The Washington Post tried to make the case for Britain's arts bureaucrats, making a list of all the glowing talents that the government helped along. We're told Grammy-winning singer Amy Winehouse began her musical career at the National Youth Jazz Orchestra. After one wildly popular album, Winehouse is now best known as a raging tabloid cartoon of chemical dependency. Is she really the best poster child for keeping a ballooning deficit?
When a country's financial ship is sinking, is it really important that the government might not foster the next Sam Mendes, the director who won an Oscar for the morally appalling film "American Beauty"? That's more of an argument against than for subsidies.
Arts lobbyists seriously believe that a ballet is just as important as a hip replacement. They refuse to submit to the notion that the arts can be seen as less essential in the grand scheme of government than anything else.
But it's easy to argue that it's less essential than everything else.
The Post story acknowledged that the new government in Britain is saying the budget cuts aren't temporary and they are calling for a permanent shift toward the American model of mostly private philanthropy for the arts. Ed Vaizey, the government's new culture minister, insisted the best works would find a private sponsor -- even if the works savage the private sector. He noted the case of "Enron," a British play that started in government-funded theater before finding private backers despite the "anti-capitalist themes."
London's arts advocates shouldn't be gloomy. Anyone who's followed Hollywood knows that large entertainment conglomerates instinctively genuflect in their support for perverted "artistic" themes and have no trouble supporting anti-capitalist diatribes (see the entire career of Michael Moore). In fact, they'll probably learn to whisper into the ears of Bill Maher and get their pope-bashing ballet to air in prime time on HBO.