A Modest Proposal

Way back in the early 1700s, Jonathan Swift wrote a clever essay entitled “A Modest Proposal.” If my recollection serves me well, it was directed at the concurrent problems of poverty and population growth in Ireland. Swift’s hyperbolically satirical solution was simple . . . sell the children as foodstuff.

Swift maintained that the market for the delicacy was adequate, though the price might be somewhat steep:

“I grant this food will be somewhat dear, and therefore very proper for landlords, who, as they have already devoured most of the parents, seem to have the best title to the children.”

Byrd and Kennedy

Could it be that our paternalistic leaders in Washington D.C., tiring of the practice of insignificant populist one-upmanship, have finally come upon the holy grail of dissipation? It seems that they’re now willingly selling our children to finance their own political (and assuredly financial) well-being.

Meager billion dollar pork-barrel projects (a la Senator Byrd) have become passe. I mean, what’s an FBI crime lab or two in comparison to a $600 billion dollar distribution of political largess?

And there’s really no need to face up to the problems we’re creating right now, is there? Surely very few of the respected Senators or Representatives hope to live long enough to even see a small dent made in the Federal debt. It’s our children they’re selling anyway . . . why should they care?

The market for children has changed a bit, too. Rather than selling our kids as delicacy for persnickety aristocrats, instead they’ve been sold piecemeal to China, Saudi Arabia, and the United Arab Emirates. But we don’t have to deal with that uncomfortable fact right now, do we? So, let’s just mint a little more money, increase the debt another trillion or so and leave the problem of how to pay it back to the next generation.

Let’s do the math. As I figure it, $600 billion divided by the population of the U.S. (roughly 300 million), comes to only roughly nearly precisely $2,000 per capita. For a small family like mine, with nine (including grandparents) in the household, we’ll only have to cough up $18,000 to pay off this bit of Congressional generosity. That’s really only chicken feed compared to the total obligation owed by our country. According to the The National Debt Clock , the per capita debt at 6:47 EST this evening (November 22, 2008) stood at $34,946.20. For my family, that’s a note of only $314,515.79.

In all fairness, the debt is owned by all kinds of different entities. 22% is owned by foreign and international investors. Roughly 4% is owned by some of the same domestic banks that are currently being bailed out. If you have Savings Bonds, you actually have bought up some of the very debt that you owe . . . take a minute and think that one over.

Here’s the point. It’s not just that we’re electing the wrong people to Congress. We are. But we’ve developed a political system that virtually guarantees that the last thing an ethical, responsible and honest human being will do is run for public office. Take the current Senate campaign in Georgia as an example . . . but I digress.

Back to the proposal. Let’s cut to the chase . . . let’s have an end to our politicians and their Lilliputian attempts to solve our country’s difficulties. Poor Richard proposes a sheerly Brobdingnagian solution . . . let’s sell the children outright! It’s reasonable, even if it does involve a little slavery or indentured servitude. We’ve incurred a debt for them, why not offer them up on the open market and turn some of the debt they owe into cold, hard cash? After all, what’s the likelihood that a 10 year old will ever be able to pay off the debt that our leaders are obligating them to? Sell them to the rich.

We should take this action sooner, rather that later; while the value of a small child still exceeds the $34,000 in debt that they owe.

Acknowledging my obligation to Swift, I’ll end with his words:

I profess, in the sincerity of my heart, that I have not the
least personal interest in endeavouring to promote this necessary
work, having no other motive than the publick good of my country,
by advancing our trade, providing for infants, relieving the
poor, and giving some pleasure to the rich. I have no children,
by which I can propose to get a single penny; the youngest being
nine years old, and my wife past child-bearing.*

*With tongue firmly in cheek, my youngest is 12 and far too contrary to make a good servant and while my lovely bride is still of childbearing age, a crafty surgeon precluded this option for us several years ago.

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4 Responses to A Modest Proposal

  1. MickeyG says:

    The following quote is from Federalist No. 52 written in 1788 by Publius (generally thought to be Alexander Hamilton or James Madison), with reference to the House of Representatives

    “First. As it is essential to liberty that the government in general should have a common interest with the people, so it is particularly essential that the branch of it under consideration should have an immediate dependence on, and an intimate sympathy with, the people. Frequent elections are unquestionably the only policy by which this dependence and sympathy can be effectually secured. ”

    It seems clear that our politicians, at every level, have failed miserably to maintain that “common interest with the people”.

    I don’t want to sell my children but I am reminded that many years ago a man I met on an airplane told me that he thought the only way we would ever effect a major change in our government was to have a coup d’etat. He said ” we don’t have to kill anybody, we just have to get rid of all of them at the same time”.

    I wonder if he really knew how prophetic that thought was.

  2. jim says:

    Having been a life long DC resident, one thing that would get their attention real quick is for several million working Americans to march at the Capitol and White House. I really believe this needs to happen very soon or we are going to be in deeper doo doo. It amazes me the eagerness of the senate to hand over billions to WallStreet but hesitate when it comes to handing money over to anything to do with manufacturing! We’ve been sold down the road for sure.

  3. carey pickard says:

    I just discovered your blog and sure enjoyed it. More importantly, I sure enjoyed the years of working with you guys when I was at the Tubman. I always felt much of the Museum’s success was due to the quality of its printed materials. I hope you’re still working with them.

  4. […] has saddled my daughter’s generation with a mountain of debt (see Poor Richard’s post A Modest Proposal ). It would seem that the least we could do is attempt to provide them with the wherewithal to pay […]

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