A Modest Proposal by Jonathan Swift

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Who was Jonathan Swift's audience in A Modest Proposal?  

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Swift, an Anglican dean, a high-ranking clergyman living in Ireland, had tried for years to get the powerful English overlords in Ireland, as well the prosperous Irish themselves, to take some reasonable steps to help ameliorate the sufferings of the Irish poor. He outlines some of these in A Modest Proposal:

Therefore let no man talk to me of other expedients: Of taxing our absentees at five shillings a pound: Of using neither clothes, nor household furniture, except what is of our own growth and manufacture: Of utterly rejecting the materials and instruments that promote foreign luxury: Of...

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A Modest Proposal was written for Swift's usual audience - the literate and learned of England, Wales, Scotland and Ireland.

There is a widespread assumption that his target was the English people, but they were neither the target of his satire nor his intended audience.

The proposal was partly an attack on the attitudes of the Irish, both Roman Catholic and of the Established Church - for their neglect of the poor. But mostly against the new-fangled economic ideas that everything could be corporatised and monetarised. Ironically modern, in a way.

The proposal was ostensibly designed to reduce poverty, increase the national wealth of Ireland, and prevent "voluntary abortions, and that horrid practice of women murdering their bastard children". Ultimately to convert unwanted children from being a burden on the country to being a economic asset, contributing to the feeding and the clothing of the kingdom. In other words he is taken economics to its logical, but absurd, conclusion.