Some Hobbies Are More Equal Than Others

When the current Federal government spends $740 million on arts and culture each year, you’d think those painters and sculptors and dramaturgs and video masturbators would be reasonably happy. That doesn’t even include State and Local government cash.

After all, that money is going to support them, and the organisations they work in, to pursue a life-defining vocation, a spiritual and creative odyssey that reflects our society and our spirits back to ourselves, and is capable of changing reality. All while risking artists’ lives  (right Cate?).

Since that is what art apparently is, you’d think it would be so satisfying that most would be happy to do it for free.

In fact, many do. They hold down day jobs and make art at night. In much the same way as other, mere mortal people, hold down day jobs and rebuild classic cars, train with the State Emergency Services, coach the local footy team, study for another degree, or design and build handmade furniture.

It seems, however, that some non-market, unpaid but socially beneficial activities are more equal than others. Specifically, the ones undertaken by people who suffer from such hubris that they think society is obligated to pay them to produce their artistic gems. This sets aside, of course, just how socially beneficial their activities actually are.

This isn’t every artist, but a small subset who overestimate their importance so greatly as to demand to be paid as a matter of right,  because they are artists. Who demand that they make a living from their hobby, well, just because.

As an example, I have a dear friend with whom I regularly butt heads, who once seriously proposed that any self-identifying artist should be given Newstart without any jobsearch requirements, simply because of their art-productive capacity.

It is no surprise that the Greens and the ALP Left are right up there in indulging this group – a group unacquainted with reality in a way that predisposes it to vote Left. The Greens’ arts policy, released in January, reveals they:

…are calling for room in the federal budget to help young artists make a living and support risk-taking art.

There has been much merriment made of this already. First among the jests is the absurd definition of risk. For artists in Australia, there are only two types: the risk of being shunned by the arterati for being politically heterodox; and the risk of the Government not paying you handsomely for what you do.

Note that this doesn’t apply to questions of funding high culture that wouldn’t be produced without substantial subsidy, most of which is produced or performed through major institutions. Though that also poses some serious questions.

What is so galling is the sheer presumption that someone else has to pay for a personal passion, whether it is wanted, whether it is of quality, and whether the money could be better spent on say, respite care or transport infrastructure.

I don’t expect government to fund my passions: reading, writing and political activity. I don’t expect government to fund my community activities supporting NGOs, or my time volunteering. Yet throw an arts-blanket over anything from a short story to dropping a turd and filming it, and someone will have their hand out.

Too often, as we saw recently in the UK Arts Council, the people with their hands out aren’t even artists, but arts bureaucrats. Stephen Pollard opens with this gem:

The Arts Council was set up to ignore the public’s wishes and provide an income to organisations that they would not receive through the free choices made by consumers.

As an example, I propose the “leaving do” of the recently sacked Chairman.

Only this wasn’t a leaving do. Heavens, no. It was, according to an Arts Council official, a “thought leadership piece which will help stimulate debate and discussion among the key stakeholders present”.

The reason that this official had to come up with such drivel is that the leaving do – sorry, thought leadership piece – cost £8,000. When the Arts Council first sought permission and funding for the event, the Department for Culture, Media and Sport said no. So the quangocrats simply ignored that and reclassified the party as a “thought leadership piece”.

Read the article  and weep. And know that the same contempt for the sacrifice ordinary people make to fund government rules the day here, too. And the same artistic hubris is used to justify showering cash on a narrative-making class that creatively, and consistently, supports the Left.

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