A few years ago, the Panera Bread Company thought they would try a socialist experiment in a capitalist environment. Panera CEO Ron Shaich seems to have coined a new phrase for Socialism, namely "Conscious capitalism." He created Panera Cares, basically a Panera store that operated off of the Marxist phrase, ”From each according to their means, to each according to their needs.” The idea was the menu had suggested prices. If you could pay more, you were asked to. If you couldn’t afford to pay, you were asked to pay what you could. The experiment failed with the closing of the last store on February 15th.
What Panera (and Marx) failed to consider was the “enlightened self-interest” of people. It is a cornerstone of the human condition to pay as little as possible for anything, be it time, energy or financial resources.
When you have a set price for a good or service, people decide to buy on their judgement of, “is what I am getting worth what I am paying for it?” If a customer decides that the product isn’t worth what they have to pay for it, they don’t buy it. If you have no set price, I would be surprised if anyone paid anywhere close to the “suggested” price, let alone more. Most people would pay something, just out of social guilt or wanting to be fair. I would be very surprised if more than 5% of the customers paid more than the suggested price.
The problems with this concept were easily predictable and numerous, right from the start. The stores needed people with additional means to pay for those who didn’t have the means to normally eat there. So you have someone who is well dressed and groomed, while at the next table is a homeless person who was more concerned with making it to the next sunrise than hygiene. This made both people uncomfortable. One person didn’t want to eat sitting next to someone who smelled like a dumpster in the Summertime, while said smelly person didn’t want their odor (and things) intruding on the other person. Then you had drug use in the bathrooms, or people who didn’t want to use the toilet, so they did their business on the floor and so on.
By the time the last one closed, the homeless were prohibited from eating there more than a “couple times a week” and the only ones attending were starving college students. The revenue of these stores never got above about 70% of the expenses, so they were big money holes.
Again, the basic flaw in the plan should have been easily predictable to anyone who has a faint idea of how humans operate.
Socialism inevitably comes down to the muzzle of a gun because only the most naïve will willingly surrender the fruits of their labor to those who will not likewise produce. The major Communist states (Soviet Union, China, Cuba, North Korea and more) had to convince its citizens on a daily basis that they were living in a “workers paradise.” And if you didn’t believe them, they either shot you or starved you to death.
Socialism will never work for any length of time on its own accord. It must be constantly pushed forward by those forced to live under the system, with the muzzle of a gun in their back to “inspire” them to keep pushing.