Monday, March 03, 2008

Has the National Post been reading our Vancouver Public Library-Greg Felton posts?

Kelly McParland:
...why should bureaucrats even have a say in artistic endeavours? The state has no place in deciding what books we should read, what films we should view etc. It should simply stand aside and let the inspiration flow. Right?

Well, there is certainly a case to be made that the fewer intrusions we suffer from public servants, the better. But if you accept that Ottawa lacks the ability, or the right, to make even rudimentary decisions as to what offends public standards, then it should not be in the business of subsidizing the arts in the first place. Every time the ministry receives a request for funding, whatever the nature, it is required to make a decision of some sort. If it is incompetent to do so, the money should be re-directed somewhere else, perhaps to an area in which worthiness is more easily measured. Maybe to Olympic athletes, who are just as underfunded and every bit as estimable.

Governments are bad at all sorts of things. But withholding tax credits from films that seek to promote hate or mindlessly exploit sex or violence is hardly worthy of such hysteria. No one is stopping those works from appearing; Ottawa is simply saying they will have to appear without the benefit of taxpayer support.
Frankly, one can make a case that the maximizing of free speech and artistic representation requires taking government completely out of the business, not subsidizing works that will compete with the decision making of the free market. I'm a little agnostic on that, but I can't sympathize with the "artists" who are outraged because Ottawa won't any longer subsidize their more angry rants and porn. If one is to defend government subsidies it surely has to be in the name of supporting the values of high culture; these can and often are today present in the works of popular culture, though it's also often obvious that they aren't. There are "artists" with a claim to be the inheritors of a high cultural tradition, or discipline, who would pretend to be creating innovative hybrids of high and popular values, but who often have nothing but offensive or silly provocations/"conceptual art" on offer. Taxpayers need to be protected from insults on their subsidy, protected by responsible and accountable decision makers, not faceless bureaucrats. Why not make seats on arts funding councils open to some system of public accountability and representation? Or would more democracy be an insult to the higher minds of our artists?

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