Status games among the Amish

Some Amish bishops in Indiana weakened restrictions on the use of
telephones. Fax machines became commonplace in Amish-owned businesses.
Web sites marketing Amish furniture began to crop up. Although the
sites were run by non-Amish third parties, they nevertheless
intensified a feeling of competition, says Casper Hochstetler, a
70-year-old Amish bishop who lives in Shipshewana.

"People wanted bigger weddings, newer carriages," Mr. Lehman says.
"They were buying things they didn't need." Mr. Lehman spent several
hundred dollars on a model-train and truck hobby, and about $4,000 on
annual family vacations, he says. This year, there will be no vacation.

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.

Most of the article concerns a recent bank run in an Amish community:

Only Amish people can join. The trust's 2,100 depositors receive
annual interest of 3.2%, while borrowers pay 3.5% interest on loans.
There are no credit checks. Monthly mortgage payments can be no more
than 33% of a borrower's gross income.

The trust's structure reflects the Amish philosophy of sharing. It
isn't insured by the Federal Deposit Insurance Corp., but by its own
bylaws it maintains at least $1 million in cash reserves. The trust has
never exercised its authority to foreclose on a home.

A sustained run wiped out the bank's reserves and now it has ceased lending.  Probably it is hard to gather the data, but I would love to read a book Economic Life Among the Amish.


Comments for this post are closed