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A Modest Proposal – by Jonathan Swift

The full title of Swift's pamphlet is "A Modest Proposal for Preventing the Children of
Poor People from Being a Burthen to their Parents, or the Country, and for Making them
Beneficial to the Publick." The tract is an ironically conceived attempt to "find out a fair,
cheap, and easy Method" for converting the starving children of Ireland into "sound and
useful members of the Commonwealth." Across the country poor children,
predominantly Catholics, are living in squalor because their families are too poor to
keep them fed and clothed.

The author argues, by hard-edged economic reasoning as well as from a self-righteous

moral stance, for a way to turn this problem into its own solution. His proposal, in effect,
is to fatten up these undernourished children and feed them to Ireland's rich land-
owners. Children of the poor could be sold into a meat market at the age of one, he
argues, thus combating overpopulation and unemployment, sparing families the
expense of child-bearing while providing them with a little extra income, improving the
culinary experience of the wealthy, and contributing to the overall economic well-being
of the nation.
The author offers statistical support for his assertions and gives specific data about the
number of children to be sold, their weight and price, and the projected consumption
patterns. He suggests some recipes for preparing this delicious new meat, and he feels
sure that innovative cooks will be quick to generate more. He also anticipates that the
practice of selling and eating children will have positive effects on family morality:
husbands will treat their wives with more respect, and parents will value their children in
ways hitherto unknown. His conclusion is that the implementation of this project will do
more to solve Ireland's complex social, political, and economic problems than any other
measure that has been proposed.