Appropriate or Commiserate? Johnathan Swift's "A Modest Proposal"

Essay by Sasha813University, Bachelor'sA+, March 2006

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Jonathan Swift's "A Modest Proposal" is unreasonable for obvious reasons. It is exorbitant! It is preposterous! It is monstrous for god sakes! Yes, just the thought of consuming human flesh is enough to make the average Joe's stomach churn with disgust. The idea of stewing, roasting, baking, boiling, fricasseeing an infant may very well seem asinine at a glance, and though it is quite devoid of all morals, the logic in it is much too staggering to be overlooked.

Swift clearly lays out no less than six reasons for advocating cannibalism. Eating children could very well rid us of our enemies because, under normal circumstances, we would consume humans we dislike over those we preferred. Remaining people would be wealthier, now having valuable merchandise to barter, rent, sell, or ingest in times of need. The economy would undoubtedly benefit from the removal of the burdensome lower class that only exploits those who work for a living, not to mention the saved expenses that would otherwise be incurred during the standard upbringing of a child.

Marriage would be encouraged by the financial gain it could provide. Family violence would decrease because parents would view their offspring as a commodity instead of an albatross.

While the author's reasoning is unmistakably logical, the question of ethics comes in to play. Enemies would indeed be eliminated, but who decides which "enemies" to sacrifice? Everyone essentially has at least one rivaling race, culture, or creed, and since all of them have the capacity to be correct, it would be unjust for any one group to decide to start butchering another for sustenance. Placing a value on human life for the financial benefit of other people is another issue that falls back to morals. A market for human flesh could very well benefit...