Why don’t we eat babies instead of aborting them?
That was the subject of one of the greatest works of satire in the history of the English language. In 1729 Jonathan Swift wrote "A Modest Proposal For Preventing The Children of Poor People in Ireland From Being A Burden to Their Parents or Country, and For Making Them Beneficial to The Public."
Swift wrote A Modest Proposal to illustrate just how bad poverty had become in the early days of the Industrial Revolution. It was bad enough that, from an amoral perspective, the slaughter of children for human consumption, made economic sense. The sheer inhumanity of the suggestion was designed to shock the United Kingdom into confronting its very real problems with poverty. For that, Swift’s essay is still studied by nearly every student of college English Literature.
Swift’s argument, I’m sure, provoked outrage in its day. Twenty years ago in a college speech class, his essay formed the basis of an argumentative speech I delivered. I still remember the look of horror on the face of a young woman who was aghast at my suggestion until she realized that I, like Swift, was using satire to illustrate a point.
I’m going to come to bumbling Bill Bennett’s defense. Bennett clearly stated that his modest proposal–aborting all black children–was a morally reprehensible action. However, it would have the positive outcome of reduced crime. In no way did he say, or even imply, that it was a desirable option. Swift, instead, offered no such caveat or satirical warning. He simply and persuasively argued a morally reprehensible choice.
Bennett is unfortunately correct that aborting every black child in America would reduce crime. Instead of being shocked that he said it, we should be shocked that it’s true.
So rather than reflexively crying RACIST!, let’s turn that outrage toward something constructive. If we don’t honestly confront the nexus of poverty, illegitimacy, and crime, and how it relates to race, then it will only get worse.