It is not quite true that no one wants literary fiction any more. Rather, that fewer people seem to do so and are willing to pay less money for it as well. But the answer we're told we must implement is indeed as in that headline - therefore everyone must pay more for literary fiction.
And they do mean everyone, the dustman must be taxed so that the creative studies graduate can write for the Duke to read. As regular readers know we do not believe that all should be taxed so that the well off gain their pleasures - let them pay for themselves.
The actual report itself from the Arts Council isn't that bad, it's a reasonable enough look at the changes in this marketplace (please do note that a number of us here have written books even if not of literary fiction. We sympathise with those writing but that still does not change our view of what should happen).
It's what people are then taking it to mean which is the problem:
So, assuming that we are not going to tell writers what to write, and that we do not want literature to become the exclusive preserve of those who don’t need to earn their living, we need to find ways of enabling other kinds of novelists to continue.
This can’t just mean cutting the existing share of the cake into smaller, or different, portions; it has to involve speaking up loudly and forcefully for the size of the share to be increased.
Not being able to make a living doing what you wish to be doing is the universe's manner of telling you to do something else for a living. Harsh, but true - as with certain writers that we know intimately the money in books is such that for near all writers they are a hobby, not a life.
Further, that people will not voluntarily fund your desired working life is not an argument that they should be forced to. So, no. If fewer people want literary fiction, and are prepared to pay less for what they do get, this is not an argument for us all to be taxed to keep the literati in lattes while they write what we don't seem to want.
There is a slightly more cheeky answer possible of course:
There will be those who argue that this just shows that literary fiction is a hangover from the past, and the poor dears should knuckle down and resign themselves to writing what people actually want to read. But few would dare to make the same argument about experimental theatre or dance. And it doesn’t allow for the fact that – like both Pullman and Mantel – it may take writers decades to hit the jackpot.
OK, super. So, let us regard this as investment then. Actual, real, proper, investment. Those who receive grants, taxpayer money, face a higher (much higher perhaps) tax rate if and when they do become successful. You know, we've all invested in them, they came good, we get a return on our investment. An 80% tax rate for Mantel and Pullman? Why not?
Or is it that we hoi polloi really must just cough up or the activities of our intellectual betters?