Saturday, March 06, 2010

Toward private arts support in Europe

In an article on health care last year, I remarked the irony that even as countries in Europe are discovering some of the shortcomings of nationalized health care and seeking to remedy them by moving toward a more market-based system, progressives in the United States are going all-out to bring us European-style health care. I think Mark Steyn understands why -- once statist health care is in place it will almost certainly never be repealed, one-sixth of the economy will be effectively socialized, and an individualist order will increasingly be but a dim and distant memory.

Or maybe not. There are those moves away from total government control of health care in Europe, and it turns out there are also moves away from complete government sponsorship and subsidization of the arts as well. The shadow culture minister for Britain's Tory party promises to usher in"a U.S.-style culture of philanthropy" abnd move toward tax breaks rather than government subsidies for the arts. In France Sarkozy is replacing two museum workers who retire with only one. If the museums want to hire more workers, they'll have to raise money through donations. Although some have noticed that when culture is liberated from market forces it tends toward the mediocre and then becomes subject to political and bureaucratic forces, for the most part this liberalization comes from desperation -- the welfare states running out of money -- and is widely resisted: "It gives the impression that culture is merchandise." But it's happening nonetheless.

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