Thursday, June 21, 2007
Some Economic Lessons from the Amish
By Dan McLaughlin, from the Ludwig von Mises Institute
The Amish are interesting people. Having lived much of my life in a rural area with a significant Amish population, I have had the opportunity to interact with them, and have some level of understanding of the culture. It is a fascinating study.
The Amish make a conscious choice to live without most of the modern conveniences that Americans take for granted. They have strong religious beliefs and a commitment to principles. Different communities have varying perspectives on what is allowable and what is not, but they all have a common belief that they must maintain a separation from the world and worldly things. They provide lessons to us that they may not intend, but are valuable nonetheless.
Their life is centered around the local Amish community, and they live separate lives from non-Amish people around them. They generally don't use insurance, but they share risk in a different way. They have a strong sense of internal community, and in time of disaster, they are drawn together to help their neighbors. When someone's barn burns down, there is a barn raising, where the whole community gathers to build a new one. It is an amazing display of cooperation.
Many people view full employment as the primary purpose of society. It is a concept that animates much of the discussion in economics and politics. If full employment truly is the primary goal of our society, then we should follow the lead of the Amish. They have developed a social structure that provides full employment for every member. In fact, the problem is not too little employment, but too much employment. They have to have large families with many helping hands to absorb all of the employment that the lack of modern equipment affords them.
Because they do not use tractors, they need many hands to plow, cultivate, and harvest the fields. Milking cows by hand is time-consuming manual labor. Shoveling manure by hand provides employment for some of the less fortunate members of the family. Cutting, transporting, and stacking wood for heat and cooking provides more work that can keep someone busy and sweaty for a considerable period of time.
Read the rest here