Another Modest Proposal


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What once was simply an unpretentious, straightforward concept within one school of thought has disturbingly evolved from ideal to social norm, and now even to law. The original recommendation, though containing much potential for mischief to the trained libertarian eye, seemed harmless enough, and even natural: Why, the curious Westerner may ask, did the design only target men? Were women considered incapable of nursing the elderly?

The answer lies in a particularly ironic cultural perception, one that originally meant to favor men: As such, the burden fell exclusively on the son, who, alas, was considered to remain in the family — attached to his parents irrespective of his will, much as a pregnant mother is attached to the baby in her womb. This suggestion in its original form was innocuous, of course, only so long as the man retained full and unabridged choice in the matter. Unfortunately, however, the pressures of a normative order quickly adulterated the Confucian concept.

Disguised under the euphemism of filial piety, adult men in these societies were soon expected by these societies to care for parents who had grown old and frail.


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Children who are born can often provide a young mom with the prerequisites to make a claim upon taxpayer money that she might otherwise be forced to do without. But of what value is the unborn child?

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It represents little more than morning sickness and the promise of inconveniences to come. And this brings us full circle to the solutions that remain at our disposal.


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One, abstinence, is not in tune with current societal evolution. Another, adoption, is fraught with governmental regulations such as papers to sign, most likely in triplicate.

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But there is still the matter of unpleasantness should photographs of this somewhat grisly procedure be disseminated among the masses — most particularly at our hallowed institutions of higher learning. One could readily assume that students and faculty alike would not enjoy an involuntary subjection to such graphic displays. Such things as little hands and little feet, having just been removed from the womb and discarded, play badly in pictures.

Believing that there must be a way to be sensitive to all sides, we wish to be fair to those who believe that the unborn are children of God and should not be disposed of so casually — and to those who believe the fetus is little more than an inconvenience.

The essay suggests that the impoverished Irish might ease their economic troubles by selling their children as food for rich gentlemen and ladies. This satirical hyperbole mocked heartless attitudes towards the poor, as well as British policy toward the Irish in general. The primary target of Swift's satire was the rationalism of modern economics, and the growth of rationalistic modes of thinking in modern life at the expense of more traditional human values.

In English writing, the phrase "a modest proposal " is now conventionally an allusion to this style of straight-faced satire. This essay is widely held to be one of the greatest examples of sustained irony in the history of the English language. Much of its shock value derives from the fact that the first portion of the essay describes the plight of starving beggars in Ireland, so that the reader is unprepared for the surprise of Swift's solution when he states: Swift goes to great lengths to support his argument, including a list of possible preparation styles for the children, and calculations showing the financial benefits of his suggestion.

He uses methods of argument throughout his essay which lampoon the then-influential William Petty and the social engineering popular among followers of Francis Bacon. These lampoons include appealing to the authority of "a very knowing American of my acquaintance in London" and "the famous Psalmanazar , a native of the island Formosa " who had already confessed to not being from Formosa in In the tradition of Roman satire, Swift introduces the reforms he is actually suggesting by paralipsis:.

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Therefore let no man talk to me of other expedients: Of taxing our absentees at five shillings a pound: Of using neither clothes, nor household furniture, except what is of our own growth and manufacture: Of utterly rejecting the materials and instruments that promote foreign luxury: Of curing the expensiveness of pride, vanity, idleness, and gaming in our women: Of introducing a vein of parsimony, prudence and temperance: Of learning to love our country, wherein we differ even from Laplanders , and the inhabitants of Topinamboo: Of quitting our animosities and factions, nor acting any longer like the Jews, who were murdering one another at the very moment their city was taken: Of being a little cautious not to sell our country and consciences for nothing: Of teaching landlords to have at least one degree of mercy towards their tenants.

Lastly, of putting a spirit of honesty, industry, and skill into our shop-keepers, who, if a resolution could now be taken to buy only our native goods, would immediately unite to cheat and exact upon us in the price, the measure, and the goodness, nor could ever yet be brought to make one fair proposal of just dealing, though often and earnestly invited to it.

Therefore I repeat, let no man talk to me of these and the like expedients, 'till he hath at least some glympse of hope, that there will ever be some hearty and sincere attempt to put them into practice. George Wittkowsky argued that Swift's main target in A Modest Proposal was not the conditions in Ireland, but rather the can-do spirit of the times that led people to devise a number of illogical schemes that would purportedly solve social and economic ills.

A Modest Proposal also targets the calculating way people perceived the poor in designing their projects.


  1. Another Modest Proposal – The Harvard Law Record.
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  5. The pamphlet targets reformers who "regard people as commodities". Critics differ about Swift's intentions in using this faux-mathematical philosophy. Edmund Wilson argues that statistically "the logic of the 'Modest proposal' can be compared with defence of crime arrogated to Marx in which he argues that crime takes care of the superfluous population".

    Another Modest Proposal | HuffPost

    Smith argues that Swift's rhetorical style persuades the reader to detest the speaker and pity the Irish. Swift's specific strategy is twofold, using a "trap" [8] to create sympathy for the Irish and a dislike of the narrator who, in the span of one sentence, "details vividly and with rhetorical emphasis the grinding poverty" but feels emotion solely for members of his own class.

    A Modest Proposal

    Swift has his proposer further degrade the Irish by using language ordinarily reserved for animals. Lewis argues that the speaker uses "the vocabulary of animal husbandry" [10] to describe the Irish.

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