The existence of human wants is the starting point of all economic activities and the satisfaction of human wants, i.e., consumption is the end of all economic activities.
Wants are nothing but the desire to purchase and possess different goods and services. It is a feeling of non-possession. It is through economic activities that wants can be satisfied.
In order to satisfy our wants, we have to work and produce goods and services that we need. That is why the farmer cultivates the field, the labour works in the factory or teacher teach in this schools and colleges.
A study of the characteristics of human wants is necessary to understand basic laws of consumption. The important characteristics of human wants are:
Human wants have no end to it. These are unlimited in number. When one want is satisfied, another crops up in its place. Hence we cannot satisfy all of our wants.
Wants compete with each other to be satisfied. So a choice is made as to what is more urgent and less urgent want. Close competition is held between substitute like tea and coffee or oranges and apple.
A particular want is limited. If a man needs a cup of tea he can satisfy this particular wants by taking a few cups of tea.
Beside the above three important characteristics of human wants, other characteristics are; wants are alternative, wants recurs again, some wants become habits, wants vary in intensity, present wants are given preference over future wants & wants vary with time, place and persons.
From the various characteristics of human wants, two important characteristics i.e., a particular human wants is satiable and wants are competitive form the basis of the law of diminishing marginal utility and the law of substitution respectively.