The Easy Credit Regime Corrupts Even the Amish

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Hans Hoppe, Karen DeCoster, and others have made the point that an easy credit monetary regime not only distorts the economy, but it also has an effect upon personal time preference habits of individuals, enabling people to live (temporarily) beyond their means and to encourage high-end consumption that only leads to a bigger bust.

As the Wall Street Journal recently reported, apparently no one is immune, not even the Amish, who in some communities were living something akin to the high life before the bust hit:

“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.

And there was more:

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.

However, there is nothing like a good bust to set things right again.  They aren’t kidding when they call it a “correction.”

In Indiana, a back-to-basics movement appears to be taking root. More patches of produce have sprouted behind Amish homes this summer. Restaurants are entertaining fewer Amish customers. Mr. Lehman says neighbors “are more considerate of each other now.”

Some men have started their own businesses close to home. Mr. Lehman makes mattresses in his workshop. Harlan Miller, a 34-year-old father of five who was laid off in February, started making fruit butter, which he sells at a local market. Freeman Miller (no relation), 54, who was laid off after 30 years in manufacturing, builds wooden caskets for pets.

“We were all going way too fast,” Freeman Miller says. “This has made everybody stop and realize we’re just pilgrims here, the Almighty is in charge.”

7:51 am on July 2, 2009