T
H
E

L
I
B
E
R
T
A
R
I
A
N

E
N
T
E
R
P
R
I
S
E


I
s
s
u
e

27


THE LIBERTARIAN ENTERPRISE
Number 27, May 1, 1997

Jane Alexander ... Populist

By Vin Suprynowicz
vin@lvrj.com

Special to The Libertarian Enterprise

         By now, the path of Hollywood celebrities trekking to Washington to urge continuing tax subsidies for government-approved "arts" has become well-worn.
         Proponents learned long ago that an otherwise boring "funding hearing" is likely to draw more press attention if Robert Redford or Meryl Streep put in an appearance. And it presumably never hurts the reputation of a movie star who makes a living clenching a pretty jaw in weepy melodramas to be seen putting in a kind word for something as refined as "the ballet."
         Getting in trouble again with the Washington oligarchs, Speaker of the House Newt Gingrich commented earlier this month on the irony of wealthy and successful entertainers lobbying for the taxmen to loot more money from the pockets of the working poor, in order to "support" arts other than those which those poor folks already choose to support of their own free will.
         "The money's available for the wealthy stars to finance the arts if they want to, but they should not come here to ask us to raise taxes on $24,000-a-year workers in order to transfer the money to New York and California," said the ever-politically-incorrect Mr. Gingrich.
         In a response straight out of "Alice in Wonderland," NEA Chairman and superannuated actress Jane Alexander told a Senate panel April 24: "I feel that is a particularly elitist view, in that this (NEA) is really an agency that belongs to all the people in America and if you ask only a few very wealthy individuals, ... you are actually becoming more elitist."
         Have I got this straight? Allowing people free choice to "subsidize" the arts of their choice -- either by donation or ticket purchase -- is "elitist," but it's far less "elitist" to allow armed tax collectors to seize part of the paycheck of some working-class Joe or Jane in a Tennessee trailer park, and use it to subsidize some symphony or ballet they'll likely never see?
         The question is not whether the stuff supported by PBS and NPR and the National Endowment for the Arts is "worthwhile," but whether it is good for the long-term integrity and independence of the arts to accustom our artists to sucking at the government teat; whether Article I Section 8 of the Constitution specifically grants the federal Congress any authority to seize money from the citizenry to fund such endeavors; and finally whether it is morally right to place a gun to the head of a member of the working poor, who feeds the kids cold cereal several nights a week, and say, "We're taking this money because some white-glove opera-goers need it more than your kids."
         The final irony, of course, is that the "arts" themselves suffer most (in the long run) under a government regime which takes it upon itself to decide which "arts" shall be funded.
         What if a different group were in the political ascendancy -- one that held that symphonies and the like are artificially-embalmed remnants of a loathsome Decadent European Culture? What if that hypothetical new "nativist" government decided to place a punitive surcharge on symphonies, ballets, and art galleries, in order to subsidize and encourage the citizenry to attend "more morally worthy, all-American" truck pulls, demolition derbies, and Country & Western concerts?
         The precedent will have been set. All that will be left is to count the votes.
         How would a grant proposal to the NEA or PBS or NPR fare, do you suppose, that sought to fund a documentary investigating the complicity of Bill and Hillary Clinton in the death of Vince Foster, or probing the involvement of the United States Navy in the shootdown of TWA 800? Should our "artists" really be shying away from such subjects, because "the funding would never be forthcoming?"
         Plenty of unsubsidized "arts" are alive and well in America, from the movies, to popular music, to sculpture in the form of consumer product design, to the neon magnificence of the Las Vegas Strip.
         And such PBS franchises as "Sesame Street" in fact produce vast profits from after-market merchandising -- profits which could easily be used to "subsidize" the rest of the network's lineup, if our geniuses in Washington hadn't decided to give away all such merchandising profits, free and clear, to the private producers they finance.
         If more traditional "arts" are in trouble, we should be asking how government interventions contribute to their bedridden status. Current union contracts, for instance, require an entire symphony orchestra to be paid even if only a string quartet is needed -- with the result that virtually all symphonic recording has now been driven overseas.
         It is the utmost in duplicity for those who favor tying "the arts" to the government's apron strings, to accuse their opponents of being "against the arts." Anyone wishing to see the final destination of the road Ms. Alexander and the NEA are now traveling, need only go look up "Innovation, creativity and political change as promoted in Soviet Art, 1930-1980."


Vin Suprynowicz is the assistant editorial page editor of the Las Vegas Review-Journal. The web site for the Suprynowicz column is at http://www.nguworld.com/vindex/. The column is syndicated in the United States and Canada via Mountain Media Syndications, P.O. Box 4422, Las Vegas Nev. 89127.


Pallas, the new sci-fi adventure novel by L. Neil Smith is out in paperback from Tor. Is there room for a socialist utopia on an individualist asteroid?
Now available at good bookstores everywhere!


Next to advance to the next article, or Previous to return to the previous article, or Index to return to The Libertarian Enterprise, Number 27, May 1, 1997.