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What an Idea!

Imagine that your country was going through a very difficult period. Imagine, that it was a period where the government just could not be trusted, the people seemed too ignorant and lazy to address any issue, the economy was in shambles, and the future looked too bleak to be true. Now, imagine that you were given the opportunity to suggest some innovative policy for the government to implement. What kind of an idea would you suggest? Would it be a tax reform? Or, how about eating all the extra children in the country?

In 1729, in response to the terrible period of poverty, famine, oppression by the English and their own ruling class, and egregious bureaucracy, Jonathan Swift[1] wrote a pamphlet titled, A Modest Proposal for Preventing the Children of Poor People from Being a Burthen to Their Parents or Country, and for Making Them Beneficial to the Public, also known as, A Modest Proposal[2].

 In the pamphlet, Swift offers a remedy for the people and the government of Ireland, to do away with problems of hunger, abortions, religious conflicts with the Catholics, to ensure marriage and it’s stability, to increase the gross revenue of taverns, decrease the abandonment of unwanted offspring, and to ensure a better standard of living in Ireland. The proposal is that out of an average of 120,000 children born every year in Ireland, 20,000 should be kept for the further reproduction and continuance of the Irish population, but only 5000 of that 20,000 should be male, just like one bull is enough for four cows. The other 100,000 children, he suggests, be fattened and sold as a culinary delicacy. Swift cites an American friend who has told him that a one year old is a very delicious and nutritious food, and can be prepared in any style proffered. Swift’s proposal is not simply stated; rather he backs it up with a series of “advantages” this proposal would initiate.

Before you begin to cringe, allow me to spoil the fun and inform you that it is a satirical pamphlet, written in order to place a mirror in front of the inefficient government in rule at the time, to criticize the country’s oppression of it’s poor, and to shock the public out of their ignorance. Swift says that he hopes that he will not be facing any objections to his proposal. This shocks the readers, and immediately makes us realize that we cannot take a literal understanding of this work, but that we must look deeper into it.

Would you like to look a bit deeper into it? Would you like to know what the advantages of eating the extra children of a country would be? Here is a digital version of the pamphlet:

It’s short and sweet. Enjoy!!!

-Jigme Choerab





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