The present chapter is to analyze in some detail the question, "What is need or want?"--a question which is perhaps as basic as any which has to be considered in connection with relief and social security. It is not our purpose to attempt to give answers to the detailed questions, but merely to present them as constituting a major element which has to be considered in arriving at decisions. Before the scope of the chapter is outlined, one basic matter should be clearly set forth.
No attempt will be made to discuss need in terms of money. Obviously money is only a medium of exchange and a common denominator that enables us to add together values or prices of unlike things. Our needs are not satisfied directly by money but by the things which money will buy. If discussion is attempted in terms of money, several difficulties are encountered, some of which deserve enumeration.
1. Money figures depend on prices. If the price level changes greatly through either inflation or deflation, the money figures change, although the basic minimum requirements for food, clothing, and shelter may remain almost constant.
2. In the United States conditions vary widely. At one extreme are industrial workers in urban centers who secure almost all the needed goods and services through the payment of money. At the other extreme are the families that still live to a substantial degree under a subsistence economy. Food, clothing, housing, and fuel are largely the direct product of their own labor or of barter or exchange of labor with their neighbors. The amount of money which passes through their hands in the course of a year may be extremely small. To get money figures for them, it is necessary to attach values or prices to things


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Relief and Social Security
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