A Modest Proposal

For Reducing the Burden Borne by the State

In the Provision of Social Housing

By Johnny Quick


It is a melancholy object to those who walk through this Town to see the streets crowded with a great Mob of people benefiting from state subsidised housing as a consequence of their low income. How absurd that their low level of achievement should be so rewarded!

Since it is not agreed by all Parties that this Entitlement shall be cut back, for the sake of strong and stable government I hereby offer a modest proposal to reduce the burden borne by the state, as follows.

Each week a different social housing project is to be put to the torch. When checks have been carried out to ensure that all residents are indeed low-wage earners, the building(s) shall be set on fire at a time when the inhabitants are asleep in their beds.

While there are bound to be a few Escapees, it is reasonable to assume that the ensuing Conflagration will cause most residents to Pass On; and their passing will be the cause of Double Savings to the Public Purse – first, benefit payments will be reduced in line with the reduced number of Tenants whose rent is subsidised; secondly, the medium term will see a Reduction in state-subsidised Funerals, since the buildings selected for incineration will also serve as Pop-Up Crematoria.

A different building will be selected for incineration as part of the national lottery each week. All Social Housing Projects in the UK will be allocated an ID number, and the ID of the chosen residence will correspond to the bonus ball number as revealed every Saturday evening during the national lottery Broadcast.

Selection by lottery will guarantee Diversity; incorporating the selection process within a nationwide Broadcast will position it as part of the Shared National Experience.

Subsequent incineration of randomly selected Social Housing will serve to associate the national lottery with an element of Spectacle. However, it is to be expected that regular recurrence – week in, week out – will have a long-term waning effect on the Spectacular element.

It shall be at the discretion of Tenant Management Organisations to enhance the flammability of their ‘in scope’ buildings by cladding them with materials which make less than optimal use of flame retardant technology. Please note that equipping particular buildings in this way will not affect the probability of their selection for incineration.

A friend has raised criticisms of my modest proposal, suggesting that the screams of people trapped in burning buildings would be hard to bear on a weekly basis. Yet the relevant authorities have already proved immune to the cries of tenants who frequently voiced concerns about fire safety in social housing, often over a long period of time. It is therefore reasonable to assume that the authorities will not be unduly affected by short-lived shouting from those who are…short-lived.

Burnt-out social housing estates shall remain in plain sight so that those still in receipt of state subsidies may be reminded of how lucky they are to continue receiving them.

For the avoidance of doubt, the above is meant as a barb against the barbaric consequences of an inflated housing market and the long-term suppression of social housing programmes. It is modelled on the original Modest Proposal by Jonathan Swift (1729), who satirised British government failings by recommending cannibalism as the solution to child poverty in Ireland.