By Peggy Foster
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Additional resources for Access to Welfare: An Introduction to Welfare Rationing
And getting what he needs will overcome this harm ... This is not so in the case of a particular want or desire. A man may want something for a particular purpose, but not be harmed or ail by his not getting wh at he wants and, conversely a man getting what he wants may harm hirn or cause hirn to ail. ,6 For example a weil fed woman may want some sweets but she will not be harmed by not getting them, whereas an undernourished woman 'needs' food, that is, she will suffer physically if she does not obtain it.
If the issue of deserts is logically distinct from the definition of welfare needs, we cannot distinguish needs from wants simply by defining needs as those wants which a third party judges an individual deserves to have met. In what other ways might we attempt to distinguish between needs and wants? Several writers argue that we can objectively distinguish wants and needs by examining the consequences for people of not having their needs or wants met. According to Plant, 'If a man is held to need something, he lacks something and will be harmed by his lack of it ...
Others may believe that their needs are far greater than they really are. A third party, on the other hand, particularly an expert on the type of need in question, will be able to ascertain all the facts about their condition and thus determine objectively their actual state of need. This attempt to distinguish needs from wants on the basis of an objective/subjective dichotomy relies on the premise that a third party can accurately determine individual need without recourse to any form of subjective value judgement.