Government Spending

Building a Wall of Separation Between Art and State


At The New York Times' Room for Debate blog, David Boaz of the Cato Institute makes the case for separating art from state:

Government involves the organization of coercion. In a free society coercion should be reserved only for such essential functions of government as protecting rights and punishing criminals. People should not be forced to contribute money to artistic endeavors that they may not approve, nor should artists be forced to trim their sails to meet government standards.

Government funding of anything involves government control. That insight, of course, is part of our folk wisdom: "He who pays the piper calls the tune."

Defenders of arts funding seem blithely unaware of this danger when they praise the role of the national endowments as an imprimatur or seal of approval on artists and arts groups.

Read the whole thing here. offers 3 reasons not fund art with taxes below.

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  1. Freeloaders!

  2. The New York Times commentators, once again, completely miss the point. Let’s give them a round of applause for never failing to disappoint!

    1. I didn’t make it past #1. Impressive, in a way.

    2. The best one is the one that claimed that there was an anti-art attitude in the countries leading up to WWII. Obviously they never heard of Hitler or Richard Wagner (who I believe is the greatest composer of all time, regardless of his personal views).

      1. No way, dude! Mozart had more talent in his big toe than ten Wagners!

        1. Please – JS Bach was the shizz of all time

          1. Stravinsky. That is all.

            1. Lemmy. I win.

              1. Beethoven.

                Wagner wins for opera, though, but all time composer? It’s gotta be my boy Ludwig.

                1. Opera? You must mean *music drama.*

        2. “Wagner’s music is better than it sounds.” — Mark Twain

      2. I declare that it is far from my idea to encourage anything like a state art. Art belongs to the domain of the individual. The state has only one duty: not to undermine art, to provide humane conditions for artists, to encourage them from the artistic and national point of view.

        Art flourished in fascist Italy, both public and private. Many grants were given, to all types, from art glorifying the past triumphs in the Roman Empire to futurism. Ironically, the one place most likely to censor art was the Soviet Union. Unless it glorified the proletariat, of course.

        1. Tied for second with Tchaikovsky.

    3. And what about patriotic fervor — isn’t that something the state wants to encourage? What’s there to want to fight and die for unless it’s our culture and way of life, which is made all the more precious because of art?

      “*clap clap clap* Oh, good. My slow clap generator is still working. *clap clap clap*”

  3. nor should artists be forced to trim their sails to meet government standards

    Seems like a bit of a stretch to say that gubmint grants to artists, which they are free not to take, is a form of coercion against artists.

    1. Well, their point of view is a little twisted.

      Firstly, they figure that there would be no art without government grants (except that funded by evul corparayshuns which of course isn’t “real” art). They’ve never read Bastiat.

      So they see the grants as a “right”. To attach artistic standards to this “right” is “coercion”.

      1. I agree. And it’s naive/dumb to claim that market forces will force you to compromise your art, but government support will not.

        1. It’s not naive/dumb. It’s fucking stupid. What is more fickle than public opinion? At least “market forces” will only drop you like a potato if you stop making money. The government will drop you if you offend the smallest vocal minority.

          As an aspiring writer, the government is about the last entity I want being my patron.

          But then, I’m not a special snowflake who thinks people should support me because I have a unique point of view. I’m just a guy working his ass off at being a better writer because I fucking love to do it.

          Those assholes who think the government should “fund the arts” should just admit what they are: whores.

          1. Whores who can’t even get laid.

  4. Again – I am a musician by avocation. I did this intentionally, to ensure I’d be able to eat. Very conscious decision I made going into college – “I’m not going to major in music – I can do music on my own time anyway.” Cool.

    So my wage-slave dime supports my music – and others. Not the gummint. Don’t ask me to cut you a check to support or buy your shit – unless you’re an artist I like. Mutually-beneficial commerce = cool.

    I do not understand what’s hard about that model. Oh, because there’s nothing hard about it.

    1. I said “hard”….huh huh, huh huh, huh huh…

  5. While I agree with Boaz’s conclusion, I disagree with the analogy to religion. Religion is about much more than “the power to sustain, to heal, to humanize . . . to change something in you.” It isn’t that power that has brought about religious wars.

  6. OK there is a dude that jsut seems to know what time it is.

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