The Czar Still Isn’t On The Amish Horse-Drawn Bandwagon

Ewww. The Volgi sends me this link, and wonders what my take on it is.

Read it if you dare. Basically, some guy worked out that the Amish are thriving in a down economy because (a) they avoid litigation, (b) they keep operating costs down with low payroll and no air conditioning, and (c) they know their products and manage things hands on …and here come all the commentators positing that we could learn a lot from the Amish, like being frugal, simple, direct, honest, focused, and so on.

What a load of freaking crap. This is both compiled by and supported by people who know nothing about the Amish other than their preconceived notions about them. More on that in a second, but let us correct the record.

The Amish are successful because they enjoy very low operating costs and require almost no capital. Their operating costs are low because they use family members as free labor. Their capital costs are vacant because they build factory space on their own property, exempt from commercial property taxes and zoning restrictions. In some cases, they skip out on sales tax as a non-profit religious organization. Amish, sure: but there are plenty of monastic orders doing as well in the down economy for exactly the same reasons. If a non-religious institution tried to get away with this stuff, they would be badly slapped by a host of groups.

Secondly, the Amish are not what they purport to be. We have exposed the dark side of the Amish before, but if under-educating children, covering up community crimes like spousal rape and child abuse, and skirting tax law makes a good business model, welcome to the 21st Century. By the way, want an Amish computer desk?

So the Amish avoid litigation? That isn’t a recipe for success as much as an invitation to swindlers. Okay, they don’t use lawyers a lot, and therefore do not pay for expensive litigation. So what? Whom do they sue? Better question, how do they protect themselves from the inevitable lawsuits because a table collapsed while some drunk jackass was clodding on it? The lack of litigation seems like a massive stretch, perceived more out of envy by the writer than by any direct financial translation.

And the third thing, about being hands on? That sounds more like a recipe for micromanagement, which is disastrous to business efficiency, at least as efficiency is defined as output divided by input.

Of course, the writer and commentators are probably not old enough to remember what business was like circa 1977-1989. Back then, American business was moronic and stupid and inefficient. Know who was the best? The Japanese! Why, they could run rings around our bad economy because (a) Japanese avoid litigation, (b) they keep operating costs down with low payroll and no air conditioning, and (c) they know their products and manage things hands on …we could learn a lot from the Japanese, like being frugal, simple, direct, honest, focused, and so on. It has all been done before, folks. The Japanese were viewed as business gods, and if we emulated their alien ways, we could turn America around.

Thus began a more-than-ten-year craze where the Japanese could claim almost any lunar activity, and thousands of American business owners would try it. Excercising employees in the morning! Bringing in the mailroom guy to run the sales and marketing department! CEOs serving tea to the factory floor workers! And know what? In the 1990s, it turned out the Japanese knew jack about business, and their economic bubble popped. Stock shares fell, waves of layoffs occured, and the bloodletting began. Not surprisingly, the religious fawning over their alien ways went out, too.

The Czar is shocked, really, to see conservative thinkers once again falling for this we-could-learn-a-thing-or-two incredulousness. He is more disheartened to see this worshipping of the Amish, who are far from where you want to be as you can imagine. Is everything about the Amish bad? Should we condemn their nobler attributes? No, we avoid throwing out the baby with the bath water. But if you can’t find better examples than the Amish, looking closer to home, perhaps your range of business knowledge is…shall we say…a bit rural.

About The Czar of Muscovy

Божію Поспѣшествующею Милостію Мы, Дима Грозный Императоръ и Самодержецъ Всероссiйскiй, цѣсарь Московскiй. The Czar was born in the steppes of Russia in 1267, and was cheated out of total control of all Russia by upon the death of Boris Mikhailovich, who replaced Alexander Yaroslav Nevsky in 1263. However, in 1283, our Czar was passed over due to a clerical error and the rule of all Russia went to his second cousin Daniil (Даниил Александрович), whom Czar still resents. As a half-hearted apology, the Czar was awarded control over Muscovy, inconveniently located 5,000 miles away just outside Chicago. He now spends his time seething about this and writing about other stuff that bothers him.