Want v. need


‘From each according to his ability to each according to his need’ Socialist slogan.

I remember a Christmas where my employer could not pay us. I was fortunate, as I had saved and my needs were limited. However, our administrator was in a more difficult position. He was the only breadwinner for the family. He did not have enough money to buy presents for his four children nor put on something extra for Christmas dinner. In today’s world the difference between want and need seems to be lost. So is it a want to have Christmas presents and a special dinner or is it a need?

In recent years, we had the scandal of the Christmas mailing company that went bankrupt and families had to do without. It created a national outcry. I think it demonstrated to people that how you pay for goods and services dictates the types of goods and services that you receive. Does this mean that if you do not have the ability to buy Christmas presents outright then you do not have a need for Christmas presents?

Many great thinkers have cogitated over this issue. Maslow had a hierarchy of need. It started with the basics of food, shelter and water, and progressed to ability to interact in groups and earn a living. Marx and other socialist thinkers propounded that need should be linked to your ability to add value to society. Yet, in this world we have limited resources. I believe we need to re-learn how to live within our means. In the 21st Century for the majority of people in the world peoples’ basic needs are being met. To get our wants (the mobile phone or the turkey), I believe we have a responsibility to create enough wealth to meet those wants. How much wealth do you need?

An area of society that makes me real angry is people who have made their millions and then their conscious kicks in. They think gosh I better do some charity work or go on the TV show ‘The secret millionaire.’ If that individual had paid their workers and suppliers a fair price then there would be more justice in our society. Even worse is when it is done at an institutional level. In the papers at the weekend, the LIBOR fines on banks is being redistributed to military charities. Do we agree with this approach to the cleaning of the organisational consciousness? If the organisational values were not based on short term gain of bonuses (that bankers are not always able to spend) then perhaps the scandal could have been averted. I believe there would be less jealousy in our society if people could clarify between wants and needs.

In times of basic human need, I am more than willing to give in whatever way I can. Yet, I do not believe I should be giving to help meet another human beings want. They need to do that for themselves.

‘Nearer and closer to our hearts be the Christmas spirit, which is the spirit of active usefulness, perseverance, cheerful discharge of duty, kindness and forbearance! It is in the last virtues especially, that we are, or should be, strengthened by the unaccomplished visions of our youth; for, who shall say that they are not our teachers to deal gently even with the impalpable nothings of the earth.’ What Christmas is, as we grow older by Charles Dickens.