Monday, February 14, 2011

"There really is an opportunity cost of this money."

Tyler Cowen says that states that are cutting back on arts funding are doing the right thing:

"If you're a libertarian, the choice is obvious. If you're a progressive, it is better to spend the money on Medicaid expansion or other more worthy goals. There really is an opportunity cost of this money[;] . . . we could use those funds to save some lives. Most of the benefit of arts subsidies goes to the relatively wealthy and well-educated."

You see this in the deaccessioning debate too. A lot of people want to pretend there are no opportunity costs involved. You can keep the art (or the arts funding) and the scholarship money and the 18 academic programs and the Medicaid expansion and all the other worthy goals. There are no conflicts, no hard choices to be made. The money for everything just magically appears. If you think otherwise, you're repulsive.

Relatedly, The New Republic's Jonathan Chait says "public arts subsidies are inherently problematic. It's problematic to force people to subsidize art that offends their religion or their values. It's also problematic to have the government vet art for messages that might be politically toxic."

And Matt Yglesias sees a "huge advantage" to our system of subsidizing the arts through charitable donations: "[The system] lets you hide the ball. You never hear people getting mad over the fact that tax-exempt contributions are going to fund controversial or offensive art. It’s a pretty good model, and yet nobody ever talks about it, in part because it works precisely through the mechanism of people not talking about it."