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