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Our Needs

By Bernard

What is an economic need?

Basic needs are not an object of our science.  Basic needs relate to the use value.  Economists take into account only exchange value.  So, we tale the needs as they are, without studying them.

Nobody is creating needs. Needs are there, sometimes hidden down in our brain, because we had been told so often: "NO!"  Some business will use some modern techniques to make us recover our needs, but the needs were always there, just forgotten for sometimes.

Human needs are in large number and very different from one another.  The economists will divide them according to their importance:

  • Some are essential for our life, like security foods, clothes and housing;
  • Others, not essential, but very useful, like transportation, health and education;
  • Some others maybe superfluous, like tobacco and alcool.
  • Finally, the ultimate are the luxury goods, which are the opposite to the concept of need, but some people thing that they need luxury goods!

To be in need means to lack of everything.  To live in luxury means to have everything and sometimes too much of it.  Some rich people, not all of them, mostly only the new rich people, will spend a lot of money without taking the time to enjoy the results of their expenses:  spending to show they can spend, to show their power.  New stars (sports, movies, singers) do that often.  Some political leaders also, if not themself, their children, family and friends.

Some economists and philosophers developed their thought from the satisfaction that we get when our needs are satisfied, and on the contrary, the pain that we suffer.  We call them the utilitarists.  Jeremy Bentham (1748-1832) et John Stuart Mill (1806-1873) are the most wellknown economists who advocate utilitarism.  Bentham began "The Principles of Morals and Legislation" with these words:

"Nature has placed mankind under the governance of two sovereign masters, pain and pleasure. It is for them alone to point out what we ought to do, as well as to determine what we shall do. On the one hand the standard of right and wrong, on the other the chain of causes and effects, are fastened to their throne. They govern us in all we do, in all we say, in all we think ..."

So, for the economists, the needs are there.  There are many kinds of needs and other human sciences will also study them:  psychology, history, sociology, anthropology, political science...  The economists take the results of these studies and look for the exchanges that the needs will generate;  this is the part of needs that we study.

The best exemple of these studies is the hierarchy of needs by Maslow.  The results are presented in a pyramid.


Abraham Maslow's (1908 - 1970) hierarchy of needs and pyramid

As the base, the most fundamentals needs are the physiological needs:  breathing, foods, water, sex, sleep, homeostasis, excretion. .  At the second level, the safety needs.  Higher, the love and belonging needs.  More high even are the esteem needs and at the top, the self-actualization.

The question of the economists is: where is the money?  And my answer is that we need money to get these needs because nothing is free, even freedom is not free.