While in Maine recently, we marveled at the beauty of the coastline, the bustling small towns and harbors, and the majesty of Acadia National Park.
We also saw tons of portraits and lithographs of Civil War general and former President Ulysses S. Grant and his family on walls of shops and homes. Second was President Abraham Lincoln.
It was Maine. Not the South.
We went to a highly recommended restaurant that featured organic, locally sourced vegetables; fresh caught fish right from the dock boat and “the best hamburger ever made” because of the high-quality meat served under summer tomatoes and lettuce.
Maybe it was a play on being the “social” place to go in town, but staff prominently displayed black T-shirts that read: “The ‘social-(ist)’ place to be in town.”
After being talked out of asking a lot of questions, an internal discussion took place in my head with the waitress that went something like this:
“Soooo, is this really a ‘socialist’ restaurant?”
“Well, it is Maine. We love Bernie and Elizabeth and now Alexandria, ya know.”
“OK, then. I’ll have this great burger everyone is talking about. Socialists want free college education and health care for everyone, so I assume it is free as well, yes?”
“It is $17.99, sir.”
“Wow. I can get a Big Mac for $3.99. Why doesn’t your burger cost the same as a Big Mac?”
“Ours is better sir. Better ingredients, more healthy for you. The beef comes from cattle that are fed the highest-quality grass and heirloom corn their entire lives.”
“But I thought socialists thought everyone should be treated the same. Your burger should cost the same as a Big Mac, yes?”
“Can I get you a drink, sir?
“Are you paid the same as the person who owns this place? Does the proletariat staff share the profits equally on a pro-rata basis?”
“We work for the owner. She is a well-respected and award-winning chef here in Mid Coast Maine.”
“So I guess she took all the risks in buying this place, borrowing money, putting in new ovens and equipment and hiring the staff and filing the tax forms and got all the licenses needed to run a restaurant?”
‘Well, yes, I guess she did.”
“At $17.99 a burger, y’all must be making a lot of profit, yes?”
“I guess so. I just started work here a coupla months ago.”
“Even though you have no money in this business, do you get an equal share of the profits? Do you get to go to the same place as the owner does in the winter when it gets brutally cold up here?”
“I think I heard she has a place in Turks and Caicos or somewhere like that.”
“If this place goes bust because someone gets salmonella poisoning from some organic lettuce that has not been properly cleaned before serving, will the banks that lent the money to start the business just write off the debt and forgive the debt entirely without taking any action to recover their money by putting liens on the owner’s home or other assets?”
“I really don’t know, sir.”
“Should I tip you or not? I mean, after all, why should I reward any excellence on your part if it will be seen as ‘unfair’ to any of your colleagues?”
“I really don’t know what you are talking about, mister.”
‘This really isn’t a ‘socialist’ restaurant then, is it, ma’am? Socialism draws its energy from capitalism. A risk-taking entrepreneur with vision and talent starts a business to make profits to pay the bills and survive. No profits; no way to pay your wages, therefore, no job for you and no money for anyone else through social programs.”
“I guess so. I just work here, ya know”.
“Y’all Mainers know Grant and Lincoln were Republicans, don’t you?”
“Thanks for coming, sir. Have a nice trip.”