If we began this article with the question, “How do we decide whether to build a production plant in a third world country which causes pollution but creates needed jobs?” well, there would probably be few readers. How many of us actually care to make those decisions.
But, buying a cup of coffee … many of us do that every day. And likely we don’t think much about it. And probably we don’t need to give it much thought. If it makes us happy to do so we’ll probably do it and not give it another thought. Although, if we see an article that says it’s unhealthy, we might give it more thought.
What that illustrates is related to a breakthrough discovery: To achieve a balanced life we have to balance our need for happiness with our need for life, or life’s essentials, which we think about also as health or safety.
We are constantly balancing our need for happiness with our need for life’s essentials.
Now, of course, a cup of coffee might give us a lift and so, it might actually help us to get our job done and in that way, it does help us to generate the money we need to pay the bills.
So, drinking a cup of coffee is related to both happiness and life’s essentials. Things which relate to our essential needs, like for life (food, water, shelter) and happiness are a real hit with us humans.
There are two other things we crave: liberty and equality. We want to do things that make us feel free. And we want to be treated fairly or equally.
Going for a cup of coffee is a small way to express our need for freedom. And since so many of us do it, it gives us a sense of community. Starbucks has capitalized on this need people have for community, but it’s something that we’ve been doing for a long time at other places. Starbucks, by providing what they call “the third place,” that place other than work and home, has merely ratcheted up the “experience”. The experience of satisfying a happiness need, a life’s essential need, and our need for liberty and equality.
Now, these four needs are actually at the root of many challenges society is facing. This is something the authors Christopher Dunn, Esq. and Cathy LoGerfo have discovered. And they’ve written about it at length. Their journey to write about how we can better satisfy the needs of life, liberty, happiness and equality began with a seminal piece of writing by Yale’s Guido Calabresi, now Federal Judge. The Honorable Calabresi, a former dean of Yale Law School, wrote a forty page law review article which Dunn discovered just before he went to law school. That article shows how we as a society can better balance competing tensions, such as the need for efficiency with other distributional aims.
Together LoGerfo and Dunn have written several works which provide a breakthrough understanding of how we behave and why we do things as simple as buying a cup of coffee or as complex as building a production plant. When we understand that we have four essential needs, which Jefferson referred to as inalienable rights, we can then make better more balanced decisions. It’s all very complicated, and probably not worth thinking about when we get a cup of coffee. But if we’re looking to make some tough decisions, it can be really valuable to recognize the insight into human behavior and systems that they’ve recognized.
Christopher Dunn, Esq. is an attorney and Cathy LoGerfo has a master’s degree in elementary education, with background also in psychology and world religion. The two have combined to write and illustrate over forty-five children’s books and twenty non-fiction books.