Comparing party stances on the arts / The importance of having a detailed platform

Dear Starchild and All Others;

I made this statement about art in an op-ed:

The California Arts Council exists to encourage artistic awareness and expression among Californians. Since our state has 1,700 art galleries and 170 art museums, not to mention businesses supporting the arts through exhibits and local communities supporting art fairs, we seem to have enough art awareness. So let's eliminate this $5 million California Arts Council boondoggle.

Nationally based on info from the National Endowment for the Arts $145 million was appropriated.

In San Francisco thanks to the Hotel Tax Arts are funded to the tune of $10 million. Although the actual amount is significantly greater as 25% of the collected funds goes to the SF general fund.

However first in line are the symphony the ballet and the opera then various cultural parades and artists get to split about $1 million that's left over. Some funding for the artists - right??

However Cato says it best:
Poor Subsidize Rich

Since art museums, symphony orchestras, humanities scholarship, and public television and radio are enjoyed predominantly by people of greater-than-average income and education, the federal cultural agencies oversee a fundamentally unfair transfer of wealth from the lower classes up. Newsweek columnist Robert J. Samuelson is correct when he calls federal cultural agencies "highbrow pork barrel.'' As Edward C. Banfield has written, "The art public is now, as it has always been, overwhelmingly middle and upper-middle class and above average in income--relatively prosperous people who would probably enjoy art about as much in the absence of subsidies.'' Supporters of the NEA often say that their purpose is to bring the finer arts to those who don't already patronize them. But Dick Netzer, an economist who favors arts subsidies, conceded that they have "failed to increase the representation of low-income people in audiences.'' In other words, lower income
people are not interested in the kind of entertainment they're forced to support; they prefer to put their money into forms of art often sneered at by the cultural elite. Why must they continue to finance the pleasures of the affluent?

Corruption of Artists and Scholars

Government subsidies to the arts and humanities have an insidious, corrupting effect on artists and scholars. It is assumed, for example, that the arts need government encouragement. But if an artist needs such encouragement, what kind of artist is he? Novelist E. L. Doctorow once told the House Appropriations Committee, "An enlightened endowment puts its money on largely unknown obsessive individuals who have sacrificed all the ordinary comforts and consolations of life in order to do their work.'' Few have noticed the contradiction in that statement. As author Bill Kauffman has commented, Doctorow "wants to abolish the risk and privation that dog almost all artists, particularly during their apprenticeships. 'Starving artists' are to be plumped up by taxpayers. . . . The likelihood that pampered artists will turn complacent, listless, and lazy seems not to bother Doctorow.'' Moreover, as Jonathan Yardley, the Washington Post's book critic asked, "Why
should the struggling young artist be entitled to government subsidy when the struggling young mechanic or accountant is not?''

Politicizing Culture

James D. Wolfensohn, former chairman of the Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts, has decried talk about abolishing the NEA. "We should not allow e arts] to become political,'' he said. But it is the subsidies that have politicized the arts and scholarship, not the talk about ending them. Some artists and scholars are to be awarded taxpayers' money. Which artists and scholars? They can't all be subsidized. The decisions are ultimately made by bureaucrats (even if they are advised by artists and scholars). Whatever criteria the bureaucrats use, they politicize art and scholarship. As novelist George Garrett has said, "Once (and whenever) the government is involved in the arts, then it is bound to be a political and social business, a battle between competing factions. The NEA, by definition, supports the arts establishment.'' Adds painter Laura Main, "Relying on the government to sponsor art work . . . is to me no more than subjecting yourself to the
fate of a bureaucratic lackey.''

No, the issue is neither the content of the work subsidized nor the expense. Taxpayer subsidy of the arts, scholarship, and broadcasting is inappropriate because it is outside the range of the proper functions of government and it needlessly politicizes, and therefore corrupts, an area of life that should be left untainted by politics.
Government funding of anything involves government control. That insight, of course, is part of our folk wisdom: "He who pays the piper calls the tune.'' "Who takes the king's shilling sings the king's song.''
Defenders of funding for the arts seem blithely unaware of that danger when they praise the role of the national endowments as an imprimatur or seal of approval on artists and arts groups. Jane Alexander says, "The Federal role is small but very vital. We are a stimulus for leveraging state, local and private money. We are a linchpin for the puzzle of arts funding, a remarkably efficient way of stimulating private money.'' Drama critic Robert Brustein asks, "How could the NEA be `privatized' and still retain its purpose as a funding agency functioning as a stamp of approval for deserving art?''

Ron Getty - SF Libertarian
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