A short, low-tech paper available for free download here on SSRN.
Suppose a reasonably wealthy country did not have an arts council that granted public funds to select artists and arts organizations. Would it be advisable to create one? One reason to do so, which comes from economic analysis, is that there might be market failures in the arts, whether public goods or, more likely, positive externalities, such that public subsidy would generate a more efficient allocation of resources. Another reason, although inconsistent with the economist’s axiom of de gustibus non est disputandum, would be to pursue the highest achievements in excellence in the arts regardless of citizens’ cultural tastes, and as a counterweight to the mass-consumption aims of the commercial creative sector. This essay argues that the pursuit of greater equality between individuals would not be a good reason to create an arts council, and that however strong one’s commitment to egalitarian goals, public funding of the arts is not a useful means to achieving those goals. There are more efficacious ways of alleviating social inequalities.
The paper is not yet in finished form, so I will be hoping for feedback from those who have an interest.
A more detailed take on the economic approach to public funding, public goods and externalities and all that, is contained in this working paper, also available for free download.
Robert Leyba says
I wish you the very best of good fortune! Your concern is worthy—you might recall
Joan Mondale’s promise for a huge arts funding increase if her husband Walter Mondale and Geraldine Ferraro gained the Presidency. I think Christopher Isherwood/Don Bacardi made the best comment: “When heaven and earth become one!” That said, best wishes!.