Why the Arts Do Not Need the Government

The National Endowment for the Arts, federal funding of creative endeavors hold back true expression

President Donald Trump’s newly proposed budget has suggested the elimination of federal funding to the National Endowment for the Arts and the Corporation for Public Broadcasting. Predictably, the organizations and artists with public profiles have been up in arms over it.

“We are disappointed because we see our funding actively making a difference with individuals of all ages in thousands of communities,” said the NEA in a statement posted to its official website.

Celebrities believe the disappearance of the NEA would mean the disappearance of art altogether.

Patricia Harrison, the CEO of CPB, said in a statement that the elimination of federal funding would “initially devastate and ultimately destroy public media’s role in early childhood education, public safety, connecting citizens to our history, and promoting civil discussions — all for Americans in both rural and urban communities.”

Actor Robert Redford wrote in an open letter about the proposed budget cuts, “The proposed defunding of the NEA’s budget would gut our nation’s long history of support for artists and arts programs and it would deprive all our citizens of the culture and diversity the humanities brings to our country.”

On Twitter, other celebrities joined in the ringing of the doomsday bells:

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These and other celebrities believe the disappearance of the NEA and CPB would mean the disappearance of art — period. Since America is a major exporter of the arts — from film to television to books — and is a country with unequaled rights to free speech and expression, people can rest assured that art is going nowhere.

Related: Conservatives Cheer Plan to End Subsidies for Public Broadcasting

At the end of the day, the controversy over the existence of these government programs actually has little to do with whether someone is pro-art or anti-art.

“As someone who has made his living in the arts for decades, writing novels and feature films, and was a former officer of PEN, I should be appalled. I’m not. In fact, I’m supportive. And not just because it saves taxpayer money. Government sponsorship of the arts is fundamentally undemocratic and ultimately dangerous,” wrote “A Better Life” screenwriter Roger L. Simon in PJ Media.

He continued, “Picking winners and losers in the arts is even more difficult than in business … This selection is better done by the public because art should really be for the pleasure and edification of the people themselves, not a tool of their rulers. In the arts, it’s better for the market to rule. It also makes for better art in the long run, no matter what some professor might tell you.”

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Simon is not the only artist to question whether or not government funding is actually damaging to the economy of the arts. “The government is never a good answer to any question except, ‘What’s bloated and greedy and lives under a dome?’ I’d happily ditch the NEA, but I support private and business patronage of the arts. That’s how you get less popular but wonderful art — like jazz and opera and offbeat novels and poetry, etc.,” screenwriter and novelist Andrew Klavan told LifeZette.

The NEA and CPB have also come under recent scrutiny for simply being outdated and unnecessary in today’s world, in which consumers have seemingly endless options for consuming and supporting media and art.

Related: PBS Teaches Children: Reject Trump

“Fifty years ago, maintaining a network of regional stations was the only way to ensure that every household had access to public television and radio content,” proclaimed a recent report from Reason TV, which divulged some of the ways the government actually ends up holding back much of the content and distribution channels it helps to “support.”

Fourteen hundred public television and radio stations are supported by government-backed funds. However, the internet age has introduced new media, video streaming services, podcasts, and more. Nearly everyone has access to art, creativity, and information with the click of a button — making the effort to give everyone access to television and radio stations a relatively useless endeavor.

NPR and PBS — the two most public endeavors the CPB helps to fund — are even being held back from thriving due to the old-school nature of the other independent stations the organization supports.

NPR, which currently hosts some of the biggest podcasts around, is restrained by regulations that keep it from getting too big. A report in The Verge claims radio hosts are even forbidden from promoting official podcasts or apps while on the air.

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The beloved NEA also has a minor — and not so surprising — history with corruption, which is always a risk any time the government is involved with something.

Yosi Sargent, who is behind the famed Obama “Hope” poster, was caught in 2009 on a conference call encouraging artists to begin creating work that helped promote and encourage support for the former president’s various policies. The problem? Sargent was then the NEA’s director of communications.

At the end of the day, the arts do not need the government. You don’t need to support the NEA or CPB to support art or artists.

We shouldn’t want the government anywhere near the arts, as the arts are the prime example of this country’s freedom.

Capitalism has brought massive opportunity to the economy of the arts. Projects of all types are now being crowdfunded, podcasts are pushing new voices forward, streaming services are providing more availability of content — and writers anywhere can be heard now through self-publishing and the internet.

We shouldn’t want the government anywhere near the arts, as the arts are the prime example of this country’s freedom. We are free to express ourselves as we see fit. We are free to speak our minds and comment on society without legal repercussions. We should not want the government near the arts for precisely these reasons.

In an ideal world, public funds for the arts would be gone. People would keep their money and have more freedom and opportunity to support artistic endeavors or to even pursue such interests themselves.

America has birthed wonderful artistic voices that have defined generations and helped people through serious struggles — from J.D. Salinger to Hunter S. Thompson to Ernest Hemingway to innumerable others.

And this country will birth many, many more. We just don’t need the government to do so.

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