Whenever we hear about a business or some other activity that provides a product or service, that requires resources of financial or labor that will operate on the honor system, many will simply just laugh. The level of confidence nowadays in people’s integrity is relatively low. Imagine an honor system to pay our taxes, purchase items in stores – or even eliminating the need for vaccine passports … 😉
An honor system is a philosophical way of running a variety of endeavors based on trust, honor, and honesty. The honor system is usually something that does not have strictly enforced rules governing its principles. The honor system also grants freedom from customary surveillance with the understanding that those who are so freed will be bound by their honor to observe regulations and will therefore not abuse the trust placed in them.
A few examples seem to work – here is a network of restaurants that operate in this way. However, success can be dubious, and success often relies on donations not specific to each entity as a business. Below is a trailer of their efforts.
This leads one to wonder in this Sunday Thoughts: Can the honor system work?
One of the more famous examples of an honor system business was the Vault Coffee Shop & Center for The Arts in Valley City, ND. It is cited as perhaps America’s first honor-system self-serve coffee shop. See below a video report a few years back from Fox News.
From June till October 2014, The Vault became worldwide news for its unique business model and honesty of the people of Valley City, North Dakota. The story was aired or printed in over 80 countries and posted online on news sites across the world.
The Vault coffee shop appears to be still operating, but one key takeaway point is revealed on their website from its owners, David Brekke and his wife, Kimberly.
“Generally speaking, the people of Valley City are more generous than dishonest. In the first seven months of being open, we averaged 15% more than our asking prices.
Would an honor system coffee shop work anywhere? Probably not. The good people of Valley City make it possible.”
The Brekkes admit that the honor system business model most likely could not be extrapolated to an entire country’s economy. It basically can only work in a small community where people are already honest. As well, in a small community, one can imagine that regular patrons would be found out not paying, and the coercion of shame would cause people to remain honest.
Sometimes it is not necessarily about honor – just people not realizing that their eyes were bigger than what they think they should pay. Have you ever gone out with friends and at the end of a meal everyone pitches money into the center of the table to pay the waiter and your $20 short? One then needs to sort out the people that short-change what they owe or the people that took that extra drink and dessert.
In terms of potential Biblical guidance for our Sunday Thoughts regular readers, and to the chagrin of our non-religious readers, consider the following quotes concerning any potential honor systems you may think to implement.
- Psalm 37:21: “The wicked borrow and do not repay, but the righteous give generously.” Yes, good and bad people exist – surprised?
- Proverbs 10:9: “Whoever walks in integrity walks securely, but whoever takes crooked paths will be found out.” The Brekkes in our example, and as they had mentioned, did monitor to find out eventually those on crooked paths.
- 2 Kings 12:15: “And they did not ask an accounting from the men into whose hand they delivered the money to pay out to the workmen, for they dealt honestly.” The ideal world.
- Matthew 6:2: “Thus, whenever you give … do not blow a trumpet before you, as the hypocrites … they have their reward in full already.” Perhaps shaming non-payers will not be sufficient.
- 1 John 4:1: “Beloved, believe not every spirit, but try the spirits whether they are of God.” Trust but verify?
So would God implement an honor system or have a cash register today if he had a business?
An interesting thought question, but one must be reminded that this is not God’s world today, rather man’s try at being his own God. So the suggestion would be; until God brings his kingdom to earth – put proper security and cash registers on your businesses – but do it honestly.
See more in this series of Sunday Thoughts – click here.