Unbelievable. Even in the midst of a sovereign debt crisis that threatens the stability of the world economy, it looks like funding special interests with taxpayer money never goes out of style. From The Art Newspaper:
As the economic crisis deepens across Europe, the European Commission plans to launch the world’s largest ever cultural funding programme, with €1.8bn allocated for visual and performing arts, film, music, literature and architecture. The commission’s Creative Europe project plans to release the money between 2014 and 2020. If the scheme is approved late 2012, an estimated 300,000 artists are due to receive funding.
The proposal has received a mixed response from key cultural commentators, with some saying that banking on culture and the arts to help prop up EU member states and stimulate the economy is unlikely to work.“Some say that banking on culture and the arts to help prop up EU member states and stimulate the economy is unlikely to work.” Gee, you think?
If art, theater, music, literature were really worth their weight in funding, consenting individuals would be paying for them already. Just look at popular musical artists such as Lady Gaga who need no assistance in selling their craft.
The use of taxpayer money ultimately demeans the quality of work produced as these “cultural” projects are no longer aimed at satisfying consumer demand. Suppose an artist muddles through an overly bureaucratic application process, receives a grant, and sets about painting a mural that no one would pay a dime for. Has wealth been created? How does the artist know if their work is valued if it fails to be purchased? As Mises theorized, without pricing signals economic calculation becomes impossible. How do artists improve if not reliant on appeasing their customer base? How do bureaucrats assess the value of art when not beholden to financial losses that guide efficiency?
Lawrence Reed sums up the effect government subsidization has on any industry or service:
The surest way I know to sap the vitality of almost any worthwhile endeavor is to send a message that says, “You can slack off; the government will now do it.” That sort of flight from responsibility, frankly, is at the source of many societal ills today: Many people don’t take care of their parents in their old age because a federal program will do it. Most parents these days shirk their duties to educate their kids because government schools are supposed to do that (even though many of them do a miserable and expensive job of it).Questions of efficiency and economization are never answered by those who emphasize the benefits art brings “society.” Their focus begins revolving solely around acquiring funds, not the quality of the final product. End government subsidization of the arts and those truly passionate or capable of selling their work will thrive.
As Mises wrote in regard to the market for the literary arts:
Profit is the prize of successful deviation from customary types of procedure; loss is the penalty of those who sluggishly cling to obsolete methods. The individual is free to show what he can do in a better way than other people.
However, this freedom of the individual is limited. It is an outcome of the democracy of the market and therefore depends on the appreciation of the individual’s achievements on the part of the sovereign consumers. What pays on the market is not the good performance as such, but the performance recognized as good by a sufficient number of customers. If the buying public is too dull to appreciate duly the worth of a product, however excellent, all the trouble and expense were spent in vain.