dreamers, geniuses and crackpots who have tried to redesign society, take a peek at our utopian commune quiz!
1. Which company or product did not get its start in a utopian commune?
C. Annie's Naturals
D. Shaker baskets
Answer: C, Annie's Naturals
The Amana corporation was an outgrowth of the Amana Colonies, a collection of Christian communes that operated from the 1850s to the 1930s. Oneida (the tableware company, not the Indian tribe) started as a free-love commune in upstate New York. And the Shakers are a celibate religious group that began in the 1700's and still has a small number of members today.
Annie's Naturals, on the other hand, is part of Annie's Homegrown, Inc., a company founded by Annie Withey and Andrew Martin in 1989.
2. Communes are usually associated with liberal groups. Have libertarians attempted to create communes before?
Answer: A, Yes
Several micronations were originally designed as places where the inhabitants could escape from the laws and taxes of their homelands. The most interesting of them was probably the Republic of Minerva, a libertarian enclave that briefly existed on a South Pacific atoll before it was taken over by the Kingdom of Tonga.
Photo: Roger Griffith, Wikipedia
3. Which reasons have been cited for the creation of a micronation?
A. Building a driveway
B. Encourage female dominance
C. Reestablish the Russian Empire
D. Boost tourism
Answer: All of the above.
The Principality of Wy, located in an Australian suburb, grew out of a battle between resident Paul Delprat, later "Prince Paul," and his local town council over his plans to build a driveway.
Meanwhile, the Other World Kingdom, a country created by "Queen Patricia I" in a mansion in the Czech Republic, is dedicated to female dominance.
As for the "The Russian Empire," its creator, Russian businessman Anton Bakov, has declared it's capital is located on the atoll of Suwarrow in the Cook Islands, which he claims to have purchased. (Astonshingly, the prime minister of the Cook Islands says he has no idea what Bakov is talkoing about.)
Finally, several micronations have claimed independence largely as a way of attracting tourists. Perhaps the most interesting one is the Republic of Whangamomona, located in New Zealand, which requires visitors to buy a $5 Whangamomona passport if they wish to visit during its Independence Day celebrations.
Photo: ASGW, Flickr.com
4. Where did Glenn Beck get the inspiration for Independence, USA?
A. "Atlas Shrugged," Ayn Rand's novel
B. Disneyland, Walt Disney's theme park
C. Chautauqua, Thomas Edison's retreat
D. "Utopia," Thomas More's political narrative
Answer: B, Disneyland
In its announcement of Independence, USA, Beck's website praised Disneyland as an attempt to create "a place where people would find happiness, inspiration, courage and hope," but argued that "Over time, Walt Disney's original vision has been lost." In Independence USA, the site notes, "Glenn believes that he can bring the heart and the spirit of Walt's early Disneyland ideas into reality."
5. Which of these religious leaders didn't attempt to create a commune?
A. L. Ron Hubbard
B. William Bradford
C. Joseph Smith
D. Mother Ann Lee
Answer: B, L. Ron Hubbard
William Bradford, the first governor of the Plymouth colony, noted that the settlement began as a commune, but degenerated into "a kind of slavery" before its members decided to switch to a private enterprise society. As for Joseph Smith, the father of Mormonism established "the family," a commune on an Ohio farm. Ann Lee, the founder of the Shakers, emigrated from Britain to New York, where she and her followers created a communistic society.
L. Ron Hubbard, though he created the Church of Scientology, never had designs on turning it into a commune.
Photo: Brooklyn Museum, Wikipedia
6. Today, communes in America engage in a number of activities to pay the bills. Which of these businesses is not one of them?
A. Book indexing
B. Heirloom vegetable seed production
C. Peanut butter manufacture
D. Orange growing
Answer: D, Orange growing
7. Which of the following authors did not write an outline of how to achieve a perfect utopian commune?
A. Novelist George Orwell
B. Political philosopher St. Thomas More
C. Novelist Aldous Huxley
D. Psychologist B.F. Skinner
Answer: A, George Orwell
The author of 1984 and Animal Farm, George Orwell remains famous for his dour visions of dystopias -- or "anti-utopias." Discussing the shortcomings of utopian writings, he argued that "Nearly all creators of Utopia ... wanted to produce a perfect society by an endless continuation of something that had only been valuable because it was temporary." Or, to put it more succinctly, "Whoever tries to imagine perfection simply reveals his own emptiness."
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