26 May 2007

Ce este o "nevoie"?

Din cand in cand apare cate un critic al capitalismului care spune ca oamenii de azi nu mai preocupa sa-si satisfaca nevoile, ci dorintele. In plus, se spune ca dorintele noastre nu ar fi "autentice", ci sunt mai mult induse de catre campaniile de marketing. (Marketingul modern nu mai incearca doar sa descopere ce vor oamenii, ci si sa "creeze nevoi".)
A friend of mine was in a city in one of the European countries (could be any one of them) and he was in his car at a traffic light with his window open. There was a traffic jam so he was there for a while. At some stage an old lady (in her late seventies) come up to him and said, "Tell me my boy, is there poverty in this world?" He replied saying, that yes there is, there are many people that are poor. Then she pointed at the huge number of people with shopping bags and the traffic jam with the numerous automobiles stuck their and asked, "Then what is all this?" My friend had no answer to this and said "I don't know." She then continued on her way. This is a true story.

Exista doua variante de replici: Varainta standard este ca nevoile nu sunt decat niste cazuri particulare de dorinte. Exista o ierarhie a preferintelor si ni le satifacem mai intai pe primele (nevoile), iar apoi, pe masura ce avem tot mai multi bani, devine posibil sa le satisfacem si pe cele mai putin importante.

It may well be true that we often spend money on things that aren't "needs" but are just "wants". However, this appears to me to be simply a matter of declining marginal utility of wealth as our wealth increases... hardly a groundbreaking conclusion.

As we have gotten richer, the relative cost of the things we need to stay alive, such as food, shelter, and warm clothing, has fallen dramatically as a percentage of our income. Naturally, we spend more money on things that do more than simply keep us breathing.

Thus this lament that we waste our time and money is not new; the phenomenon of falling relative prices has been accelerating since sometime in the late neolithic, and people have been complaining about the loss of our primordial consumer innocence for nearly as long. By the time of the industrial revolution, we got an entire literary movement, the Romantics, devoted to it. Not long after that, the idea wormed its way into its proper home, economics, and the genre has flourished ever since.

Unul dintre participantii la Free Exchange a venit insa acum si cu o alta varianta:

Linguistically, "need" and "want" serve different functions.

"Want" is a simple statement of preference. "I want an apple" means that I would prefer to have an apple than not to have an apple.

"Need" is always (correct me if I'm wrong here) followed explicitly or implicitly by a qualifying phrase. "I need the remote control to turn on the fan while I am bedridden." If you didn't "want" to turn on the fan while you were bedridden you wouldn't "need" the remote control.

It is not the needs that are changing over time but the qualifying circumstances that we come to want. Often we only come to want circumstances when we know that they're available to have.

Cu alte cuvinte dorintele se refera la scopuri, in timp ce nevoile la mijloace: Am dorinta de a obtine ceva, si am nevoide de cutare lucru pentru a putea sa-mi ating scopul ales.

Din perspectiva asta, odata ce putem sa ne satisfacem tot mai multe dorinte automat creste si numarul de nevoi pe care le avem. Nici nevoile nu sunt ceva fix, predefinit, sau dat de biologie (ar fi numai daca dorintele noastre ar fi fixe).