Western liberals (like me) seem to value other cultures by their levels of public services (health, education, housing). We talk about public services as the bedrock of a healthy society. A country where the richest dine silver service and visit the opera but the poorest are homeless and illiterate is not “developed”. But that’s what Britain was like, and still is like. We only had the NHS since the 1950s!!! By then we’d had the industrial revolution and were deep into mass production and export. We didn’t build the schools before the universities.

In ny shakey understanding of Marx, he said that an economy has a base and a superstructure. If the base produces enough value to run well and create capital (surlplus value) then the state should reinvest it in improving the areas above the base. The workers shouldn’t hungry while the state builds millenium domes for entertainment purposes. This is how-things-should-be-run based on how things has worked in history. (This is very sketchy – search google for “marx base and superstructure” for a more reliable explanation!)

Maslow’s heirarchy of needs (see info on University of Tennessee subsite) is about what humans need, psychologically. It says they need food, shelter and warmth, then above that comes everything else. The model is supposed hold for all people, to show thei instinctive needs. But from a historical perspective, 99.99% of cultures had temples before hospitals, art before schools.

Perhaps what a nation needs to thrive conflicts with what an individual needs to thrive.

Perhaps this is Marx’s critque and I’m still catching up.