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Jared Meyer
Who Should Pay for the Arts? « Back to Story

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Re the comment, "I do believe that the arts provide public goods/positive externalities and therefore warrant some level of public subsidy." One issue is whether public spending on the arts generates *net* positive externalities after allowing for the fact that the resources diverted by government coercion are ipso facto unavailable for other valued uses. Rooms filled with mud, heaps of scrap paper, and giant replicas of clothespins may have trouble with that test. Another issue is whether positive externalities can be identified and quantified with any reasonable degree of objectivity and precision. One doubts it. A third issue is, even if you imagine the first two are trivial or solvable, that on the planet I inhabit, public officials are not often elected for their good taste or good sense, and once elected, they often succumb to favoritism, corruption, megalomania, and occasional fits of drooling insanity. Public subsidy for the arts should be tolerated only if accompanied by publicly subsidized hangmen or hangpersons to deal with artists who seek to live off money confiscated from their fellow citizens.
As a performing artist (theatre actor and director) the idea of public finding of the arts means government control over the content, a thought which should be abhorrent to any artist. The public will support professionally presented, compelling art. Some artistic elites want support for agenda-driven art that is too "sophisticated" for the general public. Their only hope is government funding. We are all better served when artistic companies, like every other purveyor of goods or services, strive to offer a quality product at a reasonable price.
Every time someone suggests that perhaps private funding of the arts is more appropriate than public, I hear the same arguments from the other side. In particular, I always hear that we can afford billions for defense, why not a few bucks for the arts? Well, one reason is that the country is broke. And I will leave it at that.
If you believe that arts provide any public goods, then private funding will be inadequate, and public funding through taxes can actually improve social efficiency. On the other hand, if you think that the arts provide no public goods, governmental subsidization is hard to defend.

I do believe that the arts provide public goods/positive externalities and therefore warrant some level of public subsidy.
"Government cannot create economic value out of thin air."

Gawd, that's dumb. The writer has never seen a bridge, highway, airport, the Hoover Dam, a port, a dredged river, or such as CDC, NIH and other efforts that keep us alive.

Or the National Laboratories. Or the National Parks. Or any of thousands of government operations that form interlocking economic drivers with private operations.

Not like democracy much ??? Want General Sisi for your ruler? How's about Mussolini? He loved corporations.
Where does Mr. Meyer say that he would take the money from art subsidies and give them to defense contractors? These comments have nothing to do with the article, and are just cheap hits at a vague idea.

If anything, the author suggests that the tax money allocated to the arts would be returned to the private sector, not into the "military-industrial-complex.
Benjamin W. Hartley January 31, 2014 at 6:42 AM
Personally, I do not partake of "the arts," as defined as theater, dance, opera, et.al. Why should I be required to support that which I do not use?
Defense spending (the military-industrial complex) and the public schools (the education-credential complex) seem to be the biggest drains on the public treasury. As for arts spending, corporations seems to spend less and less on it, probably because the public has grown less and less interested in the arts. Why sponsor a program when hardly anyone will watch it?
There's always money for guns and none for the arts.
Jared Meyer fails to perceive long-term effects of dance funding: it's not just lining the dancers' pockets--if they wanted money, they'd never have gone into dance as a career. But dance performances have an impact on the soul of those who watch them, which is of course not considered worth measuring by statisticians. Dance training has a very measurable effect on children, even when they don't become professional dancers. Go look at statistics on the Royal Academy of Dance or any other reputable dance organization. The amount of money needed is such a drop in the bucket compared to defense spending that I literally cannot believe this particular policy analyst spent the time writing this. Give him free tickets to the NYCB, Alvin Ailey, Martha Graham, and Joffrey and maybe he'll change his views of the matter.
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