Reconsidering arts funding

Artist Palette Acoustic Rock Guitar

Back in 2005, a younger (23 vs. 29), more radical version of myself wrote a post here called [End govenment arts funding now!]( I’ve recently discovered that Kyle Cullings has linked to the post on his own blog, as part of a March 2011 post called [Are the arts worth 80 cents per year?](

Lest anyone should think me a despicable, dogmatic righty, let it be known that my opinions have softened somewhat in the intervening years. I posted a response to Kyle this afternoon, and reproduce the comment (in slightly extended form) below.

Hi, Kyle. Thanks for linking back to this.
My attitude to has changed somewhat in the time since I wrote the post you mentioned.
While I maintain my moral objection to taxation, particularly for spending on things that one would consider luxuries, I’m probably more concerned about the fate of the arts in Australia than I was back then in 2005.
As of now, currency appreciation and a real estate bubble have made Australian cities some of the most expensive places in the world to live. Cities are great hubs of human endeavor, the places where you’d expect art to prosper. But as art practice doesn’t often deliver great earnings for most, if our cities get too expensive it robs more and more people of the chance to choose art as a career. (I mean art in a broad sense, here–not just visual arts).
Whatever I might think of the aesthetic or cultural merit of the projects or artists that get funded, then, I can’t help but think that arts funding is an important lifeline for struggling practitioners (those who can get it).
Of course, I’d prefer not to have to steal from people to fund art: if the government took care of its duties to keep living costs under control (by reducing housing supply constraints, for example) and to minimize the tax burden, perhaps we would have a better-calibrated economy that accommodated a broader range of life and career choices.
As it is, it looks like we’re creating a society where you have to focus on making a stack of money or you’re fucked. That, I shouldn’t need to tell anyone, is an exceptionally boring situation to be in.
Government usually favors the interests of those who spend their life in pursuit of a stability and prosperity that many artists are doomed to forgo, since their creative bent ruins them for the world of submission and compromise in which wage slaves win their mediocre fortunes. If anything, perhaps artists deserve a share of those 80 cents per year to compensate them for property price increases caused by the difficulty of getting approval for high-density development in our inner cities, and wrongheaded initiatives like the first home buyers’ grant.

Author: Ben Hourigan

Ben Hourigan is a novelist from Melbourne, Australia. His books Kiss Me, Genius Boy and My Generation’s Lament are Amazon category bestsellers, and are available wherever good books are sold online. Ben also works as an editor, copywriter, and self-publishing consultant at his own firm, Hourigan & Co. For news and book release updates, sign up to his email newsletter.