Wednesday, February 11, 2009

Continuing a Conversation

While I try to respond to most comments immediately on my blog, sometimes there is a delay. This delay might be because of my other time commitments or it might be because I want to take the time to formulate a thoughtful response. Sometimes it is both.

Such is the case with a comment my dear brother-in-law left on my last blog entry. It's a comment that deserves far more than a quick thank you and reaction. He brings up several points that I think the arts community has been engaging and needs to continue to engage. So I'm very grateful that he left the comment and is giving me an opportunity to articulate further what I think are some very important points. However, so I don't over-weary my readers, I'll break up my response into three points in three separate blog postings. And because I'm under a lot of deadline pressure at the moment, I'll be stretching my response out over the rest of the week.

First, let me quote Ron's comment:

I know a lot of arts folks will disagree, but I'm not the least surprised this vote went this way. I doubt how much measurable stimulus the arts generate. I imagine that any measure of the benefit would be subjective and a topic of much heated debate.

The only lasting employment the gov't ever provides is bureaucracy and the military. Capitalism creates wealth. I guess my list of candidates for stimulus spending includes a lot of boring things like:

-Infrastructure support (repair of roads, bridges, water, electricity and gas distribution) because this will generate a lot of jobs and provide a lasting benefit to anyone and everyone who uses them. We rely on roads to transport everything we need These funds should also require at least a partial match in funding from the state. Construction can also be a crooked business, so oversight is indicated.
-Basic Transportation for people and goods, urban and rural, including buses and trains, because so many rely on these things to get about. Bus companies (for example) are privately owned, so matching funds, contractual commitments, and oversight must be required.
-Basic energy spending to shore up aging power generation and distribution, stiffen up the grid to avoid disastrous outages, and keep prices low.
-City spending to purchase and demolish abandoned housing, retail space, and manufacturing space, and generate replacements as needed. Lots of manpower (jobs) required.
-Directed, results-based manufacturing spending. This would require a lot of haggling, but I think (for example) that auto manufacturers would build an open-source vehicle perfect as affordable, reliable, basic, minimal, safe local transportation if that was the only way they'd get funding and if regulations were eased.
-Money to buy handguns to shoot and fund bounties on lawyers.

The arts? I think they should be market-driven and self-supporting, including philanthropic endowments. It's long been that way; composers, painters, and others have had patrons for ages. If your art sucks, it will not feed you and you'll change it. We should all support our local buskers, and we'd be wise to heed this advice:

If thou of fortune be bereft,
And in thy store there be but two left
Two loaves-sell one, and with the dole
Buy hyacinths to feed thy soul.
- James Terry White
Very well-reasoned and some excellent points. The three issues that I would like to respond to are:
  1. Articulating the economic impact that arts have on our communities and the nation.
  2. Integrating arts funding into such areas as infrastructure, housing, and urban redevelopment (along with the observation that perhaps if more people participated in the arts, we wouldn't have to shoot the lawyers because we'd be able to out-think the charlatans while rewarding those that make our legal system work)
  3. Addressing capitalism and the need for a dual system of market and gift economies to make it work.
Stay tuned--and I'll try not to get dull or over-wordy. :) (The key word there is "try." Feel free to call me out on it if I do.)

I'd also welcome anyone else's participation in the conversation.


Ron Redman said...

Don't give up shooting the lawyers so readily.

Besides that,I'm watching the manufacturing community's reactions to the stimulus unfold and noticing that they're not celebrating just yet. They're responsible for making business work and less easily fooled than non-business types. Manufacturing appears to be anticipating the worst and hunkering down for the long haul. I don't know how many noticed this CEO correcting Obama's unjustified enthusiasm. Remember that Caterpillar is a global company, venerable, durable, and technically savvy:

Bridgette Redman said...

I'm not sure I'm willing to buy the statement that business types are less easily fooled than non-business types. Who hired all the consultants in the 80s?

I don't think you'll find any empirical evidence that people in manufacturing are less naive or more intelligent than those who are not in those sectors. I will accept that they are self-interested (as are people in other sectors) and that they might not see the stimulus as being in their best self-interest.

I have great respect for those in manufacturing, but I'm not willing to buy that what is good for Milo Minderbinder is good for the nation.