Maintaining Numbers: Real-Life Lessons from the Amish and the Shakers

An important comparison between two US religious sects—the Quakers and the Amish—and of their respective decline and growth—serves as an instructive lesson in demographics and how to maintain numbers when surrounded by hostile forces, a valuable article on the Unherd website reveals.

Titled “What the Amish and the Shakers Can Teach us about Demographics,” the article reveals that the Shakers, at their “mid-19th century zenith,” had six thousand members. Today there are only two left.

The Amish—perhaps most famous for their buggies seen in rural areas of Amerca—numbered five thousand in 1920, but today there are at least 300,000 of them. Why the difference, asks the article.

As the article says, the “Shakers and the Amish are both part of the non-conformist Protestant tradition – whose ancestors fled Europe for the Americas the 17th and 18th centuries. Both are counted among the ‘plain people’ – Christian groups who reject the fashions and conveniences of the modern world, who dress simply and who often live in close-knit communities apart from mainstream society.”

The reasons for the two group’s different destinies is simple: children, and a organized, structured, sense of purpose.

As the article says, “Ultimately this is about sex, not sects. Though the Shakers lived in mixed communities, where women had equal status to men, they also practiced universal life-long celibacy. Even when they were growing in number, it was only through recruitment from the outside world.

“The Amish could hardly be more different. Very few outsiders join their communities – not least because of the language barrier (the Amish still speak the ‘Pennsylvania Dutch’ of their ancestors and related dialects). However, unlike the Shakers, they get married, stay married and have lots of children.”

In addition to children, another part of the secret to Amish success is giving their community a sense of purpose. This sense of purpose—in calculated through their own educational system—allows the community to stay intact. As the article continues:

“Furthermore, most of those children choose, as young adults, to stay with the Amish church (and, therefore, the community). This is despite – or, perhaps, because of – an Amish tradition called the rumspringa, in which youngsters venture for a time into the ‘English’ world (i.e. non-Amish America). They then decide whether to stay there or return to be baptized as a full member of the church.

“Retention rates are said to be higher now than they’ve ever been. Apparently smartphones and vaping aren’t viewed as an acceptable substitute for purpose, structure and community.”

All of this translates into a rapid rate of population growth. The rule-of-thumb is that Amish numbers double every generation, the article points out.

“Because they prefer to live in smaller communities of about 30 families, population growth requires the founding of new settlements. When your way of life doesn’t depend on close connections with the global economy (quite the opposite, in fact) this isn’t so difficult. There is plenty of cheap farmland to be had for from America’s big cities. Remarkably, of the 500 or so Amish settlements, about half were founded in the 21st century.”

Astonishingly, if the Amish keep doubling their numbers for another century, then there will be eight million of them. If they keep it up for two centuries, America will be a majority Amish nation, the article claims.

“The Amish and the Shakers represent opposite extremes of the demographic spectrum – and provide a living (and dying) demonstration of the idea that ‘demographics is destiny’.

“We can look at the Shakers and boggle at their lack of foresight, but let’s not forget that birthrates throughout most of North America, Europe and East Asia are well below what’s required to replace the existing population. Like the Shakers, we too are committing demographic suicide – albeit more slowly.

“Of course, that assumes not only that the Amish continue to grow at their current rate, but also that no one else keeps pace with them. In fact, there are a few other groups in America with above average fertility – the Mormons, for instance.

“Keeping a population stable requires a fertility rate of just above two. It is below that across the western world and still falling. It is 1.6 in Canada, 1.5 in Germany, 1.4 in Spain, 1.3 in Greece, 1.2 in Taiwan. A fertility rate of 1.41, by the way, means that the size of each new generation halves every two generations.

“It’s also worth noting that, in America, the birth rate among the immigrant population is declining even faster than among the US-born population.”

“It is said that history is made by those who turn up. But it’s equally true that the future belongs to those who have children.”

The take-aways from this article are therefore as follows:

  1. A breakaway incipient ethnostate is useless without children. This has to be the very first priority of anyone involved in this idea. All the theoretical pontification in the world is pointless without a new, increased-in-size, generation.
  2. Start small with regard to land settlements: it is unrealistic to think in terms of entire states at this stage. That will follow on in due course, a natural outflow of majority demographic possession.
  3. There is no need to go low-tech or to look “strange” like the Amish, but there can be no doubt that their ideological coherence plays a major role in keeping their community together. In this regard, it is of equal importance to establish an own schooling system, so that children in an incipient ethnostate gain a complete and full understanding of their role in society, and their destiny.

In summary then: Without children and an ideological purpose, a parallel community will cease to exist.

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  1. The idea of “Ideological Coherence” is the best explanation of what we need to take our very-badly-splintered population forth to our goals. Ideological coherence is exactly what is missing in the U.S. today, as we are split apart by unfettered immigration. We are more busy worrying about the ‘poor immigrants’ than our own physical existence. We are mostly split by Socialism vs. Capitalism on an economic basis as well as a moral basis. And the Socialists are winning the ‘propaganda’ war. This is an article every American needs to read and ponder.

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