What are the six principal advantages of Jonathan Swift's plan in A Modest Proposal?

The six principal advantages of Jonathan Swift's plan in A Modest Proposal are that children will become a source of income for their parents, it will lower the murder and abortion rates, it will shift population demographics - boosting the Protestant population and lowering the percentage of Catholics, it will contribute to population control and boost GDP.

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In Jonathan Swift's famous work of satire "A Modest Proposal," he suggests that the conditions of poverty in Ireland might be solved by the cannibalization of its infants. Be aware, Smith's purpose in writing this essay is not to seriously propose this scheme as a solution to...

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In Jonathan Swift's famous work of satire "A Modest Proposal," he suggests that the conditions of poverty in Ireland might be solved by the cannibalization of its infants. Be aware, Smith's purpose in writing this essay is not to seriously propose this scheme as a solution to this problem, but to attack English policy in Ireland and the attitudes inherent to Enlightenment-era rationalism. To support his argument, Smith specifically includes a list of six advantages.

The first centers around demographics, with Swift writing that his plan will serve to decrease the Catholic population, which he refers to both as "the principle breeders of the nation, as well as our most dangerous enemies."

From here, his next few advantages are chiefly economic in nature. He writes, as his second advantage, that it would give "the poorer tenants something valuable of their own," while (in his fourth advantage), he states that the sale of these children would remove a financial burden on the poor. His third advantage is that it would boost the nation's economy. Additionally, he writes that his scheme would be to the benefit of the nation's taverns.

Finally, Swift claims that his suggestion would have a positive social effect, serving as "a great inducement to marriage." He states that husbands would be gentler with and more loving towards their pregnant wives, while mothers would be more affectionate with their children when each child represents a financial investment.

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The six principal advantages of Jonathan Swift's plan in A Modest Proposal are as follows.

  1. Parents will benefit. Instead of having to care for, clothe, and feed their children, children will become a source of income for their parents. Selling their children will enable poor people to generate money to pay their rent and buy food.
  2. It will lower the murder rate by preventing women from murdering their illegitimate children. Moreover, it will dissuade pregnant mothers from seeking abortions or even giving themselves abortions.
  3. It will improve the demographics of the domestic population. Specifically, it will reduce the percentage of Catholics in the total population, since Catholics, according to Swift, reproduce at greater rates than Protestants. By reducing the numbers of Catholics, Protestants will feel more comfortable staying in the country.
  4. It will contribute to population control by eliminating large numbers of female babies who would eventually become mothers themselves and bring many children in the world that they could not care for.
  5. It will boost the country’s GDP. Rather than being a burden on the economy, the sale of the babies will generate revenue that will contribute to the country's economy. Properly prepared, the new gastronomic dishes Swift proposes will bring new customers to taverns, producing incremental income for pub owners, wine producers, wait staff, and many others.
  6. It would induce people to get married, because there would be a profit motivation. By marrying and reproducing, they could generate continuous income.
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"A Modest Proposal," Jonathan Swift's devastating, classic satire, is aimed squarely at British mistreatment of their fellow Irish. It specifically attacks the prevailing mercantilist notion that human beings comprise the wealth of a nation, which allowed the exploitation of child labor at terribly low wages. The horrifying concept of children as a delectable menu item for gourmet consumption is Swift's reductio ad absurdum of this mercantilist commodification of human beings.

The first of the advantages of such a scheme, he says, will be a reduction in the number of Papists, as Irish Catholics were described, who reproduce at a high rate and pose a political threat to the British.

Second, children will be a valuable commodity to tenant farmers, whose produce and livestock have already been seized by rack-rent landlords.

Third, Ireland's gross domestic product will be "encreased 50 thousand pounds per annum" by the export of child-flesh, "and the Money will circulate among our selves, the Goods being entirely of our own Growth and Manufacture."

Fourth, "The constant Breeders," aside from gaining eight shillings, will be relieved of the expense of maintaining them after their first year.

Fifth, this amazing new delicacy would increase the business of taverns, which would employ "skillful" chefs to create novel recipes for the palates of gourmands accustomed to paying high prices for the finest fare.

Sixth, it would enhance the status of marriage, and improve the care of children by their parents, since they were sure of a "Settlement for Life." It would also provoke a competition among women to see, "which of them could bring the fattest Child to Market . . . " Men would treat their pregnant wives as carefully as they did their pregnant livestock, since they would also be carrying a product that had a cash value.

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After unveiling his shocking plan to slaughter "surplus" Irish children for food, Swift argues (tongue in cheek, of course) that it has six advantages. First, it would reduce the numbers of Irish Catholics, who were loathed by the English. Second, it will give poor tenants, who, "their corn and cattle being already seized, and money a thing unknown," a salable commodity.  Third, it provide Ireland with a valuable export. Fourth, the "constant breeders" can rid themselves of the enormous cost of raising their children. Fifth, it will bring "great custom to taverns," where cooks can devise new recipes for cooking this novel dish. Finally, Smith argues that the practice would be a "great inducement" for poor women to marry and for husbands to care for their wives and for the children they produce:

It would encrease the care and tenderness of mothers towards their children, when they were sure of a settlement for life to the poor babes, provided in some sort by the publick, to their annual profit instead of expence. We should soon see an honest emulation among the married women, which of them could bring the fattest child to the market. Men would become as fond of their wives, during the time of their pregnancy, as they are now of their mares in foal, their cows in calf, or sow when they are ready to farrow; nor offer to beat or kick them (as is too frequent a practice) for fear of a miscarriage.

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