The New Palgrave Dictionary of Economics

2018 Edition
| Editors: Macmillan Publishers Ltd


  • G. Vaggi
Reference work entry


The classical economists, Smith and Ricardo in particular, used the term ‘necessaries’ to indicate ‘the commodities which are indispensably necessary for the support of life’, and also ‘whatever the custom of the country renders it indecent for creditable people, even of the lowest order, to be without’ (Smith 1776, vol. 2, pp. 869–70). Thus, necessaries include not only the goods which are strictly required for the survival of workers and their families, but also all the commodities which by habit and custom are regarded as ‘necessary to the lowest rank of people’ (ibid.). Thus the term includes a purely physical element and a sociological one. Smith distinguishes necessaries from luxuries, which are all the goods which are not strictly required to guarantee the workers a decent standard of living.

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Authors and Affiliations

  • G. Vaggi
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