Hierarchy of needs — for people and businesses


From: Bruce Montplaisir
Onamia, Minn.

Abraham Maslow told us people have a need to survive before anything else. I guess that makes sense, what else can you do if you aren’t surviving?

Once a person’s survival is assured people look for ways of securing that survival with a sure supply of food, adequate shelter and safe living conditions free of harm from competitors for that food and shelter. A lot of people associate this with something like a steady job secured by a union.

The theory continues by saying that once people are confident about survival and security they look for a group to belong to such as a family, a tribe or other organizations such as churches, political parties, civic organizations or gangs. For some people belonging to a gang and survival are parts of step one on Maslow’s hierarchy of needs.

Only when people have survived, secured their survival and belong to a group that supports them will they be able have things such as self-esteem, confidence, achievement, respect of others and be respected by others.

Once those first four steps are achieved people can strive for what Maslow called self-actualization. A person experiencing self-actualization demonstrates high morals, creativity, spontaneity, problem solving, and a lack of prejudice and acceptance of facts. 


It seems reasonable that businesses and corporations go through these same five steps of Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs. Like individuals, the first priority of a business is to survive and the second priority is to secure that survival with things such as a steady money supply and a customer base.

Businesses also have a need to belong to groups, such as the Chamber of Commerce, and as the advertisements in newspapers, on television and radio and especially on social media show, businesses have a need to portray self-esteem, confidence, achievement, respect of others and to be respected by others.

Most people have to work at climbing the hierarchy while others have inherited money or a business that assures their survival and security.

Several years ago my wife was with a bunch of ladies at a church when they had a special speaker talking to them. The speaker asked how many of them knew a really successful person. Many of the ladies had a self-satisfied smile of recognition that they were part of a successful family; then the speaker clarified that she didn’t mean someone who had inherited a farm, business or money. She was asking if they knew someone who started with nothing and made it on his or her own. Many of the smiles disappeared. Some people appeared insulted that they weren’t considered successful because they were living off someone else’s efforts.

When the economy is working for people they survive. Not only that, they are confidant their survival is guaranteed with a good job or other source of income that allows them to become a positive part of the community in which they live.

For many people, this is good enough; they aren’t looking to keep up with the neighbors or climb up the hierarchy of needs; these people just want enough.

For many people, they want more; they want to provide security for their children for generations into the future.

For some people, there are no limits to their need for security. There are people that will spend millions of dollars researching the exact amount of tar and nicotine that will prove to be the most addictive to smokers and then criticize anti-smoking campaigns and legislation as interfering with individual choice. The same is true for people that spend millions of dollars researching the exact amount of sugar to make soft drinks the most addictive.

More recently, at the United Nations affiliated World Health Assembly, the United States delegation took action to derail a resolution saying that mother’s milk is healthiest for children and countries should strive to limit the inaccurate or misleading marketing of breast milk substitutes. While this action was designed to provide security for the formula companies, it was also designed to impact the health and lives of children around the world to their detriment.

If individuals and companies both follow the hierarchy of needs there can be a conflict because companies always want to control costs to maximize their profits and employee wages are a major expenditure.

The people who wrote, debated and approved the constitution were people who owned businesses and property and they were in a position to design a constitution that would conserve their status. The constitution was not written, debated and approved by factory workers, farm laborers or slaves. Many women did have influence with their husbands and other male relatives debating the constitution. The former governor of Arkansas, Mike Huckabee, said people don’t like the way things work out for them because they don’t understand the constitution. What if people don’t like the way the system works for them because they do understand the constitution?

Yes, people do survive because the system works for others who provide them jobs but that survival and security is often dependent of the will of those who prefer “at will” employees to unionized labor and legislators and the courts have helped reduce the ability of employees to have any say in the security of their jobs by declaring a state a “right to work” state or limiting the ability of unions to collect union dues.

It doesn’t make much difference who gets appointed to the Supreme Court; not all the people considered have indicated a Republican president shouldn’t be held accountable to the law while in office, but other than that all the people considered would probably rule the same on any question of consequence.

Our Supreme Court makes decisions affecting the survival and security of individuals and corporations. It is a balancing act but sometimes the court gets out of balance.

Going forward, if congress compels a person to testify before them under oath will that have the same weight as it has in the past? It appears a person did not tell the truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth when appointed as a federal judge in 2006 and again when being considered for the Supreme Court. People argue that it might have been due to forgetfulness, by a person described as one of the finest legal minds in the country, or that these were just little white lies but the credibility of congress and the courts are affected to the advantage of some and the disadvantage of others.

National governments also go through the hierarchy of needs articulated by Abraham Maslow.


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