Economics

Bruder, Canst Thou Spare a Ten-Cent Piece?

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Drink Pennsylvania Dutch Birch Beer for your health.

Amish Hoosiers find out too late that it really was a gift to be simple in this Wall Street Journal report about a run on a bank for Plain Folk. Douglas Belkin writes that Mammon, in the form of $30/hour jobs in the RV and construction industries, spurred a "keeping-up-with-the-Joneses" mentality and tested the bonds of the Amish community:

It became common practice for families to leave their carriages home and take taxis on shopping trips and to dinners out.

Some Amish families had bought second homes on the west coast of Florida and expensive Dutch Harness Horses, with their distinctive, prancing gait. Others lined their carriages in dark velvet and illuminated them with battery-powered LED lighting.

Even the tradition of helping each other out began to unravel, Bishop Hochstetler says. Instead of asking neighbors for help, well-to-do Amish began hiring outsiders so they wouldn't have to reciprocate. "Factory work doesn't eliminate fellowship, but it does not encourage togetherness," the bishop says.

Last fall, the recreational-vehicle industry began to lay off workers. Facing financial hardship, the Amish traditionally have sought aid within the community. But with nearly half of households depending on manufacturing income, Amish bishops this year reluctantly decided for the first time that laid-off workers could seek unemployment benefits.

Some green shoots: The depositor-stricken Tri-County Land Trust took a substantial hit to its cash reserves and suspended lending, but it's still in operation, following very "conservative" investment strategies. It's not FDIC-insured, and the rates on deposits look more attractive than anything you'll get from your neighborhood gigantibank. (You have to be Amish to be a customer.) Also funnel cake sales are said to be recession-proof.

NEXT: McCain and Feingold Sitting in a Tree, C-h-o-k-i-n-g

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  1. I believe the article is confusing Amish with Mennonites.

    http://www.800padutch.com/amishhistory.shtml

  2. I live in in Amish country and I just don’t get it. If one were to totally free oneself from the ‘shackles’ of modern life…that’s cool. But just DO it.

    You drive through Amish communities and there are power tools in their place of work and phone booths situated just outside of properties.

    They do make awesome furniture and apple jam ’round these parts.

  3. I live near Amish country also. My question is how they can afford vacation homes and luxury horses but won’t spend a dime on soap!

  4. “Some Amish families had bought second homes on the west coast of Florida ”

    That is where I live. I live in a city on the West Coast of Florida (about an hour south of Tampa) where many Amish from up north come to live during the winter. They don’t dive buggies when they are down here – they ride adult sized tricycles. It is common to see men and women in full Amsih garb riding a tricycle where I live.

  5. Apparently, Tim’s really into birch beer.

  6. “If one were to totally free oneself from the ‘shackles’ of modern life…that’s cool. But just DO it.

    You drive through Amish communities and there are power tools in their place of work and phone booths situated just outside of properties.”

    My understanding is that the point is not that they want to live like they were in the 1800’s. That isn’t the point. The point is that THEY and not some mechamical device is in control. That is why many have no problem with cell phones yet they do not want to drive an automobile. The cell phone is something YOU control but the automobile puts a motor in control of you.

  7. Birch beer is awesome. That’s all.

  8. I just noticed that I made a whole hell of a lot of spelling errors in the post above. I apologize to those spelling freaks out there. I did not get much sleep last night.

  9. In addition to DHS, a phone is not some evil machine, but rather a jarring distraction from a contemplative life. So you have one out on the edge of the property. You can’t hear it if it rings, but you can use one when you need to. (I imagine that cell phones you can turn off will eliminate the lonely phone box soon.)

  10. If the Parson does it we can do it too.

  11. Instead of asking neighbors for help, well-to-do Amish began hiring outsiders so they wouldn’t have to reciprocate.

    The outsiders did it for free?

  12. My understanding is that the point is not that they want to live like they were in the 1800’s. That isn’t the point. The point is that THEY and not some mechamical device is in control. That is why many have no problem with cell phones yet they do not want to drive an automobile. The cell phone is something YOU control but the automobile puts a motor in control of you.

    Umm, how is an automobile engine in control of the driver? All those pedals, wheels, and knobs seem to have a pretty clear purpose. I’d argue that the horse in front of a buggy is much more “in control” than is the engine of a car.

  13. I’d argue that the horse in front of a buggy is much more “in control” than is the engine of a car.

    Spoken like someone who has actual experience of horses and cars.

    Cars rarely go where you aren’t telling them to go. Horses, not so much.

  14. Instead of asking neighbors for help, well-to-do Amish began hiring outsiders so they wouldn’t have to reciprocate.

    I can understand this line of reasoning.

    I deliberatly hired movers to move all of my possesions rather than asking my friends and family to help me move.

    It was the best $2000 I ever spent.

  15. Amish folk live the way they do, because they believe it strengthens the family unit.

  16. Recession continues…Amish hit hardest.

  17. “Umm, how is an automobile engine in control of the driver? All those pedals, wheels, and knobs seem to have a pretty clear purpose. I’d argue that the horse in front of a buggy is much more “in control” than is the engine of a car.”

    I am not defending their line of reasoning. I am merely explaining it. It may be that if they understood the mechanics of how cars worked they would not be against it. But then, I am an ignostic* not an Amishman.

    *No, I did not misspell agnostic

  18. Here’s an interesting article on Amish ideas about technology:

    http://www.kk.org/thetechnium/archives/2009/02/amish_hackers_a.php

  19. Lehman Brothers or Brother Lehman – it’s all the same.

  20. I used to go to an Amish market (boy, did they rake in the cash there) in Germantown, Maryland, and not once did I see an Amish girl there who was even half as good looking as that Amish chick in the movie “Witness.”

    They did have fantastic pretzels and they sold smoked ham hocks that were as big as a cantalope, that’ll put some flavor into your beans, buster.

  21. Few Amishmen vote. But where they live, at least in Penna., the Libertarian vote is proportionally higher. Are they libertarians?
    One I had contact with was opposed to eminent domain even when done for actual public use (they wanted his farm for a reservoir.)

  22. “Few Amishmen vote. But where they live, at least in Penna., the Libertarian vote is proportionally higher. Are they libertarians?”

    I knew a former Amishman once. Not only was he no longer Amish – he was an atheist. He was VERY active in the local Libertarian Party and the Free State Projet. He now lives in New Hampshire.

  23. “I knew a former Amishman once. Not only was he no longer Amish – he was an atheist. He was VERY active in the local Libertarian Party and the Free State Projet. He now lives in New Hampshire.”

    I’m not surprised. Amish society is collectivist, and being an intellectual is considered “prideful”. A libertarian techy-geek would not have much of a life in that society.

  24. Ten-Cent Piece

    I thought this thread was about hot sluts.

  25. The Amish have completely lost sight of their original goals which were to be simple,plain and not draw attention to themselves. If they still truly believed in that, they would wear Dockers and drive Toyota Corolla.

  26. I had my first birch beer last week. Not bad.

  27. creech:

    Who isn’t against Eminent Domain when it’s your land they want? It’s only when it’s someone else’s that it counts…

  28. “If they still truly believed in that, they would wear Dockers and drive Toyota Corolla.”

    You mean like the guys on Psych?

  29. Others lined their carriages in dark velvet and illuminated them with battery-powered LED lighting.

    I wonder if any got spinners or 22″ dubs on ’em.

  30. No matter how many times the whole Amish thing is essplained to me, I still don’t understand. I mean, I understand the Hollywood version of it. I just don’t understand the real version of it.

    I always thought they rode around in carriages, eschewed any kind of technology, and lived simple, reclusive lives.

    But people I know who either lived around the Amish or amongst them paint a far more complex picture. Honda generators. Tractors. Dishwashers and refrigerators. Electric sewing machines. Apparently, it wasn’t that it ran on electricity or not, but where and how the electricity is provided. It’s a complicated rule-based system full of technical loopholes.

  31. Oh, and another one: Cell phones. A guy I knew said his Amish neighbors all had cell phones. Something to do with being “hooked up to the grid”. I guess if it doesn’t have a wire, plugged into the wall, then you were ‘off the grid’. Or something.

  32. “It’s a complicated rule-based system full of technical loopholes.”

    Did you see the Bill Maher film “Reliulous”? There is a scene in that this line reminds me of. There is a store that sells devices that help ultra-Orthodox Jewish people get around the rules they are supposed to observe on the Sabath. It is a gem. There are steam powered wheel chairs, a phone that you dial with a stick. etc. etc.Well the Amish can do the equivalent of that kind of thing themselves. If you just look at some of the items in Lehman’s Hardware store in Kidron, Ohio you will get an idea of what I am talking about.http://www.lehmans.com/

  33. There is a store that sells devices that help ultra-Orthodox Jewish people get around the rules they are supposed to observe on the Sabath. It is a gem. There are steam powered wheel chairs, a phone that you dial with a stick. etc. etc.

    If you want to keep kosher and still eat like a king, you must go to Palio d’Asti restaurant in San Francisco. It is decidedly not a kosher joint, but man, the owner/chef (a great libertarian, btw) knows how to please the customer. One of the guys in my party was X-treme kosher, and his rules got more complex and Howard-Hughes-baroque as the meal went on. Yet the chef was on top of the whole thing, made sure the meal was served with special tinfoil cladding, none of the food or utensils came in contact with Earth atmosphere, something was heated in the proper way, everything was separated, blah blah blah. As you suggest, the end result was that he got to eat deep-fried shellfish smothered in boar’s blood and served on a bed of ham and cheese* but somehow the whole meal was still on the up-and-up.

    *I’m exaggerating slightly.

  34. Tim Cavanaugh says Jews are ruling partisans with separatist tinfoil-hat complexes and must be broken for an End Result because their mothers are selfish bores, hams,and killed Cheeses.*

    *I’m agitating spitely.

  35. Well I wasn’t exaggerating the part about the tinfoil. There really was foil involved, to keep something separated from something else. I was riveted, but I’m kind of a dietary-prohibition buff.

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