It may be true that the word “need” should be expunged from economics; but it can be defined virtuously as a state of affairs in which one wants a good not to obtain pleasure or relief from discomfort but to preserve his very life, and getting that good by normal means, i.e., by buying it on the market, is somehow impossible.

This is because one is never under a necessity to enjoy a particular pleasure, but must do anything to survive, religious considerations aside, since a corpse has no use for pleasure at all.

A typical situation is a finding shelter in someone else’s cabin without explicit permission during an Alaskan snowstorm; or breaking into a drug store at night to get a life-saving medicine needed immediately. Even those situations are almost always “take-and-pay” where compensation is due legally and gratitude is due morally after the danger has passed.

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