Amish Hackers and Homeowners

Two recent stories on the Amish which came to my attention. Neither are by anthropologists, but I thought they’d be of interest to our readers:

Kevin Kelly has an article about how the Amish use technology in which he argues that it is wrong to think of them as luddites.

Behind all of these variations is the Amish motivation to strengthen their communities. When cars first appeared at the turn of last century the Amish noticed that drivers would leave the community to go shopping or sight-seeing in other towns, instead of shopping local and visiting friends, family or the sick on Sundays. Therefore the ban on unbridled mobility was aimed to make it hard to travel far, and to keep energy focused in the local community. Some parishes did this with more strictness than others.

And a while back NPR had a story about how one of the few banks doing well in the downturn is one which loans almost exclusively to the Amish:

O’Brien knows which farms are doing well and which are struggling. He has to. When you lend to the Amish, you’re making a loan that you’re going to keep. You can’t sell that loan to some other investor.

That’s because Amish loans can’t be securitized — they can’t be turned into a mortgage-backed security or a collateralized debt obligation — like all of those subprime loans that have caused so much trouble.

You can’t do that for an odd legal reason. Homes that don’t have electric power don’t qualify for securitization. Neither do homes without traditional insurance. Amish homes are unmodernized, and the Amish use their own kind of insurance.

One thought on “Amish Hackers and Homeowners

  1. Just reading the excerpt from Kevin Kelly raises the issue of who in the community orginates the idea of restricting technology, and just who is enforcing it. As an outsider to the Amish, my first supposition would be a top-down hierarchy. But I am sure this idea is wrong. Kelly raises a point of self-governence in the face of something very tempting (i.e. autos). In the current recession, I’d have to ask how governence of loans can be implemented without always seeking top-down rules. Rules can be easily avoided (even leagally), or simply weakened (as we ahve seen).

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