Economic Savior of the Irish Realm When the Great Depression occurred in 1929, there were numerous American bank failures, approximating nine thousand by the depression’s end. L Recently, the United States has Just recovered from a period of economic contraction, due largely to the bursting of the housing bubble. 168 banks closed during this recession, but what prevented it from reaching the Great Depression’s severity was a large government bailout of banks. 2 This quick action saved the economy from a plummet that would eave devastated it for years.
In the 18th century, Ireland faced a similar economic shock. England imposed trade restrictions that forced many people to lose their Jobs and homes. The Cattle Acts outlawed the importation of livestock, and the Navigation Acts “prohibited the exportation of goods to any English colony unless they were loaded in English ships (carrying English crews) at English ports. “3 Beggars flooded the streets, needing funds to support their most basic of needs. Numerous ideas were proposed to turn this economic contraction around, but to no avail.
However, one writer, Jonathan Swift, developed a creative approach that, had it been implemented, may have been Ireland’s economic savior. In his work, “A Modest Proposal,” Swift presents the idea of eating the children of impoverished families in order to boost the economy. He then proceeds to develop this idea, delivering a reasonable and rational argument as to how eating the children of destitute families would benefit Ireland. This proposal contains sound socioeconomic logic, and had it been enacted, the scheme would have benefited various aspects of Irish society. “A
Modest Proposal” revolves around the notion that using the children of poor households as food and clothing would be beneficial for society. It begins with a description of Dublin, a town in Ireland, as having streets lined with “beggars… Followed by three, four, or six children. “4 Instead of being able to work for their money, these mothers are forced to use all their time begging for food and cash to help in raising their infants. An alternative to this lifestyle is proposed to be the sale of the children at one year of age, which would yield a calculated eight shillings in refit for the mother.
Of the approximated 120,000 children per annum who would qualify for this opportunity, twenty thousand would be raised for breeding, “that the remaining hundred thousand may, at a year old, be offered in sale to persons of quality and fortune through the kingdom. “5 The meat is nutrient-rich, and may be used in a variety of dishes, while the skin of the child may be used to make gloves or boots. The effects listed are numerous and beneficial for society as a whole. Husbands would not “offer to beat or kick them [their wives]… For fear of a miscarriage” and loss of profit.
The nation’s stock would “be thereby increased fifty thousand pounds per annum,” and the poor breeders would be gaining at least eight shillings per annum through the sale of their children. 6 When examining Swifts argument, it grows apparent that there is obvious economic logic in it “Even when they [the children] come to this age [twelve years] they will not yield above three pounds … On the exchange; which cannot turn to account either to the parents or kingdom, the charge of nutriment and rags having been at least four times in value. 7 Though yielding more value in the market, raising child to an age of twelve would cost four times as much as the sale would be worth. Rather, Swift logically proposes that children be sold at one year of age. This would optimize the efficiency of child “production,” as the mother would only need care for the child for a year before selling it; Swift estimates that this year of care would only cost two shillings as the baby can feed off its mother’s milk, and these two shillings would be easily attainable through begging.
As “no gentleman would repine to give ten shillings for the carcass of a good fat child,” there would be an overall profit of eight shillings for the seller. 8 As a comparison, eight shillings in 1729 translates as $63. 01 currently, which would provide all-too necessary funds for a lower-class family. 9 If an impoverished household were to have one baby approximately every nine months, this would yield an average of 10 2/3 shillings every year.
By stating that “the charge of nutriment and rags having been at least four times the value [of selling the child at age twelve for three pounds],” Swift describes how raising a child to an age of twelve would cost at least twelve pounds. 10 When compared to the alternative of raising the child to at least its early teenage years, selling it at one year of age would yield a total profit margin fee. 4, which likewise averages to El 1/30 of profit every year. Once multiple children are added to the equation, this profit begins to accumulate.
If a family were to have a baby every nine months, they would have sixteen children by the end of twelve years. Total cost at this point would equal about El 05. 4, averaging at IEEE 47/60 per year for this unfortunate family, which translates to approximately $1 ,339. 89 per year in modern dollars. The economic benefit to ailing these children at an early age is clear, and could have meant the difference between life and death for some families in this period.
Swifts argument carries merit as the monetary benefits to his proposal are clear and easily attainable. By being sold as food and clothing, the children contribute to both their families and to society as a whole, generating income for their families and country. Through this process, the economic state of impoverished families is improved. Additionally, the market for children benefits various aspects of society. In this time period, various cuts passed by England severely hurt the Irish economy.
The crippling Woolen Act of 1699 restricted Irish trade of woolen goods exclusively to special ports in England, allowing England to have unrivaled access to cheap wool as there was no outside competition; however, this mercantilism drastically hurt the Irish market. The result of these various trade restrictions was that “weavers emigrated by the thousands; others remained and starved, in like numbers, or survived through beggary or crime. “11 This child market would contribute to Ireland breaking away from England’s economic control.
Created locally and sold within Ireland, the children would keep profit internalized. Moreover, Swift points out how through the sale of children, “the poorer tenants … [can] help pay their landlord’s rent. “12 By selling their children, impoverished households are better able to fund their basic necessities, such as housing. This would create the potential to keep a family afloat through the economic turmoil plaguing Ireland at the time. Moreover, the money paid to the landlords would circulate through the country, boosting the economy and overall improving the economic state of affairs.
Swift determined that “the nation’s stock [gross domestic product (GAP)] will be thereby increased fifty thousand pounds per annum, besides the profit of a new dish introduced to the tables of all gentlemen. ” 13 Not only would this venture bring a great increase to the nation’s GAP, but it would also add flavor and individuality to Irish society. Ireland would have a unique market for children, separating it from the rest of society; at the same time, a fresh and unique delicacy would be introduced. By contributing to these social factors, the sale and consumption of children would add flavor to society, giving
Ireland a richer background. A sure way to have benefited Irish society as a whole would have been to sell children at one year of age as food and clothing. This would have returned money to the poor, spreading wealth from the super-rich to those of lesser means. Additionally, Ireland’s culture and society as a whole would be enriched by this exquisite venture. Furthermore, an era of peace would descend upon households, as children would transform from a drain into a commodity of worth. In the recent recession, what saved the modern American economy was a large government bailout.