When Karl Marx adopted this idea from Louis Blanc, he was thinking of it in terms of the perfect Communist society (not the Soviet or Chinese versions). The first part of the phrase, "From each according to his abilities", is the basis for the Conservative belief system today, as well as adopting the Platonic idea of work ethic, i.e., a person should work as hard as they can, and do it to the best of their abilities; but, then it drifts away from the Conservative ideal to the more Kennedyesque "Don't ask what your country can do for you, instead, ask what you can do for your country."
"To each according to his needs" isn't speaking of transfer of wealth from those who work to those in need. Remember in the "perfect" Communist society, everybody works for the love of working in order provide for society as whole and therefore contributes, willingly and freely, all their wealth to society. Therefore, the latter part of the phrase simply means each person in society take only what they need; a very, very old idea as well.
So, what do I think of that ethos, from a purely theoretical viewpoint, I think it is a pretty good ethos, BUT, from a practical point-of-view, it would never, it didn't work, it ended up as SWB78 described; so you have to fall back to the next best thing ... regulated Capitalism.