swift & malthus -Reply

Lisa Rogers eqwq.lrogers at state.ut.us
Thu Feb 15 12:03:35 MST 1996

You probably know more about than I do, and I'm sure you're right. 
The debate of the "Irish Question" did go on for a long time, and
still goes on, with variations.

I agree that Swift reads like a response to Malthus.  The place where
I see them, and others, talking about the same thing is largely in
relation to poverty.  Was the poverty of the Irish due to the
tariffs, trade laws and policies of the English government, as
McIniscon said?  or to all of that plus social climbing conspicuous
consumption and buying of foreign imports rather than domestic Irish
goods, which was one of Swift's arguments from the pulpit?  or to
over-population, as Malthus claimed?  etc.

I think it was "why do the Irish suffer, and what could or should be
done about it" that seems to be a focus of much of the debate.  Same
for the "Pauper Problem" within England.  Why poverty?  

Marx said it was not that there were more people than food, but that
there were more people than jobs, plus wages were very low, due to
the nature of capitalism.  [Capital V.1, ch.25, I think, is his 'law
of population' which is specific to capitalism.]

Malthus was not really interested in population per se, as I see it,
what he was after was an excuse to explain away poverty as
unavoidable, inevitable, unchangeable, and the fault of the paupers
themselves, for having too many children, starting at too early an
age.  But he was also against birth control.  His whole prescription
was that paupers/workers should just say no to sex.  After all, a
single person can make it on minimum wage.  It's trying to support a
family on that wage that _really_ causes poverty and suffering...

He wasn't a great defender of capitalists either, he was really a
friend of the landed aristocracy.  He was a most ardent supporter of
the corn laws, as well as the elimination of any welfare / dole
programs.  The corn laws greatly increased the price of grain, which
increased the income of the land-Lords and priced bread right out of
the reach of the poor, at the same time.

What do you think of that take on Malthus?  
[I forget if I might have posted some of this here before...]

Thanks for reply,

>>> Michael Luftmensch <MLuftmensch at hubcap.mlnet.com>  2/13/96,
11:34pm >>>
The "Irish Question" has been debated for hundreds of years,  and "A
Modest Proposal" does read like a satire on Malthus, but if I'm not
mistaken, the bulk of Swift's writings on "The Irish Question" deal
with the introduction of wooden money not population. 
Regards, luftmensch 

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