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January 29, 2004
Arts Funding Increase? Why?

The New York Times reported yesterday that President Bush will request a substantial increase in funding for the National Endowment of the Arts:

President Bush will seek a big increase in the budget of the National Endowment for the Arts, the largest single source of support for the arts in the United States, administration officials said on Wednesday. The proposal is part of a turnaround for the agency, which was once fighting for its life, attacked by some Republicans as a threat to the nation's moral standards.

I don't think it's a threat to the nation's moral standards; daytime soap operas present more of a threat than art-house displays of Robert Mapplethorpe's rear end ever could. It's a nonproductive waste of money and it's completely unnecessary. Artists sell their wares in a free market here in the US. Artists who can't make a living out of it on their own should hardly be supported by government grants to go on being unproductive. Not only that, but the NEA is expected to supply patronage without discernment -- funding is demanded for all sorts of projects of questionable taste, such as the notorious pictures of bullwhips protruding from Mapplethorpe's ass. It's the first patronage system in history where the patron is held hostage to the artist.

One side benefit of being the NEA, I suppose, is that you can get really talented writers to produce works of fiction to support your organization, such as:

Representative Louise M. Slaughter, a New York Democrat who is co-chairwoman of the Congressional Arts Caucus, said she was delighted to learn of Mr. Bush's proposal. "There's nothing in the world that helps economic development more than arts programs," Ms. Slaughter said.

Yes, it was that all-important art industry that pulled a great nation from the Great Depression. And it was lucky, too, that it came along when it did. Why, if the great engine of the arts hadn't been around, we'd never have been able to bomb the Nazis with primitive sculptures and Cubist watercolors. Memo to Ms. Slaughter from planet Earth: There's nothing in the world that helps economic development than free-market capital. And the NEA eats up too much of that as it is.

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Posted by Ed Morrissey at January 29, 2004 6:36 AM

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