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An Even More Modest Proposal

The Ourorboros

Jonathon Swift went too far in his “A Modest Proposal” (1729) when he proposed the eating of human children as a solution to Ireland’s economic woes and the plight of the hungry poor. If we were looking for a solution to our own economic crisis that might be acceptable to more people, and so better suited to a democracy, wouldn’t it be efficacious to simply let the hungry youngsters starve to death?

There are 12 million hungry children in America. Statistics on the cost of raising and educating children in America (including private and public spending) show we will spend more than $2 trillion – that’s $2 trillion – on these 12 million insatiable mouths. (Because we are talking about kids in hunger, I’ve discounted by 75 percent the middle class average cost of raising a child.)

Think of the savings. Two trillion dollars! And we could add to these savings the wealth the children would consume as adults if they survived. We could cut public transportation, prisons, welfare, Social Security, Medicaid and Medicare! The mind boggles. We simply replace the inefficient safety net with a safety scaffold, so to speak.

Basing his argument on Tertullian’s satiric masterpiece, the Apology, Swift unfairly exaggerated the depravity of those of great wealth and power. Tertullian said, “Man’s flesh goes belching, fattened on man’s flesh.” But that’s an impolite image, and it challenges the nettlesome taboo against cannibalism. We could erase that taboo with a focused advertising campaign, I’m sure. But that would cost money. This Even More Modest Proposal saves money and asks of us only a certain passivity and inaction.

Now, when bleeding hearts complain that our Even More Modest Proposal is uncivil or mean-spirited, we could point out that 40 million to 52 million civilians were killed during WWII, a struggle that saved the free from the chains of fascism. We, too, are engaged in a struggle for freedom, and the necessary expired people will, initially, number only 12 million. Mere drops in a bucket. And, the rest of us will have many more buckets, gilded ones at that.

I must agree with the thoughtful champions of freedom at FoxNews. The necessary expired people aren’t really people at all. The impudent and unfunny Jon Stewart recently collected FoxNews characterizations of the poor: They are “the moocher class,” “the takers,” “parasites,” “raccoons,” “utterly irresponsible animals.” Starving such beasts in the name of freedom and the flourishing of the rest of us is only just. Our consciences would be clear, would they not, and our bank accounts overflowing.

There is, I know, the following problem. As the Gospels tell us, in Matthew 26:11, “for ye have the poor always with you.” In other words, just as soon as we disappear today’s 12 million hungry children, another 12 million hungry children will take their place.

This is a vexing mathematical difficulty. I think we must recognize its validity and launch an ongoing program, one backed up by the Constitution. Therefore, this Even More Modest Proposal includes a call for a constitutional amendment that bans the hungry. The hungry must be allowed to perish, continually and without pause.

Someone will no doubt say, “Wait, you said only 12 million would die. Now, over time, it looks like you mean many, many multiples of 12 million.” Yes, but I submit that the 12 million will, in each instance, always be far less than the number of civilians killed in WWII. You can’t fool us with your numbers games.

Needless to say, we will probably have fewer confessed hungry children once they realize that by whining, “Please sir, I want some more?” they are righteously condemned. I think we will hear a lot more, “No, not hungry, not in the least. Thank you anyway.” This effect (call it the Temporarily Saving Their Skinny Asses effect) would delay costs of disposing of the deceased, allowing us to invest delayed disposal costs and further improve our financial condition.

When one runs the whole way through the mathematics, a consequence emerges that deserves mention. There will, inevitably, come a time when our numbers are greatly reduced by the regularly enforced starvation required by our Even More Modest Proposal. Eventually, only two of us will remain, one hungry, one not. Maybe the two will share an apple.

Because it is helpful to give names to things, we might call this the “Ouroboros Effect,” and as a mathematically guaranteed consequence, it is a blessing. The eating-its-own-tail Ouroboros, the Jungians tell us, is a symbol of rebirth, the eternal return. It represents the “dawn state.” In other words, this even more modest proposal is naught but a humble call for human life everlasting, forever renewed in a sacred cycle that gives one goose flesh to contemplate.

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Glenn W. Smith

Glenn W. Smith