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The US Government Should Not be Funding Arts.


First, what does "funding" refer to? Funding can be either direct or indirect. The US government was funding arts in this country before 1965 but that it took in-direct forms, including land grants, tax exemptions to educational and cultural institutions such as museums, and tax advantages for private donations of art to the public. This paper delves more onto direct state funding of the arts. The US arts system has no single control but instead, has a variety of public subsidies composing of roughly 13% of the nation’s total investment in nonprofit arts groups. The National Endowment for the Arts-NEA is the largest single funder of the arts across America, but the majority of direct public funding still flows from a combination of other federal, state, regional and local agencies. NEA in 2009 had a budget of US$155 million.  Even before the creation of the NEA in 1965, the issue of government in funding of the arts had been a contested one. Some justifications for government arts funding are found, but it is noted that in embracing these justifications inappropriate consequences may be occur. Thus, in this paper it is urged that we refrain from government funding of the arts because the effects of such funding, would be deleterious to the art world. Much government funding is aimed at what might be thought of as the preservation of culture. It supports museums and repertory companies and is intent on keeping our culture intact. Other objectives of government funding target community art centers, regional theaters, and school programs. And funding may also be directed to professional artists for the purpose of enabling them to produce new works of art.


Whereas funding of museums looks to the past of our culture, funding professional artists is futuristic.  The preservation of culture, of course, is involved with education, which falls under the jurisdiction of the state . More to that, though not clearly, art preservation keeps us aware of who we have been, which informs our practical decisions about who we shall become. Support for the production of modern day art can also be defended as educational but, bluntly, contemporary art is not our heritage yet; nor is it clear how much of it will be or how far it will stand time.  If the aesthetic value of contemporary art would be used to justify prospective arts funding, it also will have unfortunate consequence in that it only warrants the funding of certain kinds of art, the art of the beautiful, the sublime, and that expressive of psychically balancing qualities. If no further justification can be found, the ill consequence of this is that the state can only fund a certain type of art. Artists pursuing certain non aesthetic aims cannot be funded by the state. If the government places large investments behind one type of art, the evolution of the art world will undoubtedly be affect ed. Whole avenues of artistic development will appear less viable than the production of aesthetic art. And from the contemporary art world's point of view, this kind of arts funding might be regarded as having a regressive effect overall.


Another justification used by proponents of arts funding is that it may function as an economic stimulant, promoting prosperity by, for example, attracting tourists. As far as this funding can be pegged to the state of the economy, it would appear to be a legitimate course of action, since functioning of economy is related to the state responsibilities. It is often difficult to imagine the way in which grants to individual artists for new works as opposed to city art centers can spur economic growth. An economic growth argument identifies the value of arts funding not with aesthetic or artistic value, but as an economic instrument. But despite this, the argument seems acceptable, although it can only be mobilized under certain constraints. Where  arts funding is employed to stimulate tourism or some other form of economic activity in a given area, the state must be convinced that there is no alternative form of intervention of comparable cost would yield greater prosperity in that area. More to that, where national rather than local economy is at issue, the state must supply some rationale why it is undertaking to stimulate tourism in one geographical region rather than another.


 Another justification put forward is connecting arts funding to  employment. If state funding is not forthcoming, then many artists will be unemployed. Unemployment is a genuine matter of concern to the state. Massive unemployment is one of the great tragedies of our society, and we must demand that the state do something about it. Artists do not constitute a group that is comparable to unemployed youth. Justice and equal opportunity do not seem to bear on the issue of artistic unemployment. For instance, I may not be able to support my family as an unemployed poet; but that does not mean that I can't do it in another way, say, as a cook or a copywriter. It does not fall under the state's responsibilities in regard to the unemployed extend to guaranteeing that everyone have the job he or she most desires. The case of artistic unemployment involves people not able to pursue the line of work they most like, while youth unemployment at large involves people excluded from the work force altogether.

Fairness can be used to ground government arts support. If a given government subsidizes the building of sports arenas, then, in all fairness, arts production should also be supported. If the government facilitates the pursuits of sports fans, then it should, as a matter of treating people equally, also facilitate the pursuits of arts fans, perhaps by means of supporting the creation of new art. But what, in such a context, justifies the subsidizing of sports? If nothing does, then perhaps what is required is that neither sports nor the arts be subsidized. Of course, a subsidy for a sport might be defended on the grounds that it stimulates the economy of an area; but then arts funding can, in principle, be similarly defended. Again, it does seem correct to say that if a majority, call them sports fans, demand sports funding in the face of opposition by a minority, call them arts lovers, then fairness urges that the leisure activity of the latter group also be supported, though perhaps not to the same extent. The deeper question, however, is whether any leisure activity should be supported. The advancement of the leisure professions may just not be an area the state should enter at all.


One of the earliest arguments in favor of government support of the arts is that the arts perform a moral function.  If art can function as a means of improving morality, then the state is justified in supporting it. Some art enables us to see the world from a different perspective, thus not only promoting the acquisition of a formal requirement of morality, but also enabling us to understand situations of different classes, races, creeds, and genders. Art, then, can foster greater tolerance within society and thereby bolster the moral order. If we argue from these grounds then state funding on moralizing grounds will be justified ,but  then only to that art which will increase moral sympathies. This will require some serious  research into the moral importance of different kinds of art. Art that afford no moral uplift cannot be funded. This raises problems like those encountered in an earlier discussion of the aesthetics value. If the state is funding only certain kinds of art and it enters the art world, putting its resources behind only moralizing kinds of art, then there is a danger that the development of the art world will be skewed in a certain direction. This violates our understanding  that  art should be pluralist and  independent of considerations of social utility.


Public arts funding primarily benefits the already advantaged. An artist is a person engaged in one or more of any of a broad spectrum of activities  related to creating art, practicing the arts and/or demonstrating an art(Wikipedia). Artist should be able to use their rare skills to improve their well being.


There is also an argument that public funding is necessary to promote innovation and dialogue among diverse points of view, so that groups that want to use the fine arts to challenge the status quo and advocate their unpopular world views and lifestyles can have a forum. However, while the common good requires tolerating the expression of unpopular points of view, the fact that most people do not share them suggests that the common good may not be served by supporting their expression. Even if it is, the government has no more business providing subsidies for such purposes. Indeed, many unpopular world views and lifestyles are at odds with traditional theism, and subsidizing them while not subsidizing theism would give the former an unfair advantage. People who think the expression of an unpopular viewpoint desirable should be fund it themselves just as religious believers should support their churches and missionary activities.

The argument that public funding is necessary because some people have great and rare gifts that, due to lack of a market, otherwise will be lost. That might be true but the common good of political society is limited. It is not the proper role of the U.S. government to pursue all human goods in every possible way, and therefore not its business to subsidize every gift that otherwise will be fruitless.

Some argue that subsidizing what initially appeals only to a few are necessary to foster a wide variety of creative initiatives that will elevate popular taste and tomorrow serve the multitude. Whether the funded work elevates anyone’s taste is arguable, but even supposing it does, can this indirect contribution to the common good justify the subsidy? Moreover, while some creative efforts that initially appeal to few eventually serve the masses, most do not, and it is hardly possible to show that public funding of some portion of art work is necessary for future cultural development. There are other needs calling for public funding, and some, plainly more pressing than this—for example, better basic education for the very poor—will surely put it to fruitful uses. One cannot justify spending for a dim and uncertain result when there are many urgent and promising alternatives.

A recent argument draws a distinction between to view points of culture, Culture provides the particular paintings, performances, and novels, designs, sports and thrillers that we value and take delight in; but it also provides the structural frame that makes aesthetic values of that sort possible and makes them values for us. This structural frame includes a wealth of associations, references, images, and contrasts, which, like language, supply us with the tools with which we forge and map our common life. It insists that it is better for people to have a complex and multifarious cultural framework and that we owe future generations at least as rich a cultural framework as the one we inherited. Both these values can be achieved by promoting the creation of innovative art. Government support in this area is necessary because it "helps protect the fragile structure of our culture. This argument to endorse indirect rather than direct arts support by the government. But he does countenance situations in which government support could be direct. At least two problems, however, beset this approach. First, there is the assumption that the structure of culture is fragile. When we look at the structure of culture, we note that it comprises many ingredients beside art-social dances, children's games, fashion, sports, religion, indeed the whole gamut of our symbolizing activities. These images become part and parcel of our ways of thinking; they are the very weave of our common culture. But it seems dubious to consider them to be fit beneficiaries of public funding. Yet if art deserves public funding because of its contribution to our cultural framework, so does anything else that similarly contributes, including, potentially, every sort of symbolizing activity, and notably some outlandish ones: hoopla-hoops, comic books, Billy Graham, the Watergate break-in, and so on.

Government funding of anything involves government control. Proponents of arts funding are unaware of this peril when they praise the role of the national endowments as an seal of approval on artists and arts groups. This could lead to politicization of arts.

Another claim used to justify public funding of arts is equal arts participation.  Participation in arts can not only be attributed to state funding and subsidy but may also be attributed to two other possible factors, that is; Groups that are inclined to participate even without state funding especially those with high income and highly educated may be attending in higher numbers; or, groups that formerly attended in lower rates for example, low income and education and certain ethnic groups may also be participating more given the rise in public support. Accordingly, If state art support truly makes the arts more available and accessible, then  it would be expected that an even more evenly distributed scenario of participation in states that provide more funding would be witnessed. Unequal participation in arts appears on several levels; in education, income, race, and geographic location. People will always participate in the arts at unequal levels, and statistical evidence confirms that participation in arts differs by various populace groups. Although income alone may not accurately predict participation at the individual level, a more complete picture is seen when economic  theory of choice is combined with other social and individual background characteristics that help determine preferences such as education level, racial alignment, income, and location. Therefore, participation inequalities occur not only because of variations of individual tastes, but also because of other social and cultural influences on the choice and ability to participate in arts. 

The cultural equity argument for government support, depends on the problem of unequal access. The depends on the fact that factors beyond individuals’ immediate control prevent them from taking part in opportunities availed by participation in arts. Equal access can be categorized into three concepts: equality of opportunity, rights, opportunity, and of participation. Use of state funding to correct for unequal access is a form of redistribution. Redistribution through arts funding is skewed, since it favors those to whom art and the aesthetic are more important over those to whom it is less important. So, the best form of redistribution of state resources would be direct transfers to the less fortunate.

Proponents of state funding will also argue that by funding arts the state is safeguarding the welfare of the citizens. But welfare, as it applies to as a state role, refers to assistance to individuals in need of the basic commodities that comprise a living. Is it practical to suppose that arts funding provides some such a commodity?  An analogy would be to say that someone needs Y is to say that they lack it, they will suffer injury, sickness, madness, hunger, or avoidable death. Does the production of contemporary artworks assist individuals in needful situations such as these? The answer is no. Some proponents of public funding will attempt to connect state arts support to the state's welfare function by  introducing a concept of aesthetic welfare. Aesthetic welfare is defined as all the aesthetic levels of the experience of members of the society at a given time. It is then suggested that there is a prima facie government duty to preserve the aesthetic wealth of society where that wealth-pictures, plays, and so forth-is what gives rise to aesthetic welfare. It is not certain, however, that this particular notion of aesthetic welfare helps the case for prospective arts funding since it may be that, if there were such a prima facie duty, retrospective arts funding might suffice to discharge it. Also, one must question whether the connection between "aesthetic welfare" and the concept of welfare relevant to government activity is really unequivocal. First, "aesthetic welfare" doesn't correlate with de-finable needs, especially basic needs; nor does being below the poverty line imply being aesthetically disadvantaged. And clearly promoting individuals' aesthetic welfare will not raise them over the poverty line. More-over, the state's welfare responsibility under this conception of aesthetic welfare doesn't seem to be directly connected to individuals but is a matter of ensuring that there will be a large number of aesthetic objects around so that people can have aesthetic experiences if they want them. The state is to ensure the permanent possibility of high levels of what is called aesthetic welfare but might better be called aesthetic well-being. This well-being is to be secured for society at large, construed additively, whereas the state's welfare responsibilities are discharged toward particular per-sons, viz., anyone in need. Thus the notion of aesthetic welfare" appears not to refer to welfare of the kind that defines the state's proper domain of activity; it is merely a homonymous term that, though sounding like the concept employed in the discussion of the state's welfare responsibilities, is actually quite separate.

Lastly, the idea that art will disappear if the government does not support it, and if the state does not fund new art, no one else will. Of course, this is a false claim, and a dubious one at that. The arts flourished in democratic societies before the coming of direct public funding; there is no reason to suppose that they will disappear without the direct government funding of new arts. Where people are interested in art, there will still be an audience to support new work. Were there no audience whatsoever, it would be difficult to determine on what basis the government would justify funding new art.


In conclusion, there do appear to be some theoretical justifications for possible government funding of art. The two important  justifications seem to be those concerning the aesthetic environment and the moralizing effects of the arts.  For they endorse the funding of only certain types of art. Government support for only certain types of art may indeed disturb the structure of artistic production and perhaps destroy the art world as we know it.

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