Trade card, advertising J. & P. Coats spool cotton, showing Lilliputians tying up Gulliver. 1 print : lithograph, color; ca. 1875-1900

Today’s wealth transfer—from the young to the elderly through Medicare and Social Security—was foreshadowed and brutally satirized in Jonathan Swift’s Gulliver’s Travels (1726). Senior citizens, according to Swift, “would in time become Proprietors of the whole Nation.” They would seize the government, “which for want of Abilities to manage, must end in...


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