Well, I Guess It's Better Than Setting the Money on Fire

In Germany "high culture" - opera houses, some theatres and museums - is heavily subsidized. I've heard two kinds of justifications for this.

1. It's important to have spaces in society where new ideas can be tried out. The hideous term "gesellschaftliches Versuchslabor" - societal experimental lab - is often used in this context.

2. Subsidizing high culture is a net win for the city which does it because having it around makes it easier for local companies to attract high-quality employees.

The cynical interpretation of point no. 1 is to paraphrase it as, "I work in a theatre and I like getting paid". A friendlier interpretation is that whoever uses this argument genuinely thinks that "trying out ideas" somehow contributes to the betterment of society. If so, I'd like to get subsidized for writing this blog. But I doubt that it, or for that matter setting Macbeth in a public bathroom instead of a Scottish castle, substantially improves society.

I'm more sympathetic to the second point, but I'm pretty sure it's wrong. That's because the people at The Sports Economist keep telling me that American cities don't even benefit from having an NFL team around. I'd be very surprised if there were any measurable effects of subsidies for high culture on a city's economic well-being.

In the end, it's simply the general taxpayer subsidizing the entertainment of the upper and middle classes. Which, if you think about it, is pretty repugnant.

1 comment:

Troy Camplin said...

I just started The Emerson Institute for Freedom and Culture to try to counteract this sort of thing.