What if the Amish Were in Charge of the Economy?

By Ryan Rodrick Beiler 12-12-2008

Three years ago, Diana Butler Bass asked, "What if the Amish Were in Charge of the War on Terror?" This was after the horrific shooting at an Amish school in Pennsylvania--after which members of the Amish community embraced and reconciled with the family of the killer. He had taken his own life in the massacre.

This morning, a report on NPR about how the Amish do banking and finance has me asking, "What if the Amish were in charge of the economy? Or the bailout? Or--irony intended--the auto industry? Now I'm fully aware that the Amish are certainly not perfect in all they do, but as many bloggers in our special focus on the economic crisis have pointed out, values of simplicity, frugality, plus a sense of personal and communal responsibility would have gone a long way toward avoiding the mess we're in. That goes both for folks who borrowed and spent beyond their means and the corporations who predatorily encouraged them to do so while creating the shell-game-hall-of-mirrors-house-of-cards-fill-in-your-own-metaphor-for-unaccountable-lies-and-greed.

And guess what? According to the NPR story,

This old-fashioned system works. In this year of financial crisis, of storied old banks collapsing in hours, Hometowne Heritage has had its best year ever.

And with the total collapse of securitization and all those fancy financial tools, it's tempting to say: Hey, when it comes to buying a house, we're all Amish now.

Full disclosure: I'm a Mennonite from Pennsylvania whose paternal grandfather was born Amish. I even drive a black bumper car. (But only because that was the color of the best-priced used VW Jetta diesel--purchased to run on biodiesel. My previous diesel was a butter yellow '83 Mercedes with worldly chrome bumpers. Pray for me.)

Ryan Rodrick Beiler is the Web editor for Sojourners.

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