The Amish people of Lancaster County have faced this ambivalence towards modern technology in other aspects of Amish living. For instance, the use of modern tractors and hay balers on
also provided controversy where labor-saving technology was weighed against deeply held traditions of the Amish lifestyle.
The Amish people value traditions, community, and the slowness of life. On the other hand, Amish life also values hard work, helping one's neighbors, and the survival of their culture.
If a new technology is accepted, the central question becomes how does the group deal with a technological innovation that has the potential to strengthen the community while at the same time being in opposition to some of their most long-held values?
The threat of the automobile to the traditional Amish lifestyle includes the following:
Therefore, the use of the automobile was gradually seen as helpful to the Amish lifestyle in uniting larger settlements as well as uniting settlements from neighboring counties.
The Amish Taxi
The "Amish Taxi" refers to a service initiated in the 1950's where a non-Amish neighbor would transport Amish to social and business functions on a regular, paid basis.
Today, dozens of non-Amish "taxi drivers" in Lancaster County earn an income in this fashion.
This service became increasingly useful in 1970's as an increase in the Amish population in Lancaster County led many Amish to seek out non-farm occupations. Such occupations such as mobile construction companies required vans to transport crews to various work sites. Likewise Amish cottage industries such as Amish craft shops required trucks to transport supplies and merchandise.
The non-Amish owners of these vans and trucks are usually paid based upon the mileage from the use of their vehicles. Oftentimes, Amish businesses employ a non-Amish individual simply for these taxiing services.
It should be noted that the Amish are allowed to hire these taxis for necessary social and business purposes only. Hiring an Amish taxi for a strictly pleasurable trip is discouraged. Also, the use of the taxis is also discouraged on Sundays. Usually Sunday taxi trips are limited to emergencies such as visiting relatives who are very ill.
Prohibition Against Car Ownership
Although the Amish are allowed to use automobiles for social and business functions, the church rules prohibit members from owning as well as driving a car.
Amish businessmen are also not allowed to provide loans to non-Amish employees for the purpose of buying a vehicle.
Ownership of an automobile is considered a taboo. It is important to the community to maintain the horse and buggy as a symbol of Amish identity.
Overall, the cultural compromise of prohibiting members from owning and driving cars but permitting the use of the cars via "Amish taxis" for necessary social and business purposes, protects the stability, equality, and identity of their community while allowing the Amish lifestyle to flourish socially and financially.
The traditional virtue of community harmony is balanced with the practical convenience of modern technology.
To learn more about the Amish lifestyle in Lancaster County, Pennsylvania, please see the following pages:
Back to an Introduction to the Amish People of Lancaster County