Subsidizing Sports or Subsidizing the Arts



Fair treatment for writers and artists is an even more difficult matter, which will ultimately require a major change in how we think about support for the arts. Fortunately, however, we already have an excellent model, in our support of athletics. Despite our general preference for capitalism, our support for sports is essentially socialist, with local and state governments providing enormous support for professional teams. To cite just one striking example, the Minnesota State Legislature recently appropriated over $500 million to help build the Vikings a new stadium. At the same time, the Minnesota Orchestra is close to financial disaster because it can’t erase a $6 million deficit. If the Legislature had diverted only 10 percent of its support for football, it would have covered that deficit for the next eight years.

Over all, taxpayer money provides more than a billion dollars annually in tax exemptions and stadium subsidies for N.F.L. teams. (See Gregg Easterbrook’s recent article in The Atlantic and his book “The King of Sports” for much more on this topic.) Other sports also receive generous support. Even major universities subsidize professional sports through their (mostly money-losing) athletic programs, which provide a continuing influx of professional players. Universities could reduce their efforts to field teams playing at near-professional levels and direct the money saved to artistic activities much closer to their core mission. The federal government could make a significant contribution simply by making sure that writers and artists have good affordable health insurance.

Read the rest here: The Real Humanities Crisis


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