Art on the Floor

Koch Theater

Art means so much to us that we won’t buy it on our own.  Mean people who pay for what they like note it’s pointless if we don’t choose what works we treasure.  The same government which thinks we want solar panels and street cars might not have the best taste in paintings or tunes.  Being forced to pay for it is the surest way to ensure value.

Purchases should be voluntary for as long as taste is personal. Buy your own art.  Yes, it’s very cruel to be billed for what you like and consume. Nevertheless, a worthwhile society is one that patronizes as a decision.  It doesn’t need to be out of compulsion.  I like your production so much that I think taxpayers should have to lower costs for attendees.  Most opera patrons have to choose between seats for Carmen and bread for toast dinner, so please don’t make Upper West Side residents go hungry.

It may be a shock to those who think an outlet being treated rudely during a White House press briefing is a free speech infringement. But the First Amendment recognizes your right to express as you wish, not have your canvas provided gratis.  In fact, the opposite is true. A legal agency deciding who gets funding and, more importantly, who doesn’t is as close to a Bill of Rights violation as the Army being sent to blow up Twitter’s servers because of my incendiary right-wing snark.  Every federal grant is an endorsement.  Now that’s punk rock.  Artists who don’t receive them are denied benefits over taste while the government chooses winners and losers in the expression business.

The same ones who think art dies without bureaucratic distribution never consider the possibility that people could be charged it.  Like everything else in these modern times, life will fall apart unless the government is choosing what we like and spending our money accordingly. Never mind its Charlie Brown-pitching track record in making decisions: those poor in more ways than one have already suffered from atrocious mandatory insurance.  But at least they have it along with the art chosen for them.

It’s not like the rich will step up and fund the humanities just because they always have.  Take the Koch Theater, whose seats are naturally made from orphan blood. There’s nothing better than walking through Lincoln Center and knowing liberals are horrified by the libertarian businessman’s massive contribution.  What really frightens the art snots is the precedent of using their own funds to both enjoy what they wish and help the less fortunate do the same. In the spirit of bipartisanship, Koch’s namesake faces David Geffen Hall, a venue funded by a kind liberal who should learn from his own generous example and advocate for cutting out the federal middleman.

It’s normal for those who feel they’ve earned nothing to be terrified of free market consequences.  But that shouldn’t prompt an unwillingness to admit there’s another way beside billing taxpayers.  The alternative where humans somehow determine what they want at an agreeable price would actually be more efficient, not to mention the ensuing improved economy after the damn government is confiscating less.  We should prefer to choose what gets our bucks without the NEA’s decisions.  Think of it during periods of opposition rule: do culture aficionados really want the Trump administration deciding what’s aesthetic?

While unconstitutional, at least an agency spending what was ours is impractical.  If a program would survive with a federal funding cut, it doesn’t deserve the money.  If it would die, it doesn’t deserve the money.  Well, that was easy.

It’s not a matter of wanting it to show things I like.  PBS could show hockey fights alternating with South Park, and I still wouldn’t want taxpayers subsidizing my favorites.  The broadcaster’s oft-woeful lineup just make the case more urgent.  The offerings are frequently dull, biased, or condescending, and that’s often a single show.

Of course, there are occasionally interesting hours among the pompous sludge you fund as punishment for earning sufficient income.  As a household whose more creative member presses piano keys in the proper order to make pleasant melodies, the fabulous Dahlhalla and I often tune into Great Performances, and not just to see if we know anyone.  But Nebraskans shouldn’t support the viewing habits of Manhattan snobs like us.

Art is the best example of subjectivity imaginable.  And some demand the ruling apparatus designed to be objective keeps funding it.  Like everything else government forces us to do that’s not its job, coerced assistance should be unnecessary.  If these things are so great, why do they need a law to get funding?  From health care to Charlie Rose, there’s no need for an order if the product’s any good. Sesame Street was not deserted after gentrification.  Protest cuts loudly to distract from the overwhelming reluctance to pay Judy Woodruff out of pocket.

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