At the beginning of the 18th century, Ireland was experiencing an awful famine due to several years of bad harvests.  The country was also experiencing extreme political turmoil.  As a response and recommended remedy for how to fix the economic problems at hand, Jonathan Swift, an Irish satirist, essayist and political pamphleteer, anonymously published a satirical essay in 1729 entitled “A Modest Proposal for Preventing the Children of Poor People From Being a Burden on Their Parents or Country, and for Making Them Beneficial to the Publick.”  In the piece, more commonly referred to today as “A Modest Proposal,” Swift ironically attempts to “find out a fair, cheap, and easy method” for converting the starving children of Ireland into “sound and useful members of the Commonwealth.”  As the lengthy title suggest, Swift wants the people of Ireland to fatten their children up so that they can be sold in meat markets.  He states, “I have been assured by a very knowing American of my acquaintance in London, that a young healthy child well nursed, is, at a year old, a most delicious nourishing and wholesome food, whether stewed, roasted, baked, or boiled; and I make no doubt that it will equally serve in a fricasie, or a ragoust.”  Swift goes into great (albeit graphic) detail about how the children should be seasoned and cooked so that their parents and the country will neither be further burdened by them nor continue to be hungry.  More importantly, though, Swift argues using hard-edged economic reasoning as well as a self-righteous moral stance as he attempts to turn this problem into a solution.

It is your mission for next week’s blog post to come up with a Modest Proposal of your own:

1) Reading Swift’s A Modest Proposal first may help you to better understand the task at hand. (http://www.victorianweb.org/previctorian/swift/modest.html)

2) Identify a social, financial, economic problem present in the United States (or world if you choose) today.

3) Come up with a creative way that the problem could be fixed… Just like Swift’s proposal, your Modest Proposal does not need to be feasible! We are looking for clever (and funny?) ideas with their own internal logic.  One of the reasons Swift’s is effective is that in its mock-seriousness it conveys the attitude of this could be real.Have fun!

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