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Should the Government Fund the Arts? Essay

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Updated: May 13th, 2022


According to Johnstone (1991), moral responsibility can be seen as term that is related to two things (Johnston 1991).The issue of whether the government should fund the arts has brought up many mixed reactions from individuals. This issue has greatly influenced a large number of individuals who consider art as the flagship and symbolism of any society (Harry 1989). Harry notes that as countries are becoming interdependent both economically and politically the situation calls for the government to ensure promotion of cultural expression through coherent cultural policy for the arts. Since the arts play a big role in the society the government has a moral responsibility to fund the arts as they are primarily unsustainable when exposed to open market forces, art is a necessity and arts enrich people’s lives in any society (Harry 1989).

Art is a necessity

Art is viewed as a necessity since arts are highly valued as expression of cultural policy and government willingness to adopt and implement principles and objectives that foster any cultural expression of any country (Harry 1989).Harry further argues that arts are a source of income for the government since the revenue obtained from the art industry contribute to about 80% of the total gross domestic product of any nation. This justifies the eligibility of the government to fund the arts since everybody can benefit from the art work (Harry 1989).According to Harry, some people disagree with this idea of funding arts since they view art as luxury which people can live without. They argue that the government should not extort money through taxation to fund arts as people can live without it but government should do it only when it is necessary (Harry 1989).

According to the journal of jobs, arts and the economy, (1994) research on economic data shows that arts and culture are a sound economic investment since the art industry provides employment opportunities to different individuals. Recent studies by Throsby (2001), shows that people engaged in art work like painting, curving ,pottery, music etc are able to earn a living through the sales which does not only go to the artist but to the local curatorial groups ,galleries which fund more exhibits. On the other hand, some people disagree with government funding arts and argue that art is a time wasting activity that cannot do any good to a person rather it robs them the energy needed to do other more creative activities hence prefers to work with other industries rather than art industry (Throsby 2001).

Another justification for the government to fund arts is that arts provides a means through which traditional culture can be maintained (John &Bruce 1988).They argue that maintenance of culture enables the communities to achieve their economic goals through promotion and harnessing power of arts and culture. However, John and Bruce note that some individuals disagree with this issue as some people argue that the preservations of culture is nonsense since people are always bored with the writings on the plaques and this discourages people from visiting the galleries as they have no time to read the plaques that contain traditional culture (John &Bruce 1988).

Arts are unsustainable when exposed to open market forces

According to John and Bruce (1988), the government should fund the arts since they are primarily unsustainable when they are exposed to market forces. They argue that everything is unsustainable if the government does not control. John and Bruce furthermore state that arts need to be funded by the government since the attendance rate of many art events by people is always low due to poor work this results to little amount of funds which cannot sustain the art industry (John and Bruce 1988).Not all people support the idea of government funding arts they argue that creative work should be fully made for audience and therefore the artists should be exposed to market pressures that will make them think about what their audience want since some artists may take advantage to produce crazy things that their audience would not like (John and Bruce 1988).

Additionally arts inspire people to value freedom this calls for the government to be directly involved in art activities to ensure that freedom is promoted through art work by funding it (John and Bruce 1988).Not all people agree with this idea, they argue that some artists can take advantage of such freedom to produce art work that is based on political propaganda or nation building which the government would be happier to fund at the expense of the audience. They therefore argue that such potential art work should be funded through private patronage rather than through taxation (Harry 1989).

Furthermore some people argue that arts thrive to encourage people to prosper on the basis of their interest which cannot be done without the government involving itself. But others argue that the government funding arts seems to be predominantly to socialists but not all the people involved in the industry making the socialists to build up a dependency on government for funds this makes them not to care about their audience interests (Harry 1989).

Arts enrich peoples’ lives

According to Throsby (2001), arts provide a means through which people can share public resources which in turn improves peoples’ lives. Artists can share public resources such as education, studio space, cameras, print rooms etc all at low costs. Throsby argues that part of these costs is provided by the government to make such activities open to the members of the public at low cost. Other people argue that by government giving such subsidies it really undermines the arts thus discouraging individuals engaging themselves in art work at the same time encouraging people to do want they want and not what people want (Throsby 2001).

Art plays a major role in the daily lives of people (Harry 1989), people view art as part of their lives and certain groups need the art industry more than others. On the other hand some people argue that the art industry is for marginalized communities who do not have much capital as the rich groups. They argue that it is not fair for the government to tax all the people to spend the money just on a particular group (Harry 1989).

According to Harry arts play a major role in promoting education by the government funding the humanities in different sectors of education as everyone is assured of education which leads to community development. Though other people argue that the government should not fund the education based on humanities rather it should be funded privately by publishing more work in the popular press (Harry 1989).


To conclude arts play a major role in development of any nation therefore the government should contribute towards its development by taking the funding of arts as its moral responsibility. This funding will stimulate the growth of the industry hence economic growth and development.


John. F, Mark. R. (2004), Responsibility and control: A theory of Moral responsibility: Cambridge University Press.

Harry Hillman, (1989). Cultural Economist; University of Toronto Press.

Throsby.C.D. (2001), Economics and culture; Publisher: Cambridge University Press.

John. M, Bruce. A, (1988), Business and Economics; Olin School of Business, Washington University.

Jobs, Arts and the economy (1994), published by Americans for Arts, Washington D.C.

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