Needs and Desires

Charles Brown CharlesB at
Fri Jan 28 12:32:52 MST 2000

>>> Doug Henwood <dhenwood at> 01/28/00 01:44AM >>>
Roger Odisio wrote:

>What do you mean by basic needs being "plastic", Doug?  I think you said
>that once before, and I don't have a clue what you mean.

What are basic human needs? Aside from the bare minimums of oxygen,
water, and nutrients? Love? Tasty food? Art? They seem to vary
enormously across time & space, and by temperament too.


CB:  Bare minimums such as oxygen, water and nutrients are basic  human needs, yes.
There are some others that are definitely premises to physical survival. The socialist
idea is to certainly guarantee these. That alone is a profound advance for humanity.

Just because there may be some other things that are not as clearly defined as basic
human needs is no reason to back off on guaranteeing those things which are clearly
necessary to physical survival. So, the definitional difficulty raised by Doug does
not undermine the profound value of the socialist concept of guaranteeing those needs
that are unambiguously basic.

The aim of guaranteeing these basic needs does not contradict concluding that other
things are also basic needs, and seeking to guarantee them; or seeking to fulfill
desires , which are not basic to physical survival. So, again, the fact that it is not
always possible to be definite as to whether something is a need or is a desire is not
a reason to abandon the socialist goal of guaranteeing  those things that are
undeniably basic needs.

Concretely, because we might be uncertain whether tasty food is a basic need or is a
desire is no reason not to guarantee nutritious food for everyone.

First let us guarantee all things that are no doubt basic needs, and then let a
further decision process go on as to what other needs should be guaranteed and what
desires should be made possible.


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