Modest Proposal, n.: A satirical salvo that uses as its ammunition one of the few sacred cows in modern culture—babies, (in a pinch, kittens can serve as a substitute.) A few people always fail to get the joke, thereby making the modest proposal a guaranteed controversy generator. The term derives from Jonathan Swift's 1729 pamphlet, A Modest Proposal for Preventing the Children of Poor People From Being a Burden to their Parents or the Country, in which he made a case for the social and economic benefits to be gained by feeding the unwanted babies of the poor to the rich.