Arts and Craps

President-elect Donald Trump and his incoming administration are planning to eliminate the National Endowment for the Arts and the National Endowment for the Humanities as part of a broader effort to substantially slash government spending, according to a report.

“The evidence suggests that citizens were strongly expected to attend: by Aristotle’s time, a fund had been established to help poorer Athenians pay to attend the theatrical and civic festivals.”
Source: New York Review of Books

When today’s American conservatives say they want to want to cut government funding for the arts, they are cutting their ties with the very Western/Hellenic tradition they claim to defend. Public theater was subsidized by the ancient Athenians — who Conservative Thought considers the inventors of America’s democratic tradition and the inspiration to the Founding Fathers. In fact, attention to art and attendance of theater was culturally *mandatory* for all citizens.

So when you look at that history, and then look at the miniscule percentage of government treasury that actually goes to the arts, and then look at the increasingly positive growth of the U.S. entertainment industry (in which government arts subsidies play a crucial supporting role) and the growth of the global entertainment industry in general, and then look at the essential role of art in shaping the “narrative” of what it means to be American, there is no real case against public funding for the arts…

…Unless you want to appeal to raw emotion and confusion.

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