Americans agree about government arts funding in the way the women in the old joke agree about the food at the wedding: it's terrible--and such small portions! Americans typically either want to abolish the National Endowment for the Arts, or they believe that public arts funding should be dramatically increased because the arts cannot survive in the free market. It would take a lover of the arts who is also a libertarian economist to bridge such a gap. Enter Tyler Cowen. In this book he argues why the U.S. way of funding the arts, while largely indirect, results not in the terrible and the small but in Good and Plenty--and how it could result in even more and better.
Few would deny that America produces and consumes art of a quantity and quality comparable to that of any country. But is this despite or because of America's meager direct funding of the arts relative to European countries? Overturning the conventional wisdom of this question, Cowen argues that American art thrives through an ingenious combination of small direct subsidies and immense indirect subsidies such as copyright law and tax policies that encourage nonprofits and charitable giving. This decentralized and even somewhat accidental--but decidedly not laissez-faire--system results in arts that are arguably more creative, diverse, abundant, and politically unencumbered than that of Europe.
Bringing serious attention to the neglected issue of the American way of funding the arts, Good and Plenty is essential reading for anyone concerned about the arts or their funding.
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"Taking up the question of how we think about policies toward goods that are both public symbols and economic products, Tyler Cowen's Good and Plenty demonstrates that the usual discussion of arts policy misses the point. If you focus obsessively on urine-dipped crucifixes subsidized by the NEA, you miss the government's role in encouraging many other symbols, from the Chicago Bears to Harvard. You miss the history of the WPA in the 1930s and the Voice of America in the 1950s, political art dwarfing the NEA. You will suppose mistakenly that arts policy in the United States is laissez-faire. Advancing economics into serious thinking about culture, Cowen's book is a pleasure and profit to read."--Deirdre McCloskey, University of Illinois, Chicago, author of How to Be Human (Though an Economist)
"Nearly everything I have read on the government's involvement in the arts suffers from being little more than shrill advocacy. Tyler Cowen's Good and Plenty makes a refreshing departure by providing a calm and thorough analysis of the causes and consequences of government arts policy. The book offers a temperate, well-reasoned consideration of a broad range of related subjects, and is much more thorough than any other treatment I have read. It makes a very useful contribution."--David Galenson, University of Chicago, author of Painting Outside the Lines
"Tyler Cowen is to be congratulated for tackling the bedeviled relation between 'art and beauty' as understood by the Western tradition and the 'liberal state' with its ethos, if not practice, of egalitarianism. As always, he delights in using hard data to prick the balloons of received opinion, especially the bad rap given to 'commercial culture.'"--Martha Bayles, arts journalist and professor at Boston College
Tyler Cowen is the author of many books, including "Creative Destruction: How Globalization is Changing the World's Cultures" (Princeton) and "In Praise of Commercial Culture". He is Holbert C. Harris Chair of Economics at George Mason University.
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