Re-Imagining Swift

John Feeny looks at a legendary literary work

By John Feeny
America’s Right

One of the many great things that television and radio host Glenn Beck has done over the course of his moon-shot to political-pundit stardom was his decision to re-release and re-address Thomas Paine’s Common Sense, given the extraordinarily significant political climate in which we now find ourselves.

As I believe I mentioned in one of my previous comments here at America’s Right, my academic background is in British Literature. Accordingly, as I was discussing some aspects of “Brit Lit” with a fresh-faced English teacher just last week, our conversation happened upon Jonathan Swift’s A Modest Proposal. As I began discussing the work with my colleague, I couldn’t help but notice some of the parallels between the politics of early 18th-century England–about which Swift was so concerned and that he felt the need to satirize–and those that we are experiencing now, specifically as it applies to the degree to which the budget of an entire nation can be stretched to the breaking point in a fruitless attempt to take care of all of its citizens.

For those of you familiar with Swift’s classic essay, you’re aware that there’s nothing “modest” about it at all and, in fact, prior to reading what I’ve penned for today, you might want to look it up on the Internet and have a read. It’s truly great stuff.

Bearing all this in mind, I thought that a personal, more up-to-date “revision” of the master satirist’s work might be a good idea, especially considering that we seem to be approaching the point of a vote on some loony incarnation of a health care reform bill. It is important to note, however, since we unfortunately live in a nation that is populated by outright crazy people as well as those who go looking for things that can be utilized to vilify others, that this is essay is obviously HYPERBOLE. I’m sure you all understand when I say that there will be those who immediately take this right out of its literal context as well as out of the spirit in which it was written. God help us.

In any event, my modern-day version of Jonathan Swift’s “A Modest Proposal”:

A Humble Proposition
By John Feeny

It is certainly a sad object to those who live in our country when they see the long lines in the walk-in medical centers, crowded with mothers of three, four, five, or even six children, all sick and clearly in need of proper medical care, nourishment, and clothing. Indeed, the life opportunities for most of these children are already limited enough as it is in today’s day and age, and although they are certainly entitled to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness as citizens of our country, statistics clearly illustrate that most, if not all of the children of this kind will more than likely become dependent on the state for their stake in life, resort to a life of crime or, in the case of many of the young women, sell their services in one way or another on the open sex market.

I think everyone gathered here can agree that the unnecessary and clearly unwieldy burden placed on the economic infrastructure of America presented by this prodigious engorgement of the human population is, indeed, a vexing problem. Since the vast majority of them have only a mother on whom to depend, a woman who more often than not does not have the time to seek proper employment with which to support her offspring or to teach them the values that inevitably lead to a productive life, it would seem to make a great deal of sense that someone should take the initiative to get out in front of the problem and to devise a method by which to make these children more uniquely productive resources for our national community.

My goal in writing this proposition, however, is far more than attempting to present to my colleagues a plan to address this most grievous and unnecessary overpopulation problem. As you shall soon see, this plan is of a much grander scope and will actually not only address the aforementioned problem but will also provide the necessaries to solve one of our most pressing national concerns, that being universal health care.

I must confess that I have spent in inordinate number of life hours on these issues, listening intently to the proposals forwarded by my colleagues on the House floor, reading and re-reading bills that numbered in the thousands of pages, and also working on and ruminating upon my own ideas, ideas always based in practicality, common sense, and the ideals that we all share.

By nature, of course, I’ve found myself tossing around pecuniary figures with some of the best accountants that I could find, and always, unfortunately, discovering that the financial strains that would be exacted upon our people as a result of my plans to be, without question, unfair. In the name of transparency, however, I should note that some of my colleagues feel that the financial costs are ultimately unimportant and that all of these large proposals work themselves out over longer periods of time. On this point we continue to disagree.

Further, before I even discuss the specifics of my plan–which I truly hope that this Congress in all its wisdom will see fit and just to put to a vote–there is even a secondarily beneficial advantage. My plan will, by its very nature, not only provide true legitimacy to the act of abortion–as that act lessens the number of humans to begin with–but it will also give a new voice to the call of those who adhere to the “new wave” of political thought and feel that not only is an unborn child not a person, but that a child ranging in age from newborn to two years old is incapable of reason and is therefore eligible for random termination. We are, after all, trying to create a human utopia, and I believe that my plan, if enacted and written into law, will be a first step toward that wonderful goal.

The population of the United States is roughly estimated at 305 million souls. Of these, I presume, roughly one-third belong to members of solid family households, defined as a family of, on average, four persons – a healthy, married couple capable of supporting two offspring. The concept of “support” would, of course, also need to be defined, as by nature that would entail the ability of the couple to provide a proper shelter, food, clothing, education, and medical care. I must inject here, however, that given the economic and cultural distresses of the nation at this time, the assumption that roughly 100 million of our citizens to be part of an emotionally and financially stable household would be presumptuous on my part, indeed.

I’ve been told by a certain number of doctors and accountants–whose judgments that I trust implicitly–that, if my scheme were ever enacted, a child between the age of two and eight years old would probably not be a saleable commodity, as they are not yet fully developed and would not fetch nearly enough on the Exchange to account for the cost of shelter, clothing, and food invested by the parents and/or the state, the sum of said investment probably ten times what a child would bring on the free market.

I shall now therefore humbly propose my initiative, which I hope will not be liable to the least objection.

I have been assured by a German acquaintance of mine that a healthy child between the age of eight and sixteen years of age is a most valuable commodity in the medical community, as the raw materials that can be harvested from such a freshly-killed corpse are, quite possibly, beyond measurable value. The potential benefits to humankind embedded in this proposition are potentially endless, many of which I hope to illuminate.

I do therefore humbly offer it to public consideration that of the children born to roughly two-thirds of our population, the vast majority of them are seldom the fruits of marriage, and therefore have little in the way of prospects or productive value to offer our society; indeed, it is more likely that they will become a burden to our land, in either one or many ways. It is therefore only logical to see that the fresh organs that can be harvested and made available to the strong, well-balanced part of our society’s foundation will render the long–and admittedly sometimes fruitless–waits for needed organs a thing of the past. Further, some of these potentially non-productive members of society may be used for research purposes with an eye toward providing our best and brightest physicians the resources they so desperately need to explore without limitation the vast medical frontiers that will help us to combat the diseases that continually plague mankind.

Of course, the most obvious benefit to my scheme would be that the cost of health care–a basic right for every human being, of course–will naturally plummet, as the demographical strain on the demands for care will decrease exponentially. No longer will we have to wrangle with the issues of tort reform and federal and state regulations regarding health care.

And in terms of availability, this plan, if enacted, will address nearly a limitless number of social ills at the very core.

A rich revenue stream will be injected directly into the hands of the people, who are clearly the most qualified when it comes to making decisions about their own lives. Planetary resources will be allowed to restore themselves, the catastrophic damage that we’re inflicting on our planet and environment will slow, stop, and eventually reverse, the unproductive two-thirds of our population will be relieved of any further child-rearing financial burdens and will be free to contribute to society, and in what might seem an ancillary and possibly extreme consideration to this proposition, a potential new and very nutritious food source for the population of third-world countries may be introduced. I leave that measure, however, for the merits of a future discussion.

There are those in this assembly who might, quite possibly, consider that the elderly members of our society should also be included as eligible for legal termination. On this point I will respectfully disagree, to wit: (1) their bodies, most well beyond the point of fragility and productive use, would provide no great benefit for the medical community; (2) as they have survived to old age, they are more than likely members of the productive one-third of our society and have lived respectable lives and are, therefore, in my estimation worthy of a degree of human respect for what they’ve produced over the course of their natural lives; and, finally, (3) the knowledge and wisdom that they possess is precious and necessary for the future betterment of our children. The cost of keeping them alive, therefore, will be absorbed by the abstract benefits and intangibles that their knowledge will confer on all of us.

One final benefit of my plan is that, ultimately, the measures here proposed will by nature become an inducement to marriage and a healthier consideration of the concept of consensual sexual activity, as a young woman faced with the prospect of having to choose between her own relief from personal responsibility and having to care for a group of young children without visible means of support will undoubtedly choose to wait to bear children in the context of a happy, sustainable, family-oriented home. That is a goal for which, I think, we all can dream.

I humbly propose this measure for the betterment of America during this crucial turning point in her history and leave it to the wisdom of this assembly for immediate consideration. My decision to offer this as a starting point to productive discussion regarding reform measures is not in any way, shape, or form politically or personally motivated, as I anticipate receiving no political advantage from such an unexpected yet thought-provoking proposition and am at a stage of life in which my wife and I are enjoying the fruits of having successfully raised our children and sent them off to college.

John Feeny is the author of the recently published book, Congress Shall Make No Law…Abridging Freedom of Speech and works in secondary education at a Catholic high school in the Northeast. He and his wife, Sheila–who works in higher education–have been married for 14 years and have become increasingly alarmed with the direction of the young people in our society and what that means for the future of our society. They’ve been blessed with one son, who at 11 years old is in the process of giving John a run for his money. John has been an America’s Right contributor since September 2009.

Congress Shall Make No Law…Abridging Freedom of Speech can be purchased at and is currently being sold alongside the books of Glenn Beck, Mark Levin, and Michele Malkin at Patriots Heart Network. John can also be followed at Twitter (JJFeen).



  1. Anonymous says:

    It seems Obama's Czar Sunstein has already suggested some of your ideas:

  2. John Feeny says:

    That's unbelievable. I turned that piece into Jeff last Wednesday or Thursday, I believe. Here I am making light of the obvious, and this lunatic must be taking my satire for actual advice. Wow.


    That IS amazing.

    Gee whiz, John — you're an inspiration!

  4. Anonymous says:

    Sounds like Sunstein is craving a brain, for himself. I've had it up to here with stupid people, ivy league eggheads with no common sense and an ego the size of John Holmes organ. This almost makes me want to unsign myself from the organ donor list AND blood marrow donor list.

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