Panglossian Pessimism

Do you hear the Feebles sing?

Fall is descending on America, and there’s nothing we like more than sweater weather (except for Shark Week and Muppets presenting at awards shows). Yet in a season inevitably cast as a denouement before the eventual rebirth of Spring, this Autumn has seen the green shoots of socialism sprouting here and there. The US media took a moment to recognize that Evo Morales’s populist socialism has transformed Bolivia, while ToM favorite Mariana Mazzucato, the heterodox economist, won an award for her work challenging the tenets of free-market, neoclassical economic dogma.

The combined political force of Elizabeth Warren and Bernie Sanders poses a historic challenge to the neoliberal consensus that has smothered the Democratic Party for several decades, putting ideas such as truly universal healthcare, wealth taxation, and a reinvigorated labor movement right in the center of the public square. Even Andrew Yang, the curiously Panglossian pessimist, is promoting an idea of government intervention in the economy that would have been unthinkable just six short years ago. And Trump, for whatever it’s worth, continues to thumb his russet nose at any remaining pretense to austerity and fiscal conservatism.

Meanwhile, America marked its first National Period Day. Recent years have seen the subject of menstruation, long considered the essence of taboo, become a matter of energetic cultural and political activism. (Consider this wonderful project by Bronx teenagers.) Long ago, feminists insisted that the personal is political and forced questions that were previously considered by definition to be private, such as marriage and divorce, reproductive freedom and sexual violence, into the sphere of public consideration. Today’s young (and they are mostly young) activists are speaking of menstrual equity in ways that should have been obvious to anyone who gives the subject a moment’s reflection: the lack of access to period products in schools, jails, migrant detention, and on the street for homeless women; the insane tax scheme in most states that imposes levies on pads and tampons as “nonessential items.”

Ladyhood is a regressive tax in America for about five million reasons, and righting these wrongs ought to be front and center for any agenda that purports to champion social equity and human rights.

In the meantime, here are some great reads from the Internet of This and That, selected by our editors: