In Swift's "A Modest Proposal" he elaborates on an unfavorable balance of trade with England.  To what is he referring?unfavorable balance of trade

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pohnpei397 eNotes educator| Certified Educator

I agree with the first answer in terms of which part of the essay he cites.  But, as a history teacher, I have a different perspective on what it means.  I do not think Swift is calling on English and Irish to stop buying from third countries.  I think he is calling on the Irish to stop buying from England.

When Swift wrote this, England practiced what was called mercantilism.  In this case, this meant that England bought raw materials from Ireland and the Irish were not allowed to buy manufactured goods from anyone but England.  The same thing was done do the American colonies.

I think Swift is calling for the Irish to rebel against this system just as the Americans later did.  He is saying they should stop buying their luxury goods from England.  That is why there is an unfavorable balance of trade with England.

Doug Stuva eNotes educator| Certified Educator

I think what you're referring to is Swift's reference, in his "A Modest Proposal," to the English, as well as the wealthy Irish, who import from other countries instead of purchasing Irish goods. 

In the italicized section of the essay, which presents actual, serious suggestions Swift had made with no success before resorting to satire in "A Modest Proposal," he writes of:

...using neither clothes, nor household furnitures, except what is of our own growth and manufacture:...

He suggests here that if the English and wealthy Irish would purchase Irish-made goods instead of importing goods from other countries, the Irish poor could earn a living instead of being stuck in poverty.