Friday, December 13, 2013

(Mostly) OT - Why Public Funding of the Arts is Unnecessary

For the most part, this is a politics-free blog. However, I recently ran across a Facebook post from an friend of mine that, while purely political in nature, has aspects that touch upon subjects that are directly covered in this blog, and so I decided to address it.

As can be gathered from the title, this post deals with public (i.e. taxpayer) funded art, and one might also further discern my distaste for the idea, hinting at my Libertarian viewpoint on such matters. Here, then, is what my friend, to be known henceforth as "E.E.D.," had to say on the matter:

"I had the dubious pleasure of hearing a radio debate this morning on privatizing funding of the arts, while decreasing public spending here in Norway. As someone who has experienced this type of thing first hand, welcome to the age of corporate crap rock and boy bands (you know, that which sells), starving artists and struggling arts media. And that Norwegian debates so frequently point to the US, a society clearly in stunningly rapid decline, as a shining beacon for the way forward in Norway is nothing less than idiotic. I shudder to think."

This view is incorrect, on a number of levels. Before I go much further in explaining why, though, it is important to point out that there are two problems that public funding of the arts supposedly solves, both of which are alluded to above. The first is the fear of diminishment or watering down of art, in order to appeal to the widest audience, thus maximizing profit. The second concern is with the ability of an artist to earn enough money at their craft in order to survive. I submit, however, that both of these fears are misguided.

So I oppose the National Endowment for the Arts (NEA). Why? Here are the main reasons, in ascending order of importance.

Reason No. 1.: Some of the "art" that public funding is used for is quite honestly distasteful and a waste of money. The most infamous example I can think of is "Piss Christ", wherein a crucifix was suspended in a jar full of urine. As disgusting as that is, from a sanitation standpoint, if nothing else, the really obscene part was that the NEA actually gave the "artist" (and I'm using the term in the widest possible sense) a grant of $5,000 for something I could have done for as little as $5 (a bit more, though, if I drank quality beer to fill the jar with...) 

Reason No. 2: While art is actually important to the human psyche, it is in no way as important as, say, air, water, food, shelter, property rights, etc. Simply a matter of healthy prioritization.

Reason No. 3: It gives government the power of defining what is art. The Soviet Union's Proletkult and Nazi Germany's Reichskulturkammer are stark warnings from history about having government mess around with art. I'd rather have "corporate crap rock and boy bands" then a bureaucrat with a bad comb over promoting his idea of "art," which invariably will be nothing more than State sponsored propaganda. Seriously, people, read a fraking history book once in a while. Yes, I know the NEA does not (yet) reach the extremes outlined in the aforementioned examples, but it ultimately suffers the same taint and bad precedent as the above. And given the extreme leftist tendencies of the NEA, they are more closely aligned with the Soviets and Nazis then most realize.

Reason No. 4: Sort of a parallel with No. 1, it needs to be understood that art is extremely subjective. One person's art is another's garbage, and vice versa. No one should have to fund art they do not like.

But the main reason I oppose public funding of art is simply this: the dramatic decrease in the cost of production for art, along with crowdfunding initiatives to raise any needed funding, has rendered the NEA utterly and completely obsolete and unnecessary. Consider the following case studies/examples:

1. A group called the "H.P. Lovecraft Society" ( has released two films based very closely on stories penned by that author, Call of Cthulhu and Whisperer in the Darkness, and has a third one in work (The Statement of Randolph Carter). The released films were done to a very high standard on a very minimal budget. In addition, they also have produced some "radio broadcast" adaptations of Lovecraft's stories as well.

2. A branch of Regia Anglorum up in Northern California used Kickstarter to fund a movie, The Frost Giant's Daughter, based on the Conan short story by Robert E. Howard ( They requested a mere $5000 for it on Kickstarter. (Admittedly there have been some post production delays, sadly, but I think eventually they will complete the project. Note also that this was the same amount "required" for Piss Christ in order to procure a jar, urine, and a plastic crucifix... and you libtards whine about $600 hammers for the military!)

3. There are a whole slew of purely fan produced Star Trek shows:
Star Trek Phase 2 (bunch of episodes up on YouTube)
USS Exeter (
Starship Farragut (

4. Fans of the TV series Veronica Mars were able to use Kickstarter to fund a new season.

5. Kickstarter was also used to raise funds for the movie Atlas Shrugged.

6. In the role-playing and war- gaming community, there have been numerous small Kickstarter efforts for various rulesets and accessories, such as adventure modules, miniatures, etc. For example, there is a Kickstarter to sculpt and produce "Old School" Dungeons & Dragons minis based on the original 1st Edition AD&D rules and primarily inspired from drawings in the old 1st edition Monster Manual).

What is so fascinating about the above examples is that none of them are at all "mainstream" (apart maybe from Veronica Mars, and even that was not a really mainstream show); indeed, most are nothing more than a very tiny fringe. While most people have heard of Conan the Barbarian, hardly any have ever read or are even aware of the original short pulp fantasy stories that were written back in the 1930's, knowing of the fictional character only through the movies. Along those lines, how many people on the streets have even heard of H.P. Lovecraft, let alone actually read any of his stories?

Even more interesting is that these are often the efforts of purists, who want as close a translation of the original artist's work as possible, and invariably achieve very high standards that mass produced art generally fails to meet. For the Lovecraft movies they actually produce them in the style of film that would have been extant at the time the story was written; for example, Call of Cthulhu is done as a silent film in black and white. The impetus for The Frost Giant's Daughter arose from a general feeling among Robert E. Howard fans that the popular movies (and TV show) fell far short of the original stories. The Star Trek fan efforts invariably cleave very closely to the original 1960's series, and use props and special effects of the same or even better quality than what we saw in 1966, and yet at a fraction of the cost. Indeed, given that a modern laptop has *orders* of magnitude more computing power than computers that took up entire rooms, it is trivial to do pretty good special effects on a shoestring (or even non-existent) budget.

Put another way, the "purity" of these art endeavours vastly exceeds anything put together by the so-called professionals.

The above examples only pertain to the quality of non-public funded art, however. The other half of the problem is how to make a living doing art. Once again, the solution is not to be found in a bloated, corrupt, inefficient, and useless government agency. Rather, the solution is to be found in a vibrant and affluent free market. Put another way, you need a sufficiently wealthy populace who can afford the luxury of art consumption to provide a large enough customer base to support you in the pursuit of art.

Unfortunately, the philosophy of "progressivism" (read: socialism, communism, marxism, nazism, etc.) that supports the NEA invariably breeds near universal poverty, not prosperity. You end up taking money from the very folks who would support art, and give it to those who could care less. Don't believe me? Look no further than South vs. North Korea. One is a prosperous capitalist land, the other a dreary, impoverished hell hole, supposedly a "Workers' Paradise". And yet "progressives" want to turn the United States into North Korea, for reasons that are incomprehensible to anyone who is remotely sane.

Historically, one of the greatest explosions of art was during the Renaissance. Why? Because thriving trade gave rise to a wealthy merchant class that could afford to purchase fine art on a grand scale. It was not the deranged ravings of Karl Marx that brought this beauty into the world (and made artists themselves wealthy), but rather the ability of otherwise ordinary people (i.e. outside of the nobility or upper echelons of the Church) to gain this degree of wealth.

Let me give a personal example: as can be seen from other posts on this blog, I make reproductions of Mediaeval arms and armour (among other period crafts). My stuff is good enough that I could almost make a business out of it. Notice I say "almost". The problem is not so much lack of interest but lack of money on the part of would be patrons. I can do a fine reproduction of a Vendel period helmet, but most can't afford the $1000-$2000+ sticker price. In a world where success is punished by high taxes, which further destroys job opportunities for everyone else, few people can afford my (or anyone else's) art.

Going further, as someone who has been laid off as a direct result of Obama and the democrats and their "progressive" policies, I no longer have the income to purchase art. I'd really like to get, for example, the H.P. Lovecraft society products, but cannot.

Again, for the progressive knuckleheads out there, art is a LUXURY, not a necessity. Thus, one must make a significant degree of SURPLUS WEALTH in order to be able to purchase art, and thus keep ARTISTS EMPLOYED!