While blogging on the future of classical music
, Greg Sandow has said:
The economic argument for giving stimulus money to the arts is shallow, and easy for non-arts organizations to trump. It's hard to argue for money for the arts when money for crucial social programs -- public health, for instance -- is lacking. It's hard, politically, to give stimulus money for arts organizations like the Metropolitan Opera, which seem to be swimming in money. (Even if they're hurting financially.)
And then I ended with something about the pro-arts arguments I wish we'd make, which would be based on the intrinsic value of the arts (or better still, of art itself). And which -- this is the hard part for many of us -- would reflect a world in which popular culture already supplies some of the depth and meaning we credit (and often so ecstatically) the formal high arts for giving us.
The problem with arguing ars gratia artis
is that the people who most need to hear it are absolutely, intractably, convinced that the arts have no intrinsic value. They feel threatened by the arts and by artists (and by science, as well) and can only be reached (and even this is tenuous) by appealing to their baser natures -- by explaining what's in it for them in the way of economic impact on their constituents.
They are unmoved by arguments that the arts bring "depth, meaning, and transformation" to people, simply because they:
A: Don't and won't believe it's true,
B: Don't and won't believe that it's important, and
C: Don't and won't believe it's the government's place to fund it.
So...the economic argument may be the weaker one, morally, but it's the only one that has a chance of succeeding.