Luxuries vs. Basic Needs

Sep 20, 2009 | Posted by Scott Hughes, author of Achieve Your Dreams | Post a Comment

By definition, a person is poor who does not have access to basic necessities, which in capitalist societies usually means they cannot afford these basic necessities.

I believe these basic necessities include sufficient food, clothes, shelter, health care, retirement, unemployment insurance, and disability insurance. The sum of the cost of those basic necessities is the cost of living. If a person or family’s income (after deducting job-related costs such as education, uniforms and transportation) is less than the cost of living, then that person or family is poor.

Unfortunately, the poverty line in places like the United States is set too low. For instance, the poverty line in the United States for a family of four is about $22,000 per year. Many people have incomes higher than that but cannot afford the true cost of living which is the cost of all of those basic necessities. (If you think you can accurately estimate how much the true cost of living in the US is, please do so in this thread.)

On the other side of the coin, many people who receive assistance from charities or government programs may buy or own luxuries, which are goods and services beyond those basic necessities. They may not truly be poor, but qualify as poor under the government’s flawed way of measuring poverty, and take advantage of the system. Or they may be people who are poor but still choose to stupidly use their funds to buy luxuries instead of the basic necessities. In both cases, this misuse of of assistance hurts anti-poverty campaigns.

Simply put, if funding from anti-poverty charities or anti-poverty government programs is being used to fund the purchase of luxuries rather than basic necessities, it is being misused. If it is being used to let a person enjoy luxuries rather than help the person avoid or escape poverty, then it is being misused. This is a terrible fraud against the charitable people or taxpayers who provide the funding, and it is a terrible disservice to the truly poor people who are being denied the helping hand that is meant to help them get what they need.

So it is very important to understand the difference between basic necessities and luxuries. To further make the distinction, I will provide a list of luxuries:

  • cable television
  • jewelry
  • candy, soda and other foods with no nutritional value
  • cigarettes
  • alcohol
  • recreational drugs
  • video games and video game systems
  • any cellphone besides perhaps the cheapest model
  • air conditioning (except where heat poses a health risk)
  • high-speed internet
  • automobile (when more affordable public transportation is available, or when a more stylish, more expensive automobile is purchased instead of an equally effective but less expensive alternative)
  • cosmetic surgery
  • fancy, expensive clothes (as opposed to basic clothes)
  • music CDs and CD players (for entertainment purposes)
  • DVDs (for entertainment purposes)
  • decorations
  • dining out

If anyone receiving help from anti-poverty charities or anti-poverty programs buys luxuries such as those, then that program is being misused, and it needs to be reformed. If they want to be effective instead of having their funds misused, anti-poverty charities and anti-poverty government programs need to make sure their clients do not have any luxuries such as those listed above because that means funding is being wasted.

You can discuss the above post in this thread at the Philosophy Forums.

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About Scott Hughes

I am the author of Achieve Your Dreams. I also published the book Holding Fire: Short Stories of Self-Destruction. I have two kids who I love so much. I just want to be a good role model for them. I hope what I do here makes them proud of me. Please let me know you think about the post by leaving a comment below!

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Children suffering from Poverty