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Critics differ about Swift's intentions in using this faux-mathematical philosophy.Edmund Wilson argues that statistically "the logic of the 'Modest proposal' can be compared with defence of crime (arrogated to Marx) in which he argues that crime takes care of the superfluous population".He uses methods of argument throughout his essay which lampoon the then-influential William Petty and the social engineering popular among followers of Francis Bacon.
commonly referred to as A Modest Proposal, is a Juvenalian satirical essay written and published anonymously by Jonathan Swift in 1729.
The essay suggests that the impoverished Irish might ease their economic troubles by selling their children as food to rich gentlemen and ladies.
The pamphlet targets reformers who "regard people as commodities".
to show the utter ridiculousness of trying to prove any proposal with dispassionate statistics.
Furthermore, "in the mercantilist view no child was too young to go into industry".
In those times, the "somewhat more humane attitudes of an earlier day had all but disappeared and the laborer had come to be regarded as a commodity".
This satirical hyperbole mocked heartless attitudes towards the poor, as well as British policy toward the Irish in general.
In English writing, the phrase "a modest proposal" is now conventionally an allusion to this style of straight-faced satire.
In structure, Johnson points out the same central theme, that of cannibalism and the eating of babies as well as the same final argument, that "human depravity is such that men will attempt to justify their own cruelty by accusing their victims of being lower than human". Baker points out the similarity between both authors' tones and use of irony.
Baker notes the uncanny way that both authors imply an ironic "justification by ownership" over the subject of sacrificing children—Tertullian while attacking pagan parents, and Swift while attacking the English mistreatment of the Irish poor.