In an entirely metaphorical sense, a nation’s economy can be viewed as a fragile living system. Individual effort contributes towards fueling something larger than the individuals themselves. In a sense, human interaction within the marketplace is somewhat like the network of cellular activity found within living organisms. Each person is working to support himself, but could not exist without the efforts of others. The business interactions of one individual, in collusion with the interactions of many others, subconsciously feed a dynamic and energetic economy.
Regarding the issue of government subsidies for the arts, I shall continue on with the aforementioned metaphor. Let us compare the effects of a doctor’s prescribed medication on the health of an infirm individual. This metaphor will be used to examine the whimsical nature of government subsidies on the health of the economy.
Say for example, an individual catches a non-life threatening illness and is prescribed antibiotics by his doctor. Now, science has revealed the human immune system to be more effective at stopping disease than any medication researchers have yet to devise. This individual’s life is not at risk, and yet he chooses to take the antibiotics, thereby unknowingly suppressing his immune system.
What medications can a government prescribe for an infirm economy? Many governments choose to hand out subsidies to the weakest components of their economies. Perhaps a government looks down upon its economy and notices that the artistic sector is not thriving as well it could be, so the government generously prescribes a subsidy for the arts. As with the previously mentioned individual, the government is treating the economy with a quick fix that will, in time, only worsen the existing condition.
The man soon recovers from his illness, mostly by the combative forces of the antibiotics. His suppressed immune system struggles to chip in. The antibiotics kill the harmful, unwanted bacteria while the man’s immune system atrophies on the sidelines. Next time the man’s immune system is confronted with an illness, it will not have the advantage past experience to fight the infection. It will be a fledgling on the battlefield.
Just like the man’s immune system, the subsidized artistic sector will flounder if it ever sees hard economic times. The artistic sector will be unduly unprepared If the nation cannot afford to dole out subsidies any longer. The pampering of the arts, or any sector of the economy by government subsidies, is sure to set those entities up for failure when confronted with economic obstacles.
In summation, both the ill man and the subsidizing government should be more cautious about prescribing capricious remedies for their issues. Just as the man should avoid substituting antibiotics for his immune system, the government subsidizing the artistic sector should not replace fiscal policies for laissez faire.
Had the man assumed a healthier lifestyle and had the artistic sector refused the subsidies, perhaps they would have both been better off. Perhaps the man’s immune system would be more experienced in defending the body against harmful bacteria. Perhaps the artistic sector would be a stronger entity if it had to support itself instead becoming spoiled by easy government subsidies.