Today, almost 300 years after being published, Jonathan Swift’s A Modest Proposal remains an icon of absurdist satire. In it, he skewers the Irish and English governments behind the narrative voice of an esteemed economist who argues that the problem of poverty in Ireland can best be remedied by selling the children of the poor as food for the wealthy. Surely all would benefit; food for the rich, money for the poor; except the poor children of course. The perfect solution to the dilemma of hunger and poverty and over population. Swift leverages great literary skill to prick contemporary economics and culture and the utter lunacy of the ideologies of that era. An early 18th century Jon Stewart if you will.
It is worth noting, Swift’s brief, but powerful thesis was largely overlooked until the twentieth century. In spite of that, progress on poverty eradication has been made, even if, seemingly shrouded in the background, pushed to the rear of everyday middle class life. The subject is not a daily news item, thought it should be. Poverty rates have declined, but the absolute numbers have continued to climb. There is an intense focus on poverty eradication, yet population growth coupled with cultural and ideological issues, not unlike those that haunt us today, create a cyclonic headwind that seems daunting. So, let’s go to school again and revisit Swift’s thesis for the 21st Century. Maybe, it can inform us another way.
Economic cannibalism for the good of all as advanced by Swift leads me to the thesis that climate change leading to rising oceans and imminent disaster, along with ideological jihad of any stripe have been overlooked as vehicles for good, not unlike feeding children of the poor to the wealthy in 1729.
Imagine, left unfettered how quickly the absolute rate of poverty will decline. Climate change deniers living near the coasts transformed into ocean food jetsam from rising tides will spell the end the dwindling food resources of our oceans because of over population. Ideologues on shore will eliminate wasteful allocation of land based resources for the rest of us by weeding out the undesirables. Not just the one per centers. Maybe, the one to five per centers. What luck, five X one might expect in today’s world. Net, net, more for the hungry rich, though they too will be victims in the end. Those subsisting at the BOTBP (Bottom of the Billionaires Pyramid) are at risk. Maybe even the first to go. The absolute number of poor will decline. Hurrah! As will the census for the rich. More resources will be available to whomever is left. If any! Sooner or later, with no one left to bully, er, I mean convert to the ideology of the century. They will have to self-destruct. Sort of like martyring oneself. How ironic. The proverbial Garden of Eden will flourish once more. No one will be here to revel in it except the innocent non-human. But, poverty will be gone, radical ideology will have no voice, riches will be worthless and God can hit the reset button.