Friday, July 29, 2011

Cultural Economy

I commented at Cliff's Crib that, if more people truly understood what their tax dollars paid for, our national conversation about government would be completely different.

Instead, the national conversation is awash in complete misconceptions, falsehoods, and made-up theoreticals. One of those is that "the government does not/should not provide funding for the arts." This one has been around for a while, and is a narrative often trotted out as an anecdotal example of pervasive government waste and the largeness of government size. The perception is that government pays artists to create pretty pictures or songs, and that the money never goes anywhere else. People who buy into that narrative seem to think this government money is there simply to subsidize the bohemian lifestyles of liberal, artsy types.

The truth is, arts and culture have tremendous economic impact all over the United States, and any honest discussion of the validity of government funding should take that economic impact into account.

Because if it is worth $400 million to the state of Georgia to land a KIA assembly plant, it may be worth it to the state to fund the arts and culture as well. It all depends on the return on investment per government dollar spent, and the taxpayers deserve to hear the truth about the economic impact of their tax dollars. Unfortunately, all they're getting right now are narratives and platitudes, as return on investment isn't a part of the "Big Government Waste" conversation we so often hear.

(HT: Jeffrey)

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