I'm practicing an English Language Analysis Essay (from VCAA 2014 English Exam) and the author of a response states:

But no, let's spend a few trillions more on the illusion that we can solve our problems by leaving Earth and finding somewhere better.

I have identified the sarcastic tone and the negative connotation of "illusion" but here's my question:

What is the persuasive technique used in "few trillions"? Describing a large object/amount in a small scale?

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    If the words were spoken in earnest (which they are not), "a few" would be an attempt to get the listener to agree that the amount is a small amount to pay. Those words would be in accord with the position of those who wish to colonize another planet. The author takes what are ostensibly their own words, or at least words alleged to be consonant with their position, and throws them back in their faces, sarcastically. – Tᴚoɯɐuo May 28 '16 at 11:42

First, when we talk of techniques to make a point or persuade we are talking about the use of rhetorical devices. There's a reasonable list of the main ones here.

In the example given here, I think we're seeing a type of understatement - "deliberately expresses an idea as less important than it actually is, either for ironic emphasis or for politeness and tact."

Specifically, while I'm no expert, I suspect we're seeing a type of understatement called Meiosis - "Meiosis can be defined as a witty understatement that belittles or dismisses something"

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I don't think any particular persuasive technique is being employed here. The author is being satirical stating that we can comfort ourselves by spending a few trillions. I also do not think anything special was meant by using 'few' and 'trillions' together, a few trillions is still an awful lot of money.

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