What’s Need Got to Do With It

Advocates of gun rights know gun control advocates love to ask, “Why do you need X?” where X is any firearm that the gun control advocate is trying to ban. Gun control advocates aren’t the only group who like to use the “need” argument, collectivists love to use it to.

Whenever I talk about the wonders of the market some collectivist inevitably tries to swoop in and rain on my parade. One of my favorite aspects of the market is the ability to provide for the wants of so many. If you want an expensive sports car there are several to choose from, if you want a cheap car to get you from point A to point B there are also many to choose from. Do you want an expensive handmade wristwatch? Rolex, Ball, Omega, and many others are more than happy to provide you with one. For those who prefer a cheap wristwatch Casio, Fossil, Timex, Seiko, and many others are happy to deliver you such a product. Are you looking for a reliable handgun for self-defense? Take your pick, Glock, Smith and Wesson, Springfield Armory, and many other companies can give you want you’re looking for. Planned economies doen’t have such variety, instead you are stuck choosing between a handful of state approved goods if there is any choice at all. When you drive down the road of a communist country you don’t see much variety in automobiles, there are usually a handful of models from the handful of state approved manufacturers.

When I bring this up collectivists are often quick to see we don’t need that many choices. My response is this: what does need have to do with it? Basing your argument on need is idiotic and self-defeating. All humans need is shelter, clothing, food, water, and a handful of tools. Cavemen had all of their needs met. The caves they lived in provided shelter, the animals they hunted with their crude spears provided clothing and food, trees and bushes offered more food, and flowing streams and rivers provided water. Of course they lived incredibly short lives, the average age being under 20 years. It was also a rather miserable existence since all of their time was spent hunting and gathering food, building their crude weapons, and fighting off wild animals and competing tribes. Still, they had all of their needs.

Another problem with the “need” argument is that it’s incredibly arrogant. By telling somebody they don’t “need” something you’re also telling them that you know what they need. While you may not think the guy driving the Ford F-350 needs such a large truck you have no idea if he hauls heavy trailers, workers construction, or simply enjoys the ride and feel or a large truck. Perhaps you don’t believe the woman carrying a 9mm Glock needs a weapon but her ex-husband could have a history of stalking and abuse. Who needs an expensive suit? Perhaps the owner of a high-end jewelry store where appearance is a huge part of the business. The Austrian tradition of economics is based on the fact only an individual can know what he or she needs or wants. I can no more know what you need than you could know what I need. Each individual has different hopes, desires, weaknesses, strengths, interests, aspirations, dreams, thoughts, etc. It’s impossible, in extremely arrogant, to know what another needs.

The next time somebody tries to argue what you can and can’t have based on need kindly inform them to give up their worldly possessions, live in a cave, and hunt and gather their food. Nobody needs more than that to survive.