A Political Hierarchy Of Needs

Years ago, Abraham Maslowe described a psychological “hierarchy of needs”, the idea being that people could only reach for the next thing after they had dealt with the developmental issues before it.

It occurs to me that Congress or our leaders need to understand the same idea for policy ideas and budgetary goal setting. Here’s my list of what seems obvious:

1) Human beings need a planet to live on. If, in fact, climate change will be irreversible in 12 to 15 years, we’d better get cracking on that one. No policy should ever be undertaken that increases climate change or threatens to destroy the planet. This should be the first and most basic of all our priorities.

2) Human beings need to be able to take in nutrients from the planet. Clean air and clean water are of vital importance. No policy should ever intentionally cause problems with breathing or drinking water.

3) Human beings need food. Though processed food, GMOs, etc, are ok as adjuncts to our food supply, I think it’s preferable to have natural/organic/regular food for people to eat. Why waste time and energy adding to or subtracting from what we have, if it works already? Policy should be such that all people eat what they need and a bit beyond that.

4) Human beings need shelter. They need to be able to stay warm or cool and dry. They need this to add to their mental stability. They need to be able to afford it as well. Policies which increase affordable housing for all should be sought.

5) Human beings do best if they are alive and stable. Things that make human beings die (guns, knives, poisons, drugs) or die early (disease, illness, war, poverty) should be addressed. By doing this, we can reduce the amount needed for mental health care and physical health care. Stable environments foster a sense of well-being. That might also decrease the need for police, and an army. Healthcare for all should be pursued as a policy.

6) Human beings generally grow in community. Note that this should be in conjunction with #5. People do really poorly when the community around them hates them, abuses them or neglects them for who they are. All of the -isms go here. When people are alive and stable and accepted simply because they exist, they grow and thrive. This doesn’t mean we accept everyone’s behavior (see above), but no one’s existence should be seen as a threat to anyone. Policies which help us work through our differences and avoid conflict should be pursued.

7) Human beings need to think about/ experience the world around them — and reflect on it in some way. Both the arts and education are a part of this. Both are vital to humanity. Also, having time to experience/think is necessary to this process. Arts for all, and education — to whatever level a person thinks is appropriate– for all should be policy.

8) Human beings need joy, fun, play, and general silliness. Comedy, sports, distractions of all sort make human beings more fun to be around, and generally less anxious. With these things, a society can be said to be thriving. This is where most of our economy is set right now. They make us happier, but we shouldn’t need to be this entertained/distracted. If priorities 1-7 were followed, we could choose to do this, rather than need to.

9) People need to have awe and wonder, and make meaning of their lives. Religion, philosophy, scientific exploration and inquiry about why things are the way they are is vital to people making the best of themselves. Finding higher purpose is finding the best life can be for the human soul. This also involves, for some people, being competent in their lives. Policies that allow us to have meaning in our lives ought never be restricted, except as they impact others negatively (see priorities 1 – 8). Policies should help people be as competent as they can be, and should inspire wonder whenever possible.

If these things were seen as priorities, we would have a budget that worked for all of us, based in a government in that worked for all of us. To the extent that they match our budgetary priorities, I think we’re going the right way. To the extent that they don’t, we’re doing it wrong, I think.

Resisting in Peace,



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