Bartels: Applying Maslow’s hierarchy to lawmaking

Posted by: Victoria Klimczak  | Friday, April 26, 2019 4:16 pm

In psychology, there is a motivational theory called Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs, which is represented in a pyramid with five levels. The needs on the bottom must be satisfied before moving up the pyramid. Starting at the bottom of the hierarchy and moving upwards, the needs include physiological, safety, love and belonging, esteem and self-actualization. As a lawmaker, I often reflect on Maslow’s hierarchy to gauge how a law can ultimately help Indiana and Hoosiers progress to reach higher levels of growth.

At the bottom of the hierarchy sits physiological needs. Without water, air, food and sleep, we cannot survive. Our Hoosier farmers are at the forefront ensuring our basic needs are met, and it is important to continue supporting them and Indiana’s lucrative farming industry. The 2018 Farm Bill legalized hemp on the federal level, and left the responsibility of how to regulate the crop to states. After establishing the legal framework this session, our hardworking Hoosier farmers can now further diversify their crops by producing and selling hemp.

After our basic needs are met, the next level focuses on safety. Whether it’s providing additional tools to keep our schools safe to helping police officers protect our communities, many new laws I supported center on public safety. I sponsored a policy increasing penalties for motorists who drive with suspended or revoked licenses and cause crashes. I also voted for another law strengthening offenses for dealing or possessing dangerous, illegal synthetic drugs like Spice or bath salts.

The third level of human needs is love and belonging. This is a social category and involves, among other things, a sense of community. Indiana is investing in trails, parks and downtown revitalization projects. These connect us to each other, offer places to gather and socialize. I also co-authored a new law establishing the Indiana Destination Development Corporation. Indiana’s tourism industry set a record in visitor spending in 2017, topping $12.7 billion, generating $1.4 billion in state and local taxes, and supporting nearly 200,000 jobs. This joint public-private agency is going to harness this momentum and propel our tourism industry even further, providing more opportunities for Hoosiers and visitors to explore the state and enjoy everything it has to offer.

With these needs met, comes the need for esteem through dignity and achievements, and respect for others. According to Maslow, this is most important for children and adolescents and precedes real self-esteem. Bullying is a real problem facing our youth. Schools are now tracking and reporting verbal, physical, social or relational, and electronic and written bullying incidents. Educators and school staff are also trained on how to respond to bullying incidents, and students receive age appropriate, research-based instruction on bullying prevention. But this is also a level where we all bear responsibility. We must show each other respect, be kind and teach our children by example.

At the top of the pyramid is the need to realize our personal potential. Whether it’s facing our fears, embracing change or achieving set goals, we all have the power to reach our personal potential.

Maslow believed we fluctuate between these levels, with life experiences impacting our personal growth. We are a work in progress, much like our state. By working together, we can prosper. While the 2019 legislative session has come to a close, there is still more to be accomplished. If you have ideas on how Indiana can reach its full potential, please contact me at or 317-232-9802.


State Rep. Stephen Bartels (R-Eckerty) represents House District 74, which

includes portions of Spencer, Dubois, Perry, Crawford and Orange counties.

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