Sunday, September 6, 2009

In Need of A Modest Proposal

My daughter's current assignment to write a summary of Jonathan Swift's A Modest Proposal has brought to mind a most perfect modern-day counterpart.

All of the shouting, blathering and general indignation being expressed at the so-called Town Hall Meetings on health care reform and the dilemma of providing health care for every citizen, should take a note from the 1729 pennings of Jonathan Swift, who was also concerned about the tremendous burden placed on Irish society by the number of indigent children, the diseased, the aged and infirm.

Perhaps they can appreciate his satirical solution, and insist up on its inclusion in any health bill that is passed by our esteemed Congress.

General Premise: There are too many poor children, who do not contribute and are a burden both upon their parents and society as a whole.

Solution: Let's eat them.

"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."

Advantages to this Solution: It gives the poor a constant source of income, and young people a reason to marry.

Possible Complications: What to do about those who are old, sick or disabled? Or what of those young people who cannot find gainful employment to provide themselves with food?

Solution: Leave them alone and they'll die.

"I am not in the least pain upon that matter, because it is very well known, that they are every day dying, and rotting, by cold and famine, and filth, and vermin, as fast as can be reasonably expected. And as to the young labourers, they are now in almost as hopeful a condition. They cannot get work, and consequently pine away from want of nourishment, to a degree,that if at any time they are accidentally hired to common labour,they have not strength to perform it, and thus the country and themselves are happily delivered from the evils to come."

The author was so fond of his proposal that he begged the reader not to discuss any other solutions such as:

"... introducing a vein of parsimony, prudence and temperance: Of learning to love our country, wherein we differ ... : Of quitting our animosities and factions: 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. "

Unless, of course, there was even a "at least some glympse of hope, that there will ever be some hearty and sincere attempt to put them into practice."

"After all, I am not so violently bent upon my own opinion, as to reject any offer, proposed by wise men, which shall be found equally innocent, cheap, easy, and effectual (as simply eating the children). But before something of that kind shall be advanced... I desire the author or authors will be pleased maturely to consider two points.

"First, As things now stand, how they will be able to find food and raiment for a hundred thousand useless mouths and backs.

"And secondly, There being a round million of creatures in humane figure throughout this kingdom, whose whole subsistence put into a common stock,would leave them in debt two million of pounds sterling, adding those who are beggars by profession, to the bulk of farmers,cottagers and labourers, with their wives and children, who are beggars in effect;(unemployed, with mounting debt and foreclosures)

"I desire those politicians who dislike my overture, and may perhaps be so bold to attempt an answer, that they will first ask the parents of these mortals, whether they would not at this day think it a great happiness to have been sold for food at a year old, in the manner I prescribe, and thereby have avoided such a perpetual scene of misfortunes, as they have since gone through, by the oppression of landlords, the impossibility of paying rent without money or trade, the want of common sustenance, with neither house nor cloaths to cover them from the inclemencies of the weather, and the most inevitable prospect of intailing the like, or greater miseries, upon their breed for ever."

So there's a solution - for all those without health care and employment, both legal and illegal (because they are in fact an equal drag upon the country), forget the idea of providing humanitarian care and opportunity with compassion.

Let's just invite them for dinner and cut short their sufferings.

Read the complete phamplet at:

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