As Eamonn suggested last week and Tim pointed out at the weekend, we really should reconsider funding the arts.
In the now infamous words of Liam Byrne “I’m afraid there is no money.” Rather than salami slicing across departments, much better to have a complete rethink on the functions of government. If we did this, arts funding would be first on the cutting room floor.
Arts subsidies are a regressive transfer of money from poorer and less educated folk to richer more highly educated people. It is also a transfer of wealth from the countryside to the cities and more broadly from everywhere to London. As such, it is Londoners who get upwards of £24 per head subsidy per year, with all other regions languishing well below £10 per head, with some as low as £2. Taxing hardworking families to subsidise the amusements of wealthy metropolitan London elites is not a policy anyone should support.
Also, if we have any pretension of wanting to live in a free society, the funding of the arts would be completely independent of the state. Art has historically offered powerful critiques of power, and for the government – even based on good intentions – to be involved, is just another post-WWII development that need derision and revision in equal measure.
And as Douglas Carswell points out, the now oft-quoted statistic in defence of the UK Film Council £1 pound in £5 out, is patent nonsense. In fact, it is based on the assumption that there is a direct correlation between the subsidy and the profit from all cinema. For these statistics to make sense there would have to be no private funding, no possibility of private funding and no crowding out of private money. Also, a cursory glance at the UK Film Council's Production Report shows that in fact most of their cash was going on supporting ‘Inward Investment’. In other words they were shelling out cash by the bucket load for the production of films like Harry Potter and Pirates of the Caribbean, commercially viable films that clearly didn’t need government support.
All arts funding should be scrapped. The inability of art to appeal to enough people to make it commercially viable is either a failure of the artist or our government run education system. More or less taxpayer funding will not change this – we need reform.