Student Of Liberty

4. THEATRES AND THE FINE ARTS.

Their faith lies in the legislator, not in humanity; ours lies in humanity, not in the legislator.

Frédéric Bastiat
What Is Seen and What Is Not Seen

Today’s quote expresses with simplicity and eloquence one of the fundamental difference between the supporters of liberalism and those of centralism, be it democratic or not.

The pamphlet from which it is extracted exposes the mechanisms of subsidies in general and the subsidies for Culture in particular. What I found interesting is that the arguments for and against these types of subsidies are as fresh today as they were then. The supporters of subsidies accuse their opponents of trying to kill cultural events (as in “if the government does not subsidies shoes, the kids will go around barefoot”) and use the economic argument according to which subsidies are boosting demand while their opponents dismiss the validity of the economic argument (to rob Peter to pay Paul is neutral from a macroeconomic point of view) and question the ethics of taxing the artisan in order for the artist to make a living.

However, we now have 170 years of experience. We have seen that private funding of art can work (particularly in the United States) and that subsidies to cultural events that consist in having the poor paying for the pleasure of the rich are everywhere (it reminds me of a concert at the Opera House in Hanoï where it was clear that my ticket was not covering expenses and where the public was mainly made of tourists – rich people to Vietnam standards – and a few privileged locals from the Nomenklatura).

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