Amish iPhones, mansions and millionaires?

The sun sets behind an Amish farm near Paradise, PA.

Over the past three decades, facets of Amish culture have been shifting toward a more modern take on life - one that includes iPhones, mansions and millionaires. 

Jen Banbury wrote an article for Bloomberg Businessweek called "What Happens When The Amish Get Rich", which explores modern-day Amish culture and capitalism, says Banbury: 

“It’s also very new for them. This has all happened within the last three decades or so... this massive shift from agriculture to business, and it turns out they’re great businessmen.” 

The shift towards business has also caused some changes within the community. Now, some Amish are using cell phones to conduct business: 

“So many Amish have a cell phone for business, but I see these guys talking on the phone a lot… and they’re not always talking about business.  And it’s this slow creep of technology that they themselves acknowledge is kind of terrifying, because it is so radically changing.” 

Banbury says it's difficult for people in this community to adapt to changing culture. It takes a lot to adapt their well-established rules. The church has a process to reprimand someone if they do something ostensibly out-of-bounds, like buying a fancy propane-driven fridge. But if the church does nothing, then everyone else in the community jumps on board and buys one of these fridges. 

"[They're] really struggling to intigrate it into their life in a way that does not destroy the essence of their Amishness. But they're aboslutely changing. There's no question they're changing and the question is 'how far are they going to go?'" 

Listen to the full interview with Banbury in the audio player above.

About the author

Kai Ryssdal is the host and senior editor of Marketplace, public radio’s program on business and the economy.

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