You may have seen the quote from a recent speech by the Chairman of the National Endowment for the Arts (NEA), Rocco Landesman:
. . . Barack Obama is the most powerful writer since Julius Caesar.
Coming from someone whose own position of influence and power is dependent on Obama, it is hardly surprising that he is licking the boots of the President. He justifies the statement by noting that the US is the most powerful country on the planet, and Obama is a writer; ergo, he’s the most powerful writer. He followed that statement with the cashing in:
That has to be good for American artists.
In other words, with the proper amount of adoration and flattery directed his way, President Obama is likely to steal more money from the American public and transfer it to shameless artists than any previous President.
The motto or theme of the new Chairman of the NEA is “art works.” Landesman explained that the theme has three meanings. First, artists produce works of art, or “art works.” Second:
. . . art works on and within people to change – that word again – and inspire them, it addresses the need we all have to create, to imagine, to aspire to something more, to become, if only for a few moments, more than we’ve been. It is the most hopeful of human activities. And one of the most essential.
art works because arts jobs are real jobs. The 5.7 million people who have full-time arts-related jobs in this country are a part of the real economy. They pay taxes and spend money. Obviously. But we’re going to be making a point beyond that. Any discussion of policy for coming out of this recession, any plan that addresses economic growth and urban and neighborhood revitalization has to include the arts.
The first meaning of “art works” is a straightforward fact. It does not, however, have any bearing on forced public funding of the arts. Every profession produces something. Most of them are not shameless enough to beg for public assistance, however.
The second meaning of “art works” is also true. As Objectivists, we know the inspirational value of great art. But again, what has that to do with forced public assistance? If an artist produces an art work individuals value, they will pay for it voluntarily. Otherwise not. His statement that art is “the most hopeful of human activities” is at best unfortunate, and at worst, simply wrong. Hope connotes a passive desire for something, rather than an active pursuit of it. Hope never accomplishes anything. Hope is the stock in trade of characters like Dickens’ Mr. Micawber, who:
. . . is famous for frequently asserting his faith that “something will turn up.” His name has become synonymous with someone who lives in hopeful expectation.
That President Obama titled one of his books The Audacity of Hope is characteristic of the Liberal mind. Rather than encouraging people to go out and earn their own keep, pursue their own goals, be dependent on no one, expect no unearned favors, that title encourages the belief that others will give you what you want, all you have to do is hope. To anyone who takes responsibility for his own life and goals, hope is not a value. It’s an excuse to rely on others.
The third meaning of “art works” is the heart of the appeal. Landesman wants us to believe that this particular redistribution of wealth will help the economy. This is what one would expect from any socialist. He wants us to tax and spend our way out of the recession. And he expects us to be impressed that these subsidized artists will pay taxes on their stolen money. I’m only impressed at the audacity of these crooks.
Proving his inability to learn from experience, Landesman has this to say:
I know firsthand that great art can come from the unlikeliest of places. A few years ago, I visited Eric, Oklahoma, where a museum was being dedicated to one of my idols, the great country music songwriter and singer, Roger Miller. He wrote the music for my first show, “Big River.” While driving the 140 miles from Oklahoma city to Eric, you pass the hometowns of Sheb Wooley, one of the creators of rock and roll, the songwriter Jimmy Webb, and Garth Brooks. What is in the water there? There are certainly no music conservatories, probably precious few music teachers, no colleges, no arts centers, nothing. Just an inexplicable concentration of genius.
Somehow, these artists sprang up and made a living for themselves without public money! Therefore, we need public money for artists?
What was in the water there, Mr. Landesman? Individualism.