Milton’s Hierarchy of Needs

By S.D. Plissken | April 19, 2020

An acquaintance of a philosophical bent brought up in a discussion recently Maslow’s “Hierarchy of Needs.” Psychologist Abraham Maslow put forward his theory of a hierarchy of needs in a 1943 paper and, more fully, in his 1954 book Motivation and Personality.

In Maslow’s theory, usually depicted as a pyramid, with the most essential needs grouped as a foundation at the bottom, and the other categories of needs stacked each upon the other in a possible progression upwards. At the bottom, would be one’s Physiological needs, with Safety needs stacked upon that foundation (when Physiological needs have been satisfied), and then in succession Love/Belonging, Esteem, and finally Self-Actualization at the top.

Maslow's Hierarchy of NeedsAt the lowest level of Physiological needs there are basic health and homeostasis, because it is difficult to live with a massive physical trauma or adverse conditions of massively extreme heat, cold, pressure, lack of oxygen, etc. Under those conditions, one’s higher needs and aspirations are not even remotely a consideration.

Assuming one is not going to die instantly, the next need to be satisfied would be water. People cannot live more than a few days without water, perhaps even less than that, depending upon conditions. Then would come food. People cannot live more than a couple of weeks without food, perhaps even less. Sleep is vital too. Anyone who has worked several days and nights with little or no sleep will have learned how essential sleep is to our function. Shelter is next in the Physiological sequence.

Assuming that one’s Physiological needs may be satisfied, one can continue to exist. At that point, one might pursue higher needs from the next level above: Safety or Security needs of different types. This category includes Physical safety, Emotional security, Financial security, and longer-term Health and Well-Being, etc.

We should note that this second category of Safety or Security is less essential as a whole than the basic foundation one of Physiological needs. And the third category is less essential than the second and so on.

Under Maslow’s schema, none of Milton’s Town government services – not a single one, not even its Police and Fire departments – should or would take precedence over the Physiological needs, including the need for shelter, i.e., the need to retain one’s home.

This is why a speaker – I think it was at a Candidates’ Night several years ago – warned correctly that the Town’s rate of tax increases had begun to constitute an “existential threat.” (Their warning fell on deaf ears). Our friends and neighbors dislike hearing anecdotes of neighbors struggling here before being forced to leave town for places with better “price points.” (“Price point” being a term more appropriate for a voluntary transaction that might be refused, and misapplied when speaking of forcible taxation).

This is why the “sledge hammer” Tax Cap passed so readily: taxpayers sought to staunch the bleeding.

Chairwoman Hutchings in her disquisition took Police and Fire positions and salaries “off the table.” Despite employee salaries, benefits, COLA [!!!], and pensions making up the largest portion of the Town budget.

She was utterly wrong, of course. Nothing that the Town does is more important, in the Maslovian sense discussed above, than the ability of homeowners to remain in their “shelters.” Therefore, it necessarily follows everything the Town spends is most definitely on the table. If all Town expenses are not on her table, then they might appear instead on the table of petitioners and voting taxpayers.

Not mentioned in her discussion was disgorging “fund balance” monies as tax relief. After all, the monies were ostensibly collected for CIP items that were not passed at the ballot. Nor was there any mention of reducing the excessive “fund balance” percentages that drive them each and every year. Nor was any mention made of extending the so-called CIP timelines in order to “flatten the curve.”

Nobody undertook to cease mining zombie job slots – some vacant for years now – to cover extra-budgetary raises.

Nor was there any mention of bundling boating expenses (repair of ramp, costs of the Police navy, costs of collecting the fees, boat inspections, European Naiad remediation, etc.), under a self-sustaining boat launch fee, rather than a general tax burden.

And let us not even mention the “elephant in the room”: the Milton School District, whose much larger budget – double? triple? – was also rejected. They need to get themselves under control also.

The plan is evidently to form a “Task Force,” most likely composed of people that participated in making the problem, to see if there even is a problem. (This is not Leyte Gulf and you are not Taffy 3). “We investigated ourselves and found we did nothing wrong.”

The Town government is in a deep hole, but not solely a budgetary one. It has serious credibility and trust issues too. In December 2017 the BOS “mistakenly” over-taxed us by an amount which was then estimated at $1.4 million. The BOS has never explained either the nature or size of its error.

At that time, there should have been immediate resignations all around. Some assumed then that the disgraced board remained in place only for the opportunity to “make things right.” Instead, they said nothing and when “surprised” by post-budget employee benefit cost increases, the BOS claimed the people’s money as their own to cover that and other budgetary increases.

Yes, it was an outright theft, a legal theft (per Mr. Brown), but a theft nevertheless. For many that was the “last straw.”

Disgorge the fund balance overages. Make sure they can never again rise so high. Damn the DRA and their “recommendations.” Absolutely everything is “on the table.” Retention of homes comes before any and all Town notions in the taxpayers’ hierarchy of needs. Way before, it is not even close.

“All other priorities are rescinded.”


McEvoy, Eleanor. (2014, November 8). Trapped Inside. Retrieved from

Wikipedia. (2020. April 18). Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs. Retrieved from



Author: S.D. Plissken

I thought he'd be taller.

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