SATIRE: Maybe it’s Time We Revisit Swift’s “A Modest Proposal”


Jonathan Swift, by Frederic

Sarah Schwartz, Contributor

Let’s talk about population growth, or rather, overgrowth.

Not only is it ravaging our global food and water supplies, but in the age of the COVID-19 pandemic, large oversized populations spark a quicker spread of disease and can decimate communities clustered close to one another. Not only is this population overgrowth dangerous for individuals residing within overcrowded communities, but it can also affect economic production and cause shortages of several basic necessities for life.  It’s absolutely imperative that something is done to control this population overgrowth.

In 1729, Jonathan Swift wrote a groundbreaking policy proposal that, while controversial at the time, actually kind of made sense. Instead of allowing the young newborns of impoverished families to live miserable lives of malnutrition and poverty or letting them rot away in some old and neglected orphanage, he offered a different plan – a better plan. Poverty and overpopulation go hand in hand: when there are more people in the world or a community, there is less food and wealth to go around, so why not kill two birds with one stone? Save these children from succumbing to their fates and feed the poor at the same time. I mean, sounds like an absolute no-brainer to me!

This is where Swift came up with an ingenious plan; one that would revolutionize the world and comprehensively and efficiently solve all of its major problems with only a slight bend in the collective morality of a society: eating the babies.

Look, I know what you’re thinking… it must be really difficult to cook these babies with standard-size cooking equipment. Well don’t worry, this is only another benefit! A new industry and market can grow from the need for larger ovens, pots, and pans. That only leads to more money circulating, more businesses flourishing, and more people being employed and lifted from poverty.  It’s simply a win-win situation for all (well maybe not the babies, but can’t win them all).  Swift may not have thought about this in his original proposal, but it’s certainly another bonus.

Now think about it this way, applied to the modern age: this proposal could fix many problems associated with overpopulation. It increases food supply while simultaneously decreasing the population and shrinking future generations. With climate change forcefully occurring and even more environmental ramifications of mankind on the horizon, having a smaller population can lead to a globally smaller carbon footprint and lessened demand for harmful products such as fossil fuels.  

Because we’re in a global pandemic, unprecedented measures will have to be taken in order to ensure that this new food supply won’t harbor COVID-19 or anything else problematic.  For this reason, I propose that we test all babies for COVID-19 prior to their sale as food.  It’s crucial to make sure the pandemic does not spread further through this proposal and spoil any of its benefits.

Yes, maybe the pandemic also has the potential to control population overgrowth, but it’s simply irresponsible to allow a killer disease to run rampant and wreak havoc on everyone.  Instead, we should be the ones to control the problem, not some microscopic life form that lacks logical reasoning and merely kills at whim.

Jonathan Swift’s “Modest Proposal” is incredibly strong and well-put. With just a few minor changes, this initiative can be adequately applied to modern times and solve many of the issues faced by the world today.

Image Credit: “Johnathan_Swift” by Frédéric is licensed under CC-BY SA 3.0