Economic Lessons for Amish Children

I recently had a second Amish baby boy named after me. While I could obviously gift the child and his parents gifts of gold or silver, it occurred to me that it would be nice if I could give them something more…something they wouldn’t get from any place else; i.e., a little knowledge about economics. The Amish never take a course on economics as they never attend school past eighth grade. Furthermore, their teachers never go to school beyond eighth grade. So where can they obtain any knowledge of economics? As far as I know, they don’t subscribe to economic newsletters or other publications; therefore, I wrote down the following ten items I call Economic Lessons for Amish Children. Of course, the lessons could be of value to non-Amish children (and some adults!), as well.

Lesson #1: Only gold and silver are money. The paper dollars most people use are a substitute that loses its value over time. Originally, the dollar was redeemable in gold and silver, but over time, that has changed so that it is now merely a promise by the U.S. Government (through its agent, the Federal Reserve Bank) to exchange one paper dollar for another. There is nothing of value backing those paper dollars. Thus, as the government prints more dollars, they will continue to become worth less until they become worthless.

Lesson #2: It is good to save one’s money for two reasons: a. in case of an emergency and b. to invest in the tools of one’s trade. The more tools you have that you know how to use, the more productive you can be. It is good to be productive because idle hands are the devil’s playground and because you can be more helpful to your fellow men and women if you are productive, thus making their lives better. Unfortunately, it’s harder to save if your dollars are becoming worth less over time. You may have to save items you can trade with instead of dollars.

Lesson #3: It is better to be self-employed than to be an employee. At first, it is fine to be an employee because you can learn from your employer and fellow workers. They will show you how to do things and tell you what needs to be done, but in the long run, after you see how to do things, you can go out on your own and find that which you can specialize in and be most productive doing.

Lesson #4: If you do quality work, you will never be unemployed. If you can also supply a quality product or service in quantity, you can prosper financially. In other words, the faster you can do quality work, the more productive and financially rewarding life will be.

Lesson #5: Earning a profit is better than losing money. If you earn a profit, you will be allowed to stay in business. If you lose money, you will be shut down by the people you borrowed money from to stay in business as long as you did. Bottom line, find someone who can teach you how to earn a profit.

Lesson #6: It’s better to be wealthy than poor. The wealthier you are, the more people you can help. The poorer you are, the fewer people you can help. If you believe it is good to be helpful, then you’ll want to earn a profit, save and invest to become wealthier.

Lesson #7: It’s better to teach someone how to fish rather than to give him a fish. If you give someone a fish, he eats for the day, but if you teach him how to fish, he can eat for a lifetime. Furthermore, gifts often kill one’s incentive to work or they may eliminate one's ability to earn a profit. Consider what happened in Haiti, a small island country in the Caribbean Sea, when they had an earthquake back in 2010. Much free food and other aid was sent from the United States to help them recover. Of course, the local farmers couldn’t compete with free food. Today, the country is still dependent on handouts from other parts of the world and the farmers still can't compete with the free food coming in.

Lesson #8: There are two ways for people to obtain the things they want: a. take it by force from someone else who has what you want, (that’s what governments do) or b. give them something in voluntary exchange for what you want. Voluntary exchange is better than force. That way, both people benefit…they both get what they want. It’s what we call a win/win deal. When governments are involved, it’s a win/lose deal…the government wins and you lose (your money).

Lesson #9: It is better to give first and receive later. If you receive something without doing something in return for it, you may feel obligated to return the favor. This will hang over your head until you do something in return. Better to give first and receive later. Better for others to owe you rather than for you to owe others.

Lesson #10: If you develop your talents by specializing in something you are good at, you will become the specialist who everyone looks to for that thing or service. This will give you a sense of satisfaction and accomplishment and make you happy to be of service.

If you can think of other economic lessons for Amish children, please send me an e-mail at . Thank you!

Robert F. Sennholz

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