NCPA - National Center for Policy Analysis


October 12, 2004

Though there is no guarantee that the market will always recognize artistic talent, there is still less of a guarantee that a body of governmental elites will do any better. After all, many of these so-called experts dismissed the writings of Shakespeare, the works of Van Gogh, and modern music such as jazz, soul and rap, says the Fraser Institute.

Instead of a few bureaucrats making highly subjective decisions on artistic merit, the market relies on millions of independent minds to judge the value of cultural goods for themselves. According to Fraser:

  • Businesses sell consumers what they want at a price that is mutually agreed to in order to make money -- only efficient businesses stay, while unskilled ones close down.
  • No one is ever forced to support artistic projects offered by business --projects succeed or fail based only on whether it is a product that is desired by consumers.

Most individuals believe they can spend their money more intelligently than some centralized government agency or committee miles away. The notion that bureaucrats know better than average citizens what they want to see on television, hear on the ratio, or view in theater, is patently wrong, says Fraser.

In addition to the moral problems of taking people's money to achieve certain cultural goals, the belief that government needs to be involved for the arts to survive is a flawed one. According to Fraser:

  • People continue to privately support creativity and culture because they are central to human existence -- after all, the money not taxed leaves consumers with more funds to spend on artists they enjoy.
  • Cultural spending is a form of regressive taxation because it is largely consumed by individuals with high incomes.

Source: Jonathan Fortier and Jason Clemens, "Liberate the Arts from the Culturecrats," Fraser Forum, July 2004, Fraser Institute.


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