tional, least controversial kinds ofnscholarly research.” We can very wellnimagine what kind of work, as opposednto the “conventional,” that “socialnpurpose and idealism” might engender.nYet we should not be surprised bynsuch blatant mendacity and open arrogance.nInstead, having converted theninterests of learning into just anothernlobby, we should react in astonishmentnonly when some scholarly organizationsnrefuse to “play ball” andnargue to the contrary (as did this yearnthe Renaissance Society of America)nthat “the NEH should continue tonavoid investing its resources in projectsnand activities that claim to belong tonthe humanities because of popularnconfusion or interested distortion butnwhich in fact belong to the arts, to thensocial sciences, or to social and politicalnactivities.”nSuch, of course, are the implicationsnof Miller’s history and analysisnbut—because he is a Washington “insider,”na career public servant andnunaware of the meaning of electionsn—not the points that he makes. Evennso, his book is indispensable as annintroduction to its subject and as annaccount of the 1965 rhetorical originsnof NEH.nAs I have argued elsewhere, it isnvery important that the National Endowmentnfor the Humanities and thenNational Endowment for the Arts notnbecome a “ministry of culture” in thenEuropean sense. For if they had suchnpower, they would soon face a considerablenpressure to create and enforce annational cultural policy. Literarynscholars hear already about an “official”nrevision of the literary canon in anmore “pluralist” direction and historiansnof a history curriculum free ofn”bias” toward Western values. However,nfor the moment, the danger ofnmodernist cultural totalitarianism hasnabated. Miller suggests moving allnNEH activities connected with “culturalndissemination” into a new andnexpanded version of NEA and insulatingnfrom White House influence thenprocess by which the NEH chairmannis selected. This, he argues, might endnthe suspicion of partisanship whichnhangs like a “cloud” over the agencynand the old debate of elitism v. populismnamong the friends and critics ofnthe Endowment. To which we respond,n”Not unless the absolutely po­nlitical character of the American academynis radically and mysteriouslyntransformed.”nTo be sure, NEH programs of obviousntopicality and partisan inspirationn—the sort of activities sanctioned bynJimmy Carter’s cultural czar. Dr. JoenDuffy, at his worst—should be (andnhave been) discontinued: grants to unions,nto protest and special interestngroups—to women because they werenwomen and to minorities because ofntheir race or preference in language.nBut to take away appointive control ofnNEH from the President of the UnitednStates would be merely to turn thatnorganization over to management bynthe left on a more regular and restrictivenbasis. Even the administratorsnchosen by some ostensibly nonpartisannbody would emphasize credentials innselecting chairmen to govern the agency;nand conservatives would, by definitionn(having been out of power for 50nyears), lack the credentials; which isnwhat anyone who has worked sincen1981 in the branches of governmentnconcerned with cultural affairs couldnpredict without hesitation.nIn Excellence & Equity we read thatnthe authors of the March II, 1965,n”Act to create a National Foundationnfor the Arts and Humanities” argued ,nfor their legislation that it was needednto correct an imbalance in the nation’snintellectual life brought on by thenFederal power’s “limiting preoccupationnwith science.” The bill, in othernwords, avoided a direct appeal to antheory of cultural Federalism, a doctrinenof the essential obligations ofngovernment to foster arts and letters,nand spoke instead of circumstantialnreasons for at least “some” Federalnfunding of high culture and humanenlearning, a modest foil to the NationalnScience Foundation.nEven the most intemperate advocatesnof cultural spending are reluctantnto suggest that a major attempt tonrevise the standing prologue to thisnoriginal authorizing bill, a new “Declarationnof Purpose,” be attempted innconjunction with the necessary legislativenrecommitment to NEH. They arenwell advised to be careful in tamperingnwith language which both satisfies thenCongress and leaves the Endowmentnfree to function primarily as a nucleusnaround which a pattern of private supportnhas gathered—to be, despite con­nnnfused efforts at levering upward levelsnof public taste and sensibility, most ofnwhat it should be, or all that it can be,ngiven the nature of the regime. Fornlarger ambitions would lead not to thenfulfillment of NEH’s highest potentialnfor service to arts and letters, butnrather, following protracted politicalndebate, to its destruction.nOur political guardians, despitentheir myopic inability to recognize thatnthe cultural Endowments should serventhe general population by serving culturenper se—that they should expectnrepresentatives of the party in power tonfollow that order of priorities in administeringnan agency and to win politicalncredit through stewardship of ancommon good—are not (contra Miller)nmistaken in their refusal to imitatenthe French or British pattern of governmentnsupport for cultural activities.nOn questions of taste and value, as onnquestions concerning the telos or purposenof our political order, Americansnhave never been a people well agreedn—homogenous underneath the widenvariety of our cultural disputing, as arenthe intellectual aristoi of those oldernsocieties. Hence, we will not toleratenartificial instruments for encouragingnor pretending to such unity where itnhas not occurred; nor, in my opinion,nshould we. Though it serves a purpose,nespecially in promoting study ofnthe American things, we have in placenall of the National Endowment for thenHumanities that we can abide. ccnDECEMBER 1985 / 17n