A not uncommon flaw in many thinkers is what we might call, “fail to scale.” In other words, a good idea emerges for solving a limited problem, and certain people immediately jump to the conclusion that this same solution can be applied more broadly, without taking into account the additional problems that arise from greater size and complexity. One example of exactly this problem has come across my field of view recently.
In 1729, noted economics expert Jonathon Swift made a modest proposal to solve the Irish problem, to wit, the eating of Irish babies. Though never fully implemented, no good criticism of this plan has ever been made, nor, in fact, could be. The difficulty comes in because today more and more economists are suggesting we expand this policy to include, not just Irish babies, but all of the poor.
Since the time of Swift’s writing, however, the world has changed sufficiently to make this impossible. Consider that as of 2013, median household income worldwide was about 10,000 dollars. In the US, most households gross less than $40,000. Anyone can see this means that there is no shortage of poor people, and so, at first glance, exploiting this food source would seem to make a good deal of sense.
In reality, the cost to butcher, render, prepare the poor and bring them to market (not to mention FDA testing) requires semi-skilled workers, who are, today, for the most part, exactly the ones who are unemployed or under-employed (and, at least in the US, generally without healthcare, thus making them unreliable as a workforce). The result is that we find ourselves in the situation where the only way to actually exploit the poor as a food source would require them to perform all of the required labor. It ought to be obvious that, while it may be possible to convince them to butcher themselves, each step after that becomes increasingly impractical.
As much as I admire those who have followed in Mr. Swift’s footsteps, I’m afraid other solutions must be found.