How does assuming the persona of an economic planner help Jonathan Swift achieve his purpose in "A Modest Proposal?"

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rrteacher eNotes educator| Certified Educator

First, Swift's persona is somewhat more complex than simply an economic planner. He presents himself as an enlightened, educated man, sympathetic to the plight of the Irish people. But he clearly is at home in working with numbers, as he cites calculations about the number of "breeders" in Ireland as well as extrapolating how many children are born to parents who cannot support them yearly. By establishing himself as a sort of economic expert, he is able to create a sense of ethos early in the essay, which makes him more believable at first and thus makes his satire all the more biting. It is also important to note that an emphasis on coldly rational (that is to say, purely economic) solutions is part of what Swift wishes to satirize. In a sense, he is carrying logic and rationalism to its illogical and irrational extreme, suggesting that empirical, scientific decisions must be tempered with humanity and compassion, especially when human beings are concerned.