Just been flipping through the blog’s back pages and came across a post on the Amish and gasoline prices from May of last year.  Gas was around three-and-a-quarter then.  “Yikes, that’s high”, people were saying.  I guess we’re at four bucks now…

My main point on that post was that rising gas affects the Amish in a number of ways.  The Amish are plugged into the American economy and do care how much energy costs, despite what one might think at first glance.

And some care more than others.  Amish business owners speculate that it has affected them in a number of ways, including by reducing the number of free-spending vacationers visiting their shops and stores, and by upping shipping and commuting costs.

Construction and furniture-making are two of the largest ‘Amish’ industries.  With Amish furniture men shipping cross-country, and Amish builders transporting themselves, their workers and equipment up to two hours to the jobsite, it is certainly a factor.

I recently read an article in Slate magazine on the nation’s RV businesses taking a huge hit, largely due to the fuel situation.  This is undoubtedly affecting the northern Indiana economy, and the many Amish who work in the industry.  Many were already experiencing layoffs and slower times back in 2006.

Personally I think gas prices have gotten to be a tired topic.

Don’t get me wrong, filling up has become a dreaded experience for many.  Energy execs recently got their latest drubbing in front of Congress.  The execs pointed the finger right backat the politicians, blaming US energy policy for exacerbating theproblem.   It’s shaping up to be a big political issue this year, along with the housing situation and the economic slowdown.

Some perspective may be in order amongst all the hoopla.  We’ve got a way to go before we hit European levels.  And, of course, there are worse things to be dealing with in life.

Growth is good and desired and to be expected, but markets change and tougher times do come around.  Yet our economic history shows that hard times are the exception rather than the rule.

I’m also reminded of some wisdom a few Amish entrepreneurs shared recently while researching my upcoming book.  On more than one occasion the point was made that businesspeople actually need the tough times, as it helps them become better at operating their companies.  It teaches you to ‘sharpen your pencil’ and get on top of the little things that get overlooked when business is booming.

Perhaps the same could be said about individuals needing the occasional tough times as well.  Though ‘tough times’ are relative, and if $4-a-gallon gas, or $5 for that matter, is the biggest problem on your mind, you are doing okay, if I can be forgiven for saying so.

This is not a political blog, and I fear I’ve been veering dangerously in that direction(!), so let’s get back to the Amish for the finish.  Sorry for the departure.

Even if you are not an Amish entrepreneur, gas prices matter.  Many Amish hire what are known as Amish taxis for trips to the store–costing for example $25 for an 8-mile round trip, according to this article on an Amish couple near Altoona, Pennsylvania.  The couple are considering hitching up and taking the buggy instead, despite the less-than-safe road conditions.

I’ve got a couple of other reasons why the Amish care about fuel prices on last year’s post, if you’re interested.  Good to keep in mind when you read anything about the Amish being isolated from the outside world.  Culturally, maybe.  But economically?  Hardly.