Policy

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.