It is human nature to have many goods in life. There would be an endless list of such wishes or desires. One may desire a good house, a car, a computer, good food, decent clothes and so on.  If one does not have enough money, then only one or two of these or none of these could be purchased. Which of our desires are to be fulfilled depends upon our capacity to pay or purchasing power.

Not all desires can be met as one needs money to satisfy them. The desires which are backed by money and willingness to purchase may be called wants. A beggar may desire to have a car but this desire can not be called a want as it is not backed by adequate money. However, if a rich man desires to have a car and is willing to purchase it, the desire can be turned into a want.

Some wants may be necessary for the existence of life. For example, food, clothing and shelter. These are called basic wants or necessities. There are some other wants which make our life easy and comfortable. These are called comforts. Examples of comforts may be coolers, scooter, etc. Some goods give pleasure but they are very costly. For example, luxurious cars, diamond jewellery, etc. such good are called luxuries.

Satisfaction of Wants

Do all our wants get satisfied? No, As soon as one want is satisfied another takes its place; our wants increase because we desire to live a better and comfortable life.

Wants can be satisfied by goods and services. Goods and services can be produced with the help of resources. Land, labour, capital and entrepreneurship are called resources which help in the production of goods and services. Wants are unlimited but the resources to satisfy them are scarce. As soon as one want is satisfied, another takes its place. Some of these wants can be satisfied by man with his limited income while for others he may not be able to do so. It is, therefore, not possible to fulfil all our wants though a single want is satiable.

Characteristics of Wants

1. Wants are unlimited

Human wants are countless in number and are varied in kind. As soon as one want is satisfied another want takes its place. This endless circle of wants continues through out life. For example, a person who has never used a fan would wish to have a fan. When this want is satisfied, he would wish to get an air cooler and a scooter. Once these wants are satisfied, then he would wish to have an air conditioner, a car and so on. Thus, wants never come to an end.

2. A single want is satiable

Each want taken separately can be satisfied. For example, if a man is thirsty he can satisfy his thirst by taking one, two or three glasses of water and after that he does not want water at that point of time.

3. Some wants arise again and again

Most wants recur. If they are satisfied once, they arise again after a certain period. We eat food and hunger is satisfied but after a few hours, we again feel hungry and we have to satisfy our hunger again with food.

4. Varying nature of wants

Wants vary with time, place and person. They are also influenced by many factors like income, customs, fashion, advertisement, etc. For example, we want medicines only when we are sick. Ice is needed in summer season only. People have started using things like T.V. Sets, mobile phones, car and many other luxury goods due to increase in their income and change in fashion. Thus, wants have been found to vary and to multiply with the economic development of a country.

5. Present wants are more important than future wants

Present wants are more important. A person uses most of his limited resources for the satisfaction of present wants. He does not worry much about his future wants because future is uncertain and less urgent. For example, providing for the education of children in the present is more important than providing for old age security in future.

6. Wants change and expand with development

A simple example to show how wants are changing is the telephone. Earlier, in the rural areas there were not many telephones, but today telephone has become a necessity for everybody for keeping in touch with their near and dear ones. People using telephone earlier, are now using mobile phones. They want more and more facilities in their mobile phones such as camera, internet and so on.

How Resources Satisfy Wants

Wants are satisfied with the use of goods and services. To produce these goods and services, resources are used. With ever growing wants, we have been making greater use of resources. Resource may be natural or man-made. All resources can be classified into land, labour, capital and entrepreneurship.

For example, for the production of wheat, we use land, labour, tractor pump set, etc. (capital). Farmer (entrepreneur) organises all these factors to produce wheat. He also uses seeds, manure and fertilizers in this process. Thus, production of wheat involves the use of resources. Similarly, production of all other goods & services also involves the use of resources. 

The resources that we use to satisfy our endless wants are limited or scarce. With the development, new goods are invented which lead to increase in wants. But the resources do not increase accordingly. This may lead to exhaust resources.

Economic and Non-Economic Wants

Wants are unlimited. They differ from person to person. Many wants are satisfied by using certain goods, and services. These goods and services are purchased from the market by paying a price. The wants that can be satisfied by such goods and services are called economic wants.

A few things are not purchased from the market by paying a price. Such wants are called non-economic wants. For example, air to breathe, rain water for agriculture, etc. When we want a maid to cook, it is our economic want. But if the food is cooked by mother, it becomes non-economic want.

Wants Expand and Change with Development

In ancient times, man was satisfied with simple items of food, clothing and shelter. But with the development these wants grew in nature and number. Want for food has changed. People want to eat not only better and nutritious food but different varieties of food. Similarly people want to wear not only a pair of clothes but a variety as well as latest designs according to the fashion.

People want to have a better house with modern facilities like, air conditioners, geysers, etc. For communication people not only want a simple telephone but also a mobile phones having many facilities like camera, internet, video recording, etc. Thus, man’s ever growing and changing wants lead to many inventions and discoveries which result in new and better quality of goods and services.

Indian Philosophy of Limiting Wants

Wants are unlimited but resources to satisfy these wants are limited. Hence if we keep our wants as unlimited and growing, we will not be able to satisfy all of them with our limited resources. This will give rise to a lot of dissatisfaction.

But on the other hand, if we limit our wants we will be able to satisfy most of them with our limited resources and this will give us more and more satisfaction. The Indian philosophy has always been to limit our wants so that we feel satisfied in life. This helps to lead a happy life as we do not have to suffer any unhappiness due to unfulfilled wants.

Even the father of our nation, Gandhiji always advocated controlling of one’s wants so that we can have a satisfied life and we do not have to indulge into wrong deeds or practices to satisfy unlimited wants out of our limited resources. There have been many great thinkers who have advocated the same.