The Amish have the highest living standard in the United States

If you define standard of living increases in terms of an individual having more opportunities to enjoy private experiences and consumption of individual goods, you get one kind of society.  If you define standard of living increases in terms of local-level collectives (families, towns, cities) having more opportunities to enjoy shared experiences and consumption of individual and collective goods, you get a whole nother kind of society.

If technological benefits are communally shared and not solely focused on individual gratification, you get a very different picture of improved living standards over time.

To put it another way, a four bedroom, two bath house of 2000-2500sq ft is considered just right for a family of four, but it’s not at all unpleasant or crowded to have eight people living in such a large home.  But the relentless march of progress always portrays the choice as “cram 20 people in” or “have 3-4 people knocking around a giant house” when one could have an intermediate situation where one enjoyed the benefits of modern technology with the benefits of accountability due to living with what has typically been a bit more than nuclear family in your home.

Related, this family lives “off the grid” in terms of energy use, but is very much tightly interwoven and connected into the grid of real community:

http://waywardspark.com/on-homesteading-off-grid-living-and-money/

That couple is raising their children with teachers and adults they knew and liked, among people who know their parents, among blood kin and friends who also have long-standing multi-generational roots in that particular region.  They aren’t nearly as isolated despite their lack of public utilities as the modern SAHM living in a suburb far from both sets of relatives, in a town nowhere near even distant kin or college friends.  A lot of people think it’s limiting or provincial to spend your life living among multiple generations of blood and soil, but it’s natural, it’s normal and just because it’s not American* doesn’t mean it’s not something to be pursued in America.

*American: traditional American living is this, if there’s no religious aspect as with the Amish.  For all the right wing vitriol towards that kind of music and, uh, black people, that’s the real American essence, distilled.  Money, money, money, getting wealth, getting a big chunk of land far away from other people to lord over, these are a few of (white) America’s favorite things.  One of the reasons the social institutions conservatives love are failing is because of that GetRich aspect of Core America (h/t one Mr. Sailer).  It combines with individualism to be ultimately not that predictive or productive of wealth in the amounts desired by nearly all the individuals, but it has created a nation with wealth that none will likely ever see again.

But the Amish and that couple have a higher standard of living than the people with bigger houses on giant lots with a car for mom and dad and junior and sally precisely because the former two are less traditionally American than the latter household.

 

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