Sunday, October 6, 2019

Does Panera Really Care?

Back in the day one Karl Marx offered the following piece of economic policy wisdom: 

From each according to his ability, to each according to his needs.

The joke was on Marx. He predicted that socialist policies would produce unspeakable abundance, thus allowing there to be enough for everyone. In truth, socialist policies have produced unspeakable scarcity, and have caused tens of millions of people to starve to death.

A slight miscalculation....

You would think that the world would be sufficient “woke” from its Marxist slumber to have turned away from such bad policies. But, alas. You would be wrong. Aside from the fact that Democratic presidential candidates keep pretending that there is plenty of money to pay for their grandiose visions-- which shows that they have no concept of the value of assets-- but a restaurant chain, known as Panera Bread opened up a charity chain called Panera Cares.

It opened several of these non-profit restaurants across the country. The dimwitted executives who concocted the scheme proposed that each person could pay what he wanted, according to his ability, but that food would be provided indiscriminately to anyone who needed it. Sounds like recycled Marx, don't you think?

Laura Hollis reported in Town Hall (via Maggie’s Farm):

In 2010, Panera Bread launched a nonprofit called Panera Cares, a set of stores around the U.S. operated on a "pay-what-you-can basis." The underlying assumption was that customers of means would pay more to support customers with less -- or even no -- money. The company opened five Panera Cares stores in St. Louis; Portland; Chicago; Dearborn, Michigan; and Boston. All had closed by February of this year.

Of course, it failed. Hollis quotes the Vox analysis:

Vox's assessment was more concrete: Patrons complained about the smell of unbathed homeless people in the stores, and employees were not qualified to handle behavioral problems and drug use in the bathrooms.

It’s hard to imagine that these restaurants, founded on the best of intentions, would have become homeless encampments, but alas, such was the case.

In the Journal of Business Ethics, business case writers Giana Eckhardt and Susan Dobscha mischaracterize customers' complaints but note that both "food secure" and "food insecure" patrons were unhappy with the Panera Cares experience. Some customers felt pressured to pay more than they felt they could. Others felt taken advantage of by "free riders." Those in need of free food felt profiled and singled out. 

So, everyone was against it, indiscriminately. At least they achieved unanimity.

Hollis continues that it was a story of compassionate virtue signalling put into practice. And shown to fail. In truth, the cities of the true blue American West coast had already demonstrated the downside of compassion and empathy, but socialist illusions die hard.

Michael Shellenberger, an energy and environmental writer for Forbes, published a brutally honest and frankly shocking article just three weeks ago. According to Shellenberger, progressives (and he counts himself among them) bear much of the blame. "What happened in California isn't the first time that we progressives let our idealism get the better of us," he says.

He continues: "How did things get so bad in California? The state has long prided itself on being humanistic and innovative. It is home to some of the world's largest public health philanthropies, best hospitals, and most progressive policies on mental health and drug addiction. The Democrats have a supermajority. What went wrong?

"California made homelessness worse by making perfect housing the enemy of good housing, by liberalizing drug laws, and by opposing mandatory treatment for mental illness and drug addiction."

At least, Panera Cares accepted failure and closed up shop. Radical leftist politicians never admit that they are wrong. They were pursuing an ideal and got shipwrecked on the shoals of reality. Of course, they blamed it on global warning... or whatever.

Among the causes of the homeless problem is this: idealistic reformers decided several decades ago to empty psychiatric clinics and hospitals, because, as Hollis says, they decided that mental illness was a social construct. 

The results should have been predictable:

Social reformers decided in the 1960s that mental illness is a social construct, not a biological reality. Zealous and strident, lacking scientific evidence but holding the upper hand in the court of public opinion, they pushed governments to close mental hospitals without alternatives, casting thousands upon thousands of mentally ill people onto the street. More radical reformers insisted that the problem of serious mental health could be cured with that progressive panacea, wealth redistribution. Community clinics popped up but failed utterly to treat the most seriously ill, despite being sinkholes of federal funds.

Let’s not forget, the old theory about mental illness told us that the fault lay with advanced capitalism. Great theorists and even mental health practitioners were travelling to China to see how the Cultural Revolution had changed mental health treatment. No kidding. They believed that when socialism replaced capitalism mental illness and homelessness would naturally disappear. 

How is that one working out?


Ignatius Acton Chesterton OCD said...

Shellenberger: “California made homelessness worse by making perfect housing the enemy of good housing, by liberalizing drug laws, and by opposing mandatory treatment for mental illness and drug addiction."

Wow. A Progressive tells the truth. Someone tell the Progressive political class!

Another example of Progressives playing theoretical parlor games with other people’s lives. And looking glowingly at the Chinese model of totalitarianism.

Idealism is blissful ignorance. And you always get to be right.

trigger warning said...

"Back in the day one Karl Marx offered the following piece of economic policy wisdom:

From each according to his ability, to each according to his needs."

Which he basically stole from The Acts of the Apostles (4:35).

And, as it happens, there is a Way, one might even say a Shining Path, to make this work. We know this because it has been working for over a thousand years and is still working today. It's called the Rule of Benedict. Of course, one major difference between the Rule of Benedict and Marxist theory is the axiomatic view of human nature.

And there is plenty of insanity in Marxist societies. It is manifested when one observes a given policy is not working and says aloud, in the presence of others, "That's not working." Crazy, eh?

UbuMaccabee said...

A man beat four men to death in their sleep with a pipe. I told him it wasn’t his fault. Giles Deleuze taught us that capitalism makes us all crazy, and that he was unknowingly committing a revolutionary act; he was a desiring machine that had been re-wired into the death impulse by the inevitable neurosis capitalism engenders. Too bad Susan Sontag isn’t around to make him a celebrity victim. I see the next Artaud here.

UbuMaccabee said...

I wish I’d known about these free restaurants, I would have made them a regular feature of my week, instructing them on the lessons I learned from Napoleon the pig.

Sam L. said...

Then there are the Starbuck's that let the homeless camp out in their restrooms and seating areas.