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Does the spread of mobile phones indicate a rising need for personal communications?

Summary:
To ask that question is to betray a certain Forrest Gump-like innocence. For clearly that’s not what has happened. Instead we’ve found - or developed - a new technology to meet an extant human desire or need. That is, the spread of an activity, or manner of achieving something, can be because of one of those technological developments rather than any change in human desires. Therefore proof of the spread cannot be taken as an increase in the need:A decade ago, the emergence of mass food banks in the UK could genuinely be described as shocking. The image of families queueing in their local church for a box filled with pasta and beans has not only since been normalised, it has spread. This does not simply mean the number of food banks has grown in recent years – there are now more than 1,300

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To ask that question is to betray a certain Forrest Gump-like innocence. For clearly that’s not what has happened. Instead we’ve found - or developed - a new technology to meet an extant human desire or need. That is, the spread of an activity, or manner of achieving something, can be because of one of those technological developments rather than any change in human desires. Therefore proof of the spread cannot be taken as an increase in the need:

A decade ago, the emergence of mass food banks in the UK could genuinely be described as shocking. The image of families queueing in their local church for a box filled with pasta and beans has not only since been normalised, it has spread.

This does not simply mean the number of food banks has grown in recent years – there are now more than 1,300 such places in the Trussell Trust’s network, compared to fewer than 100 in 2010, as well as hundreds more independent ones – but also that these have opened the door for other types of donation centres, each set up by community groups and charities in response to growing need.

Food banks are a technology, for all methods of organising something are a technology. They arrived in Britain after the turn of the century. It is not logically sound to assume, or as above insist, that the spread is due to increasing need. It could be, note could be, that we are now able to meet an extant need or desire.

Which is what we think it is. One advantage of that increasing speed toward the grave is that memories and experience are long enough to recall what it used to be like. The British welfare system always did have holes in it. Payments sometimes did get delayed - we directly and specifically recall an 8 week wait for unemployment benefits that happened to one acquaintance.

That is, food banks are a solution to the efficiencies of the state run welfare state. At which point the insistence that they must be nationalised seems more than a little odd. Why would we want to put the solution into the hands of those who caused the original problem?

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Tim Worstall
Tim Worstall is a British-born writer and Senior Fellow of the Adam Smith Institute. Worstall is a regular contributor to Forbes and the Register. He has also written for the Guardian, the New York Times, PandoDaily, the Daily Telegraph blogs, the Times, and The Wall Street Journal. In 2010 his blog was listed as one of the top 100 UK political blogs by Total Politics.

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