VIEWSnTHE NEW PROBLEMS OF PAYINGnFOR ART by Ronald BeimannThere was a time before public education was compulsory;nwhen museums were run on their private endowments;nwhen artists and writers, symphonies, and schools ofndance were dependent on patrons or themselves. Things arendifferent now: we assume that money for culture shouldncome from taxes. The norm is for a cultural institutionnwhich serves the public directly to have its annual budgetnprovided mostly by government. There are large sums ofnmoney involved: the University of California, for example,nreceives over a billion dollars a year from the state. And thentax exemptions for over 5,000 sizable foundations add up tona good deal of discretionary funding power.nThe arguments of the mid-20th century for the statensubsidy of art, education, and other cultural enterprise werencompelling. We wanted every talent fulfilled, and doubtednthat the old system could do that. Under the old dispensationnwe doubted whether there was enough money eithernfor the fulfillment of every talent, or for the satisfaction ofnthe public. We wanted talent to be evaluated, so that thenbest came to the top. And, that the pursuit of culture was tonbe defended because it was intellectually good for ournmiddle-class masses.nLooking backward, the sincerity of these argumentsnseems wonderfully dated. Not that they were insinceren—but that they seem to have missed the point. Because wenare today invited to support many kinds of cultural enterprisensolely on the grounds that (aside from their aesthetic ornRonald Bertnan’s most recent book is Culture & Politicsn(University Press of America).nla/CHRONICLES OF CULTUREnnnintellectual benefit) they are good for us. Good for us as ankind of therapy or sometimes entertainment, good for usnsometimes as a kind of insult to our bourgeois expectations.nIn order for art, artists, or arts organizations to be fundednnow, some troublesome new justifications have appeared. Itnmay be something of a revelation for us to consider in justnwhat ways we are invited to subsidize “culture.”nHaving gracelessly dumped the argument that we read ornlearn in order to be best, we have adopted the argument thatnwe do such things because of democratic necessity. Jeffersonnis often invoked at this point in order to hallow thenpresumption that everyone in a democracy needs to benpolitically wise. And, that everyone in a democracy isnentitled to the benefits of culture. The emphasis is heavilynon equality. Our third President did say many importantnthings about the reliance of democracy upon the wisdom ofnits citizens, but what he said is too often misinterpreted. Henthought that citizens should know the difference betweennideas. His own life was formed upon wide and comparativenreading. Because of this, he wanted an informed electoraten—not an equally sahsfied electorate. But his argument hasnbeen enlarged to the point where it has become transformed:nwe think that we preserve Jeffersonian pride inneducation, but the kind of education we get has almostnnothing to do with what he wanted. Our education isnutilitarian, best expressed by the current desire to ben”computer literate” or literate in one of the many ways innwhich self-advantage can be sought. This is far fromndishonorable—but it is not Jeffersonian. When the FoundingnFathers recommend books or ideas or educationalnsystems or the respect for art, they invariably mean the bestnand the most important. And they invariably do not meannthe widest possible dissemination of benefits in the name ofnculture.nThere is another argument, sometimes legitimated by theninference that John Adams supported the subsidy of culture.nBut his arguments too have been universalized out ofnrecognition. Adams thought that a democracy shouldnencourage the study of art, literature, and science. Henmeant, of course, that the results of the most importantnartistic, literary, and scientific activity should be availablento We are now persuaded that the intention to benartistic. literary, or scientific should be rewarded. Thendifference between the two arguments has been smoothlynelided. Those who say that democracy owes it to itself to bencultured may be suspected of meaning that all applicationsnfor grants should be funded.nThere have been other assurances, among them that thensubsidy of culture is politically moral. Nothing is morencommon than for us to hear that the support of art makes usnmore sensitive, and the resultant self-improvement becomesnvisible even to other nations. This is more commonnthan one may think, and it is always in the background ofn