On The McLaughlin Group last night (we all have our guilty pleasures) the panelists were
screaming about discussing government funding for the arts. Pat Buchanan, of course, examined the issue in the context of his “culture war”; that is to say, he argued that because government funds works like those of Andres Serrano, which he and many others find offensive, the best compromise is to not have any government funding of the arts at all.
Well, I think most people would agree the arts are very important to society, even if one doesn’t like or even consider the work of Serrano and similar “art”. But then again, as the Conservatives would say, what good is it if it has to be subsidized by the government? Surely, it should be a spontaneous result of the culture, not brought about through government subsidization.
Perhaps. Although it’s worth bearing in mind that the Medici family and the Church paid for the famous art of the Renaissance. And while I’m sure Conservatives will say the Church is different from the government, that argument is based on the experience of Americans, who may not quite realize the extent to which the Church was the government in Renaissance Italy.
Not to say that there is no merit to the argument that government ought not to fund the arts. After all, if the aim of real Art ought to be Truth, and if it is funded by a government, it is quite likely they will fund only that art which advances their agenda, and may be quite contrary to higher purposes. Propaganda, in other words. (Indeed, I sometimes think many Conservatives would not be opposed to this use of government-sponsored art.)
Then again, it seems funding must come from somewhere, and since true art may not always be profitable, where else can it come from but from an institution that does not have to turn a profit?