Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs and the U.S. Economy
This article was written as food for thought:
Today, when all is well in the economy, rarely does one need to worry about physical survival or safety, as there just isn't enough time in a day, and it's not relevant to the life we live. With a decent paying job, a roof over our heads, food in the refrigerator and gas in the car, we are content with our personal survival & safety, but we tend to worry about other things... Things that we believe will enhance our love life, our family, self-improvement or the larger society as a whole. We think of our career progression, how to improve our relationships or sexuality, improved material status symbols (a big house, Hummer in the driveway, Plasma TV, etc), morality issues (equal rights for everyone, abortion issues, gay marriage, feeding the homeless, welfare, etc), and we make an attempt to figure out and solve the world's problems (this Blog is a good example).
You are probably asking: Why is this relevant? How does this relate to Maslow's Hierarchy of Needs and the Economy? Well, that is an excellent question, and I'm glad you asked. Allow me to first try to explain Maslow's Hierarchy of Needs and then show how the two are interrelated.
Maslow's Hierarchy of Needs is a hierarchy of five levels of basic human needs (illustrated in the pyramid below). Beyond these needs, higher levels of needs exist. These include needs for understanding, esthetic appreciation and purely spiritual needs. In the levels of the five basic needs, the person does not feel the second need until the demands of the first have been satisfied, nor the third until the second has been satisfied, and so on. Maslow's basic needs are as follows:
Our biological needs: The need for oxygen, food, water, and a relatively constant body temperature. They are the strongest needs due to mans need to survive
When all physiological needs are satisfied and are no longer controlling thoughts and behaviors, the needs for security can become active. Adults have little awareness of their security needs except in times of emergency or periods of disorganization in the social structure (such as widespread rioting). Children often display the signs of insecurity and the need to be safe.
Needs of Love, Affection and Belongingness
When the needs for safety and for physiological well-being are satisfied, the next class of needs for love, affection and belongingness emerge. Maslow states that people seek to overcome feelings of loneliness and alienation. This involves both giving and receiving love, affection and the sense of belonging.
Needs for Esteem
When the first three classes of needs are satisfied, the needs for esteem can become dominant. These involve needs for both self-esteem and for the esteem a person gets from others. Humans have a need for a stable, firmly based, high level of self-respect, and respect from others. When these needs are satisfied, the person feels self-confident and valuable as a person in the world. When these needs are frustrated, the person feels inferior, weak, helpless and worthless.
Needs for Self-Actualization
When all of the foregoing needs are satisfied, then and only then are the needs for self-actualization activated. Maslow describes self-actualization as a person's need to be and do that which the person was "born to do." "A musician must make music, an artist must paint, and a poet must write." These needs make themselves felt in signs of restlessness. The person feels on edge, tense, lacking something, in short, restless. If a person is hungry, unsafe, not loved or accepted, or lacking self-esteem, it is very easy to know what the person is restless about. It is not always clear what a person wants when there is a need for self-actualization
OK, you get the point. These basic human needs impact everyone and the later needs can't be achieved until the lower needs are fulfilled. So, how does the issue relate to the economy? I'll try to explain that next.
Today, all seems to be well in the U.S. economy and we have money in our pockets, so we rarely have to worry about the lower level needs (food, water, shelter, survival, etc). But what will happen to us if we experience a drastic change in our lifestyle and we lose our job, lose our car and house, and we don't have enough food to feed our children? No longer will we care about material things, looking pretty or "equal rights for all of humanity". Our whole train of thought will change and we will concentrate on the instinctive need to survive! We will do anything and everything possible, including risking life and limb, to support that survival instinct.
What then, happens to a society when millions of people simultaneously lose their jobs and homes due to an economic crisis, and the little savings they have left is made worthless through rampant inflation and massive monetization? It will be real ugly my friends! The Social fabric of society will break down, survival instincts will kick in and it will be a dog-eat-dog world.
Remember Katrina and Louisiana? The Government had several decades to plan for this worst-case scenario... Did they do anything? Was there an effective plan?
If you think the government has a "Master-Plan" for fixing the problems with our economy, we really need to talk because some of my prime swampland in Florida is currently for sale--CHEAP!
I personally hope it never comes to this, but our economy is in such serious trouble, an economic crisis is not an impossibility several years down the road.
Worst-case scenarios are not pleasant to think about, but they are worth thinking about. Everyone needs to plan for their future as best they can, with what they know and understand. These future plans are usually developed by forecasting what is likely (or possible), and then adapting the plan to that condition.
How would you and your family react to something like an economic breakdown and the ensuing chaos? Are you ready today? Are you preparing towards that end, or do you feel this could never happen and even if it does, the government will take care of you and your family?
Personally, I do not believe the government will look out for my family's welfare and in the event of economic chaos, we will be on our own...
Remember, everything that we think is important today is really trivial with respect to our need to survive. When man has lost all hope and becomes desperate to feed his family, nothing remains sacred... Ethics, Values, Morals and the fabric of society is thrown out the window... SURVIVAL is the dominant need... everything else is secondary.