Monday, October 23, 2006

Public funding encourages failure and mediocrity

Many supporters of publicly funded industries often like to get into the nitty gritty and details of that industry to justify why its such an important service and it should be funded through taxes, that were coercively taken from all workers.

A huge section of the population say that education and health are important services, (nobody really disputes this anyway) and therefore the state should guarantee a minimum standard. Then there is a smaller subset who think that "the arts" is really important, and so taxes should go towards "supporting" the arts and culture. Well.. lets think about what this really means.

There are lots of forms of arts and culture that do not need public money to survive. Movies, music, theatre, comedians, art exhibitions, opera - they all have large audiences willing to pay good money to enjoy them. So when someone says that "the arts" need subsidies, they obviously are referring to forms of art and entertainment that the public are not very willing to pay for.

And whats worse, when you make something publicly funded, the standards always drop off because the recipient of the subsidy never needs to provide value for money to the public. Case in point - the Victorian Arts:

Just five years ago, with Harold Mitchell as chairman and Jonathan Mills as director, the festival sold tickets worth $3.5 million. By 2004, with a new chairman and Robyn Archer as director, the box office had fallen to $2 million. Last year, with Archer replaced by American Kristy Edmunds, it sank to just $1.6 million. This year, with Edmunds still in charge, the box office target has reportedly been set at a paltry $1 million.
Edmunds now has a record $5.5 million a year of your taxes to play with, and another $400,000 from Melbourne City Council.