Is it our responsibility to fund the arts?

We ask three things of government: the protection of our rights to life, liberty and property.  And while, granted, it is an ancient tradition that the state (i.e., the monarch, church, etc.) served as patron to the arts that would otherwise go un-patronized, is it really necessary these days?

I don’t think so.  You can say that it’s a drop in the bucket, in the context of the entire federal budget – but aren’t the contents of a bucket just a lot of tiny drops?  If you eliminate one, you can eliminate others.  Especially when the results of these “investments” is not really tangible to the everyday American, we know it’s time to cut this waste.

Besides, 971 million – the proposed amount to be cut – is no small sum.

The assumption is that these things (arts, humanities, museums and libraries, and public broadcasting) could not exist without government funding.  I doubt that, but for argument’s sake, let’s say this is so: when the funding dies, so do these things.  What we should be asking, in such a case, is why can these things not subsist on their own?  If they are really so good, so noble, so useful – couldn’t the market support these things on their own?

To a large extent, the market couldn’t, and justifiably shouldn’t.   These things are old fashioned, inefficient.

In an NPR story on this subject, CPB President and CEO Patricia Harrison is quoted as saying that public media is “one of America’s best investments” and costs each citizen only $1.35 per year.  If this were really the case, if public broadcasting was really as great as she says, then it would be supported by the market already, without need for government funding.  Of course, what she says is hogwash – public broadcasting is becoming increasingly irrelevant (if it ever was relevant in the first place, at least compared to the normal broadcasting format) as it’s being replaced with internet (free) news.  It is really like the state paying for the printing of a newspaper that no one reads anymore – because it’s a “good investment.”

The sob stories continue.  From the Washington Post:

The loss of NEA funding would cripple Vermont’s Poetry Out Loud competition, a statewide poetry recitation program that involves 5,500 students, about 25 percent of Vermont high-schoolers. The finals are broadcast on public television, said Alex Aldrich, executive director of the Vermont Arts Council, and the winner goes on to the national competition.

Heaven spare us from having to watch – or pay for – endless hours of bad, amateurish, free-rhyme, high school poetry!

Also from the Washington Post:

“Congress must look out for the millions of American families that can’t always travel to big cities to visit a museum when they want to learn about art and history.”

The internet has a lot of information about art and history, you know.

From a Quartz story, comparing this to when Australia slashed cultural funding:

In reality, these kinds of cuts have more to do with ideology than saving money. Abbott’s attacks were an example of how conservatives often target government-run arts programs on the suspicion that the creative sector is really a giant, publicly funded, left-wing racket.

Well… yeah?

From that same story:

Research by the Australia Council found that more Australians go to art galleries each year than to Australian Football League matches, the most popular sporting code in the country.

In that case, it shouldn’t be an issue – art galleries would be able to support themselves if they are really so popular, no?

I am almost in complete support of the intentions of Trump’s new budget.  It is the first attempt at a conservative budget I have seen in my lifetime – though, the military expenditure is still most definitely excessive.


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