One of the more hysterical shrieks from the Left these days comes from those in the creative arts and their tender-hearted advocates insisting that Federal subsidy of an artist’s life is a Right, a hallowed, entitlement due a special Elite amongst us. “Free” this, “free” that. At the mention of budget cuts, we are greeted with (often false) cries of pain and poverty from the likes of PBS. Murder Big Bird?! One might as well take a wrecking ball to the Statue of Liberty or Mt. Rushmore!! Except that Big Bird is quite fat and rich and does not need your hard-earned tax dollars. Nor do pious grifters like holier-than-thou Bill Moyers lining his pockets and those of his family with vast sums of PBS dollars for decades on the pretext of ministering to the moral education of us lesser cretins.
The truth is that an artist’s or intellectual’s life in the free marketplace is no different from anyone else’s: seeking out where the demand is and providing the supply. Short of the truly helpless, sick and old, who else should be guaranteed special assistance from the commonweal? It’s sad to see a venerable opera company or distinguished symphony orchestra go under, but are not major funds available from sources other than the U.S. Treasury: charitable trusts, foundation grants, large pools of private donors? And what’s to determine that this company or artist is worthier of tax-funded support than that one? Ultimately, consumers and private investors must voluntarily decide with their dollars…or not.
The money is clearly there. Billions of private dollars are poured into new Broadway shows and Hollywood films every years, most of them ultimately not worth being seen. More to the point, why does the public pay exorbitant prices for trash while ignoring admirable work? Wish what one might, the public must decide what sells and what stays on the shelf. Some of us prefer Gershwin, Ella Fitzgerald and TCM to Snoop Dogg, Beyoncé and Gangsta rap videos. Fortunately, we in a free republic have a choice. The alternative is a Soviet-like system of Big Brother subsidies, leveled standards, censorship, the corruption of cronyism always present when vast amounts of public funds are up for grabs.
To today’s whining “artists” demanding subsidies one can refer to those true individualists of the past-social mavericks, original thinkers-who voluntarily chose to live in cold garrets and dire circumstances. Under the most trying conditions, they painted/wrote/composed rather than succumb to social convention. One wishes life had been kinder to the Van Goghs and Mozarts, but worthier of mention than even their supreme artistic achievements was their need to create, regardless of the poverty and other obstacles thrown in their way.
The overriding lesson is that one needn’t be a Mozart or Van Gogh in one’s chosen field to know what one needs to do, to recognize the inevitable challenges ahead and forge a satisfying life. This concept of individual, personal destiny is that most feared by those in the business of acquiring power through promises of guaranteed security to the masses. There is no greater crime and deprivation than taking away that freedom of the individual to grapple with difficulty in pursuit of life, liberty and happiness, the one and only source of owning one’s own unique life.
For the sterling results of guaranteed “security” via Government checks, visit any Inner City. This is the bargain struck with the Devil by millions callously convinced by today’s Democratic Party leaders that “You didn’t build that…‘T’wasn’t nuthin’ you did.” The message is that they do not own their lives, and in truth they do not own their lives. On the contrary, they are owned and exploited like chattel…and treated as such. That’s a pretty steep price for a “free” ride.