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.

Author: Glenn W. Smith

Glenn W. Smith has spent the past 30 years in journalism and politics, where he’s made a name for himself as a writer, campaign manager, activist, think tank analyst and, as Daily Kos founder Markos Moulitsas says, a “legendary political consultant and all-around good guy.” “There’s no one like him,” says author George Lakoff. CNN commentator Paul Begala says, “He has unmatched experience, a graceful pen (or pixel nowadays) and deep insight into the best and worst of us.” Novelist Sarah Bird speaks of his “lucid and lyrical” prose. And, she says, he’s fun. Huffington Post founder Arianna Huffington says Glenn writes with “grace and abundant humor” and “uses his colorful experiences in Texas to enlighten us all.”

Smith led Ann Richards’ successful 1990 campaign for Governor of Texas. He worked for former Texas Lt. Gov. Bill Hobby and U.S. Senator Lloyd Bentsen. Earlier, Smith was a political reporter for the Houston Chronicle and the Houston Post. He’s coordinated national campaigns for groups such as In 2004, he authored the highly acclaimed book, The Politics of Deceit: Saving Freedom and Democracy from Extinction. He also wrote Unfit Commander, a book that detailed George W. Bush’s mysterious disappearance from military service.

In 2004, Smith was featured in the film, Bush’s Brain, a documentary about Karl Rove. Smith provided commentary on Rove’s role as then-President Bush’s senior advisor. He has made numerous media appearances with Chris Mathews on Hardball, Joe Scarborough, Brit Hume, and many others. He writes a regularly for top national web sites, including FireDogLake and Huffington Post.

As a senior fellow at George Lakoff’s prestigious Rockridge Institute in Berkeley he studied, wrote and taught on the power of metaphor and narrative in political communications. He also lectured on religion and politics at the Starr King School for Ministry in Berkeley. As a sponsor and organizer, he has pulled together numerous national events with progressive religious leaders. He also organized a celebration of Dr. Martin Luther King at Riverside Church in New York City as well as “Freedom and Faith” bus tours, which was a nationwide campaign for social justice and progressive values.

Smith’s play, Double Play, which explored American Western myths and legends, was held over to sold-out audiences. He’s even written and performed songs in the Americana tradition, such as his best-known song, “Helping Marty Robbins,” a tribute to his hometown, Houston.

Most recently, Smith is the creator of DogCanyon, a political and cultural web site covering state, national and global issues from a Texas perspective. DogCanyon is an exhilarating and unique site that gets the connections between politics and culture and explores both the personal side of politics and the ups, down, craziness and beauty of “life its ownself,” as humorist Dan Jenkins would say. DogCanyon offers heartfelt personal essays, hard-hitting political analysis, and, most importantly, laughs.

As Paul Begala said, Smith writes in “the finest, firmest, fearless tradition of Texas essayists like Molly Ivins.”

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