As some of you know, I rewrote the below post for the Guardian blog. You can find it here.
I got one response that's worth reproducing. It and my counter-response below:
Personally I'm happy to fund the arts cos they're awesome but the arguments here are misleading. It basically says that the government win out of arts, because they make twice as much in VAT from the arts as it costs to fund them. Maybe s...o but that argument only works if you assume that if i had a tenner which i wanted to spend on arts, but couldn't because they don't exist, then the government miss out on £2 in tax. Surely not true - i would just go and spend that tenner on Nando's or clothes, so the government still gets its £2. In fact I might spend it something taxed more aggresively like a pint and 20 cigarettes where the government would get about £6.
It's a good point, as far as it goes. But I'm not arguing that we should fund the arts simply because they're profitable. There are far better reasons for funding them regardless of their economic impact. I'm just trying to counter the assumption that arts subsidy loses the government money. As it doesn't, it's not subsidy, it's investment: since they don't lose money, why *not* maintain the funding? Especially given all the other, much better, reasons for supporting the arts.
While I'm about it, here are two more of my favourite financial factoids:
Tax evasion and avoidance cost the UK £95bn a year. Imagine a tall man. The arts cost £0.47bn. Beside the man, a spider.
Last year the Queen's estate rose in value by £25m. In the same year, funding the arts for the whole of the North West cost... £25m!
Funding the arts costs everyone in Britain 17p per week. That's equivalent to half a pint of milk from Tesco. The arts earn the exchequer around 35p per person per week. That's equivalent to a pint of milk from Tesco. Quite aside from all the reasons the arts are A Good Thing, they're straightforwardly, unequivocally profitable. I thought that was the sort of thing this government cared about.
Did you buy a coffee on the way to work today? That's equivalent to your share of arts subsidy until the end of September. If it's Starbucks, til Christmas. Have a pint last night? Have one less tonight and you've covered your share of arts funding until New Year's Eve. And if you buy a full tank of petrol, that's enough to cover your share until after this vicious government has been booted out.
It's not a lot.
On the other hand, everyone in Britain's share of the bank bailout was a one off payment of 708,333 pints of milk. Each. Or to put it another way, 7,100 beers. Each. And that's at London prices. If you drink four pints a night, that's enough to keep you merry every night until the next election. It looks like we're going to need it.
The difference between my share of the UK's arts subsidy this week and my share of the bank bailout, is the same as the difference between half a ruler and the length of the UK. Including outlying islands.
The arts are affordable. And they're profitable. It bears repeating that the exchequer reaps from the arts double in VAT what it has sown in subsidy. A pretty strong business model.
Not that the best thing about the arts is that they're inexpensive and offer a return. If we stop being profitable, that doesn't mean the government should stop funding us. But for now, these are the best arguments we've got against a government so clearly motivated by straightforward greed. The other arguments still stand, and here they are put better than I ever could.
Pessimism of the Intellect, Optimism of the Will