It is hard to measure the impact of Amway on Western Michigan. However, Amway is a company that probably is underneath many people’s radar much like many people are not aware of dispensationalism or the Left Behind series.
The first thing to understand is that Amway is the hook. Amway makes good products. They would probably be competitive with other brands. However, that is not how Amway operates. Amway is a legal pyramid scheme. In that, in the variety of products that they sell, they encourage people to adopt an “Amway” lifestyle. People consume Amway products, sell Amway products, and try to convert others to adopt an Amway lifestyle also. It is not a mere coincidence that the Amway evangelism parallels Christian evangelism. The two actively reinforce one another and the blending of the two is quite intentional.
The organizational structure is a strict hierarchy rewarding the earliest, most feral and evangelical members. The Bible is then cherry-picked to reinforce and justify the hierarchy. The encouraged belief is seeing the monetary rewards as gifts from God, telling those not doing so well to keep faith, and expounding the success stories within the organization.
The vast rewards of those at the top of the organization on the backs under them provides a key reinforcement. One, they undoubtedly went through a tough time when they started out. Two, God showed favor upon them and is continuing to reward their faith in this life. Three, there is no need to help those worse off because eventually God will help them out too.
The disconnect is like the superstitious pigeon. For background, if you deliver a food pellet to a pigeon at random, it will develop wild superstitions about why the food pellet came. Humans operate much in the same manner. In winner take all capitalist systems, the ready made reason for random events is God. It turns out to be essential to give people a sense of desperation to begin with to reinforce their faith. Those that lose, just give up. Those that win have God to thank, which builds an organization of Christian-Capitalist-Evangelical believers with the most adamant and successful at the top.
The God-reinforced elitism is essential. The wealth is not generated through free-market means, it is generated through organizational means. Because the wealth is God-ordained, the well-off have no real sense of earning money. The money that they have is merely as much as they can take. This arises in other contexts also. However, Amway and Western Michigan provides a wonderful example of how business and religion intermix to give rise to what has become modern Republican elites. They know they are competent because God shows them favor. We would not expect them to necessarily be unintelligent, but rather arrogant, loyal, elitist and unwaivering. Much of their world view would be an article of faith without need of evidence. Such as, private companies are more efficient than the government not in particular circumstances, but always and everywhere. No matter what incentives are in place to fleece the government. It is this divorce of reality and understanding in the current leadership that makes the world a scary place to be. In that respect, Amway is a perfect symbol for the bastardization of the American way of life.