In 1906, novelist Upton Sinclair founded a cooperative community in Englewood, New Jersey, not far outside New York. It would exist for just six months before being completely consumed by fire, but Sinclair would spend the rest of his life dreaming about his time there. They called it the Helicon Home Colony. And despite sex scandals in the press and a policy that specifically excluded non-whites, Sinclair believed his little utopian experiment was nothing less than the future of American living.
The desire to build a new community from scratch is not confined to any one political persuasion or personality type in particular. In the 1960s, Walt Disney imagined building an experimental city called EPCOT that would be a futuristic showcase for American free enterprise. The hippie counterculture of the 1960s and '70s would produce dozens of small communities all over the U.S., many of which were built on left-wing ideas of economic and social justice. And in the 1970s, some American libertarians thought that space colonies might allow them to live in the Ayn Rand inspired utopia they'd come to dream of. Who among us hasn't felt so misanthropic some days that we just want to leave the planet and start our own space station society?