need *Commonsense opinion
often has it that our needs are few, obvious and easy to satisfy, but the wants
of the *greedy are infinite and uncontrolled, thereby causing the needy to go
without. The reality is the reverse: our needs are infinite, often unknown and
ultimately impossible to satisfy; our wants will always be finite and subject
to our control; trying to satisfy our wants is what most helps the needy.

It can be useful to distinguish between a biological
need (something that is required for an organism’s healthy survival, which this
entry discusses) and a hypothetical need (something that is required to achieve
a particular chosen goal). Some biological needs are unknown (as the need for
vitamin C was once disastrously unknown by sailors) and they are literally infinite
(we shall all eventually die because we shall not receive something required
for our survival).

Almost everyone makes trade-offs between their known
needs and wants unrelated to those needs. Only those who are doing everything
they possibly can to live as long as possible are attempting to have perfectly
congruent needs and wants. On average they will not live much longer than most
people, but it may well seem longer—including for those people whom they insist
on telling about their efforts. Anyone who approves of using the *state to *coerce people to
meet certain of their own needs, whether by making them do something or not do
something, is to some degree a *health *fascist.

The view that the state should provide, or guarantee,
opportunities for people to meet their needs falls foul of their infinite and
sometimes unknown *nature, as well as *economic calculation
(as competing needs have to be balanced in an *economic way, as
only the *market is capable of doing, even if we ignore what people actually want).

Generally, people obtain more of what they need plus
more of what they actually want via the *free market. State
intervention replaces the *invisible hand of the market with the manifest jackboot
of *politics. And it is
in *countries in dire *poverty that the
state will do the most harm by trying to assist with needs (see *famine; *less-developed countries).

A Dictionary of Libertarianism