Alex Massie

Pimp My Ride: Amish Style

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Actually, this is rather a touching, sad story about the Amish and the impact first rising prosperity and then, of all things, a run on an Amish bank in Indiana. Nonetheless, it seems that the Amish are no more able to resist shiny baubles and status symbols than the rest of us. Plus, the idea of what one might term the Cosmo-Amish and their tricked out buggies is, you know, amusing:

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.

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.

This then, is surely another useful indicator for divining future recessions: when the Amish start playing the property game you might well have an unsustainable bubble...

[Hat-tip: Tyler Cowen.]

Written byAlex Massie

Alex Massie is Scotland Editor of The Spectator. He also writes a column for The Times and is a regular contributor to the Scottish Daily Mail, The Scotsman and other publications.

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