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Wichita arts funding plan passes

On a five to zero vote, the Wichita City Council has passed a revised arts funding plan. The plan may be viewed at the end of this article.

Speaking for the plan, former Wichita City Council member and Arts Council Board Member Joan Cole spoke in favor of arts funding. She promoted the financial return on investment for these public taxpayer dollars spent supporting arts organizations. As I’ve shown in my post Economic Fallacy Supports Arts in Wichita, Cole is relying on faulty economic analysis.

She also spoke of the benefit that Wichitans receive from the artistic and cultural events and activities. I wonder how she knows that? In free markets, where people are allowed to decide where to spend their leisure and entertainment dollars, we know exactly what types of events people want. They vote with their spending.

But when government takes tax money and lets a commission composed of people like Cole decide how to allocate and spend money, do we have any assurance that it’s spent the way people want it spent? Of course not.

The problem — at least to some — is that the way a lot of people want to spend their money isn’t the way that Cole and her fellow highbrow board members feel it should be spent. But they shouldn’t count.

Cole mentioned that “attendance has increased at a number of these venues this year.” She seemed surprised that this happened — but acknowledged that the recession may be the cause, as people stay in Wichita rather than travel for vacations.

Wichita would do better to stop funding arts and let people spend money the way they want. Each person can choose just the right amount and mix of arts and culture for them. Taxation and a spending commission won’t be necessary.

Other coverage of this issue:

Government Art in Wichita “‘Government art.’ Is this not a sterling example of an oxymoron? Must government weasel its way into every aspect of our lives?”

Economic Fallacy Supports Arts in Wichita “The single greatest defect in this study is that it selectively ignores the secondary effects of government spending on the arts.”

Let Markets Fund Arts and Culture “… if the government would stop funding arts, there would be no need for government-mandated performance measures, and the outcomes that occur would be precisely what people really want.”

How to Decide Arts Funding “There is a common tendency to judge ‘highbrow’ culture — art museums, the symphony, opera, etc. — as somehow being more valued than other culture. But what people actually do indicates something different. When people spend their own money we find that not many go to the piano recital, the symphony, or the art museum. Instead, they attend pop, rock, or country music concerts, attend sporting events, go to movies, eat at restaurants, rent DVDs, and watch cable or satellite television. I’m not prepared to make a value judgment as to which activities are more desirable. In a free society dedicated to personal liberty, that’s a decision for each person to make individually.”

Arts Funding in Wichita Produces Controversy “… there is a very simple way to decide which arts and cultural organizations are worthy of receiving funds: simply stop government funding. Let the people freely decide, though the mechanism of markets rather than government decree, which organizations they prefer.”

(This is a Scribd document. Click on the rectangle at the right of the document’s title bar to get a full-screen view.)

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