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Amish Anarchy and Uncle Sam
by Tyler Durden
Dec 21, 2017 8:45 PM

There’s a kerfuffle in Wisconsin over threatened application of The Law to the Amish.

Up to now, they’ve successfully dodged Uncle Sam – been exempted on religious grounds from a great many busybody-isms, including laws requiring the presence and use of seat belts and child safety seats in all motor vehicles.

Their horse-drawn buggies lack motors, of course – as well as seatbelts and child seats.

They don’t have air bags or back-up cameras or tire pressure monitors, either. The Amish don’t believe such things are necessary and therefore do without.

They also believe it’s their decision, their business – and just want to go about their business, leave others alone and be left alone in turn. After all, they’re not harming anyone else. And if they harm themselves, the Amish take care of themselves.

It seems reasonable enough.

That doesn’t wash for the rest of us, though.

Why should it work for the Amish?

Portrait of an armed busybody . . .

Such is the entirely logical argument of a busybody with a gun – i.e., a government worker – by the name of Bill Winch. He is a member of the Wisconsin Rapids Board of Supervisors and doesn’t think the Amish ought to be exempted from anything – including other laws requiring driver’s licenses and mandatory insurance.

He has proposed a new law precisely to that effect.


Winch goes further. The buggies of the Amish should also be fitted with automotive safety glass, windshield and side glass – no matter what it costs the Amish and how impractical it is to install such things in a horse-drawn buggy.

For their saaaaaaaaaaaaafety, of course.

Their horse-drawn buggies should also be required to have headlights and turn signals – just like everyone else’s car. If this requires expense, so be it. And new buggies manufactured after a certain date surely ought to be required to have at least driver and front seat passenger air bags and comply with some sort of government crash test regime.

Amish teenagers must not be allowed to “operate” a buggy until they have attained a certain Uncle-prescribed age – and then only when accompanied by an adult – and never accompanied by other teens, unsupervised.


It might cause some eyes to open.

Logically – as a matter of principle – either all of us and not just the Amish should be left in peace to go about our business or no one should be left in peace.

Why should the claim of the Amish that seatbelts and insurance and all the rest are meddling twaddle contrary to their beliefs carry any more weight than the belief – just as ardent and probably better-articulated – of the Libertarian who also believes that it’s no one else’s proper business whether he has or wears a seatbelt?

Winch is absolutely correct.

Or at least, he is a consistent authoritarian control freak.

The arguments used to justify everything imposed on the non-Amish apply just as much to the Amish. If these justifications are morally valid then the laws based upon them should brook no exceptions.

The Amish, no matter how pious, are not immune to the forces of nature. If an Amish buggy driver wrecks his buggy, he might be injured – just like anyone else. And if he is not buckled up – if his buggy lacks shatterproof automotive safety glass – his injuries could be more severe than would otherwise have been the case.

Undeniable facts of physics.

So why should the Amish – but not the rest of us – get a pass?

Why should they get to live a simple, unencumbered, exempted life? One free of not just government busybodyism but also the financial pressure of having to constantly earn money in order to pay for all that busybodyism? The Amish man can farm his land, raise his crops and not have to worry about coming up with thousands of dollars every year to pay for mandatory this and tax that – including Social Security and Obamacare taxes. Or air bags and seat belts and back-up cameras and shatterproof safety glass. He has no dealings with the DMV.

This makes him a very free man.

Which is very unfair to the rest of us.

An outrage!

So perhaps this new law applying the law to the Amish is just the medicine needed.

Sympathy for the Amish might transfer to the rest of us. It might occur to some that it is unjust – tyrannical – to molest people who just want to be left alone and who aren’t causing harm to anyone else. It might get people to thinking about whether the justifications elaborated to push, promote and impose all the aforesaid busybody-ism are in fact legitimate.

And if they’re not . . . well, we might be able to roll some of this back. And for everyone.

The Amish are, indeed, throwbacks.

And not just because of their buggies and beards. They are living fossils of a species almost extinct: The Free Man. They’re not interested in your goods and don’t want to control your life. If you’re interested in their lifestyle, you’re free to emulate it and even to become Amish, if that is your desire.

In return, the Amish only ask that you leave them free to be Amish.

But that is too much to ask for people like Bill Winch.

Klaus Karbaumer says 2017-12-24 18:42:36 (CST)

The physical forces on occupants in a car are much higher than those on occupants in horse-drawn buggy, unless the latter one is hit by a careless and unattentive car/pick-up driver. While seatbelts are necessary in a car to avoid death or serious injuries in case of an accident, in a buggy they probably make less sense. When arguing that it should be left to the occupants of a car if they want to be buckled up or not, one should also think about financial consequences for all involved, but also about what we expect first responders to experience when they come upon the scene. Several policemen and firefighters among our customers told me that it is always worse when they have to deal with people who didn't wear their seat-belts. Same applies to helmets for motor-bike riders. To deal with injured people is bad enough for these public servants.
While members of a religious sect certainly can be exempted from some laws, they certainly should have to adhere to others. The "devil" is in the details, as the saying goes. Religion cannot be a free pass for any kind of behavior.
In other words, one always runs the risk to run counter to logic if one paints with too broad a stroke.
By the way, a good number of the Amish in Jamesport, MO have not only reflective triangles on the backs of their buggies, but also blinkers, and I have even seen lights in front. I think they do that for their own safety after some pretty bad accidents.

12 months ago via Forums | Front Porch Forum

K.C. Fox says 2017-12-25 11:02:56 (CST)

Seat belts kill same with Helmets when the times are right they might save a life. I have been In 3 wrecks 2 of if I had been wearing a seat belt I wouldn't be here. 2 of my friends are dead because of wearing a seat belt. Helmets make for easier Identification because the face normally is unharmed even every other bone in the body is broke. I wont wear either a seat belt or Helmet ever. No one keeps track of the people who were wearing and died, just the ones who were wearing and lived. Let the ones who drive and ride decide. My decision, do as you think is best I will just pay the fine If I get caught not wearing.

12 months ago via Forums | Front Porch Forum

BrianL says 2018-01-10 08:25:55 (CST)

I would hazard a guess that the majority of Amish buggy wrecks are the result of a collision with a motor vehicle and not multiple buggy wrecks. There can be a degree of compromise in some areas when they are for the common good and do not substantially alter what they are attempting to modify. For instance, tacking a reflector onto the back of wagon isn't, in my non-Amish view, necessarily onerous whereas safety glass, windshield, etc. are.

This being said, the Wisconsin Rapids Board of Supervisors proposal does sound excessive. Using the safety argument, I doubt there are studies on this but I'd suspect that NOT being strapped into a buggy is probably safer then being bound to a lightweight wooden wheeled object that encounters a steel motor vehicle. Being ejected is probably one's best chance of survival. From the legal standpoint, while I haven't read the actual language, it sounds like it's on thin ice. It's considered unconstitutional to draft legislation that specifically targets an ethnic, religious, or other similar group and, by creating ponderous and expensive laws for horse-drawn buggies, unless Wisconsin Rapids can prove that groups other than Amish use these in significant numbers and that the volume on the road makes them a substantial risk, then any law or ordinance would by nullified.

I do somewhat agree with Klaus on religious exemption, but because freedom of religion is articulated in the Constitution, it does need to be given greater consideration than an ordinary person claiming it's their right simply because it's their personal choice.

My personal sense on this is, this law is about something else. While most communities welcome Amish as neighbors, a few have prejudices that, while they cannot be acted on directly (legally), take the form of punitive ordinances designed to make the Amish feel unwelcome and to try and drive them out of town. While Amish embrace nonresistance, they do, in some cases, push back against these sorts of unethical and legally questionable actions with the help of their English neighbors. I hope the neighbors of the Amish in this Wisconsin town do similar and that reason prevails.

12 months ago via Forums | Front Porch Forum

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