Most Americans don’t know much about art, but theyndo know what they don’t like, namely blasphemy,npornography, and perversion. When they began to realize,nin the course of 1989, that their own government, throughnthe Nahonal Endowment for the Arts, was funding exhibitionsnof homosexual photographs and crucifixes in urine,nthey blew off enough steam to heat the entire city ofnWashington for several weeks.nMany sensible people wondered why a governmentnagency would subsidize a revolution against public taste andndecency. Doesn’t the American system, they asked, dependnupon certain broadly accepted standards of right and wrong,nand aren’t those standards undermined by the likes of Mr.nSerrano and Mr. Mapplethorpe? Isn’t there a conflict, theynwondered, between the surgeon general’s crusade againstnAIDS and the NEA’s campaign to promote homosexuality?nWhy, in sum, would a regime deliberately set out tonundermine itself?nTo ask these questions is to misconceive — and misconceivenseriously — the nature of political regimes. Individualnpolitical actors may be reckless or occasionally honest; entirenpolitical classes may grow too fat and lazy to look after theirnown interests (as they did in Eastern Europe); but no regimendeliberately spends its surplus capital on projects that mightnlead to its own destruction. If the NEA’s atrocities againstnpublic decency were only a case of misunderstanding, itnwould be a simple matter to persuade them of their mistake.nThis sort of optimism is the grand illusion of Americannconservatism: if only we could enlighten the responsiblen14/CHRONICLESnPERSPECTIVEnThe Art of Revolutionnby Thomas Flemingnnnpeople in government and business, if only we could shownthem that the interest of the nation depends upon a returnnto “traditional values,” then congressmen would join withnbureaucrats, businessmen, and professors in an effort tonrestore an America that has not existed, for the past fiftynyears, anywhere outside the campaign speeches of BarrynGoldwater and Ronald Reagan.nThis is never going to happen. People like SenatorsnSimon and Kennedy — indeed, most men and women innpositions of power—actually like things the way they are.nTo be sure, they might prefer safer streets or a lower divorcenrate, but not at the expense of a free and democratic peoplenwho would insist upon running their own affairs. Our rulersnmight not positively enjoy the idea of funding strippers asnart, but any degradation is preferable to the dangers lurkingnin a community of artists and writers that were not lackeys ofnthe regime. They have only to look at Czechoslovakia andnshudder: why weren’t the communists smart enough tonsubsidize Vaclav Havel?nWhenever a political community undertakes to commissionnor support the arts, the main object is not beauty orntruth but defense of the regime. In their private capacity,ntyrants and kings are free to indulge their own taste innbuying paintings and in patronizing writers whose worksnthey admire. Stalin is said to have assisted even Bulgakov, anwriter he must have regarded as a political problem, andnCharles II of England put up with the Earl of Rochester’snimpudence far longer than the poet deserved.nBut what kings and tyrants do personally has to ben