Frédéric Bastiat: Theaters and Fine Arts

Should the state support the arts through subsidies? With this sentence begins the fourth part of F. Bastat's book "What is and what is not seen." In the article An ode to destruction we used the almost notorious first part of this book, which is called Broken window. Let's take a look at what this timeless author meant about cultural subsidies. Let us recall the lesser-known parts of his work. The text was created in 1850.

Frédéric Bastiat
Frédéric Bastiat

Should the state support the arts through subsidies? Of course, it is possible to say a lot for and against here.

In favor of the subsidy scheme, it can be stated that art deepens, elevates and poetizes the soul of the nationthat he detaches her from being obsessed with material things, as he gives her a sense of beauty; thereby favoring the manners, manners and customs of the people and even their industry. The question is, what would be with music in France without Theater-Italy and without the Conservatory, how would dramatic art be without itThéâtre-Français and painting and sculpture without our collections and museums.

We can go further and wonder if, without concentrating the fine arts in one place - and therefore also subsidizing them - this chosen taste would have developed, which is a noble destiny of French work and causes its products to attract attention around the world. If these results are apparent, would it not be a great carelessness if all citizens renounced the payment of this modest contribution, which, after all, gives the French people, in the eyes of Europe, its superiority and fame?

Against these and many other reasons, the seriousness of which I do not deny, there are other reasons, no less serious. First of all, one might say that there is a question of distributive justice. Jestlipak the law of the legislature goes so far as to be entitled to reduce the wage of a craftsman in order to increase the artist's profit?

Mr de Lamartine said: "If you cancel a subsidy for a theater, where you will stop on this path - you will not logically forced to close also our university faculties, our museums, institutes and libraries? "

The answer could be: If you provide subsidies to everything that is good and useful, then where do you stop at This way - you will not be logically forced to finance agriculture, industry, trade, charity and education from the state budget?

Plus, we are really surethat subsidy thrive progress in art? This question is still a long way off is not resolved and moreover we can see with our own eyes that if any theaters prosper, so they are the ones who live off their own activities.

Finally, when we rise to more general considerations, we find that needs and desires give rise to other needs and desires, so that there is an ascending movement into increasingly refined and cultivated spheres, to the extent that public wealth enables them to be satisfied; we also find that the government must not interfere in this correlation, because given the size of national wealth, it could not stimulate the luxury industry from tax revenues without harming the goods-producing industry of essential needs, which would mean disruption of the natural progress of civilization.

It can also be observed that such artificial shifting of needs, taste, work and population brings nations into an uncertain and dangerous position, which lacks a solid foundation.

We will now discuss several reasons put forward by opponents of state intervention, which relate to citizens' assumptions about the order in which their needs and desires should be met, and, as a result, their activities. I admit that I belong to the people who think that selection and impulse should come from the bottom, not from above - from citizens and not from the legislator; I think, that the opposite doctrine leads to the destruction of freedom and human dignity.

However, it is known what the economist is accused of - on the basis of certain deductions, just as erroneous as unjust ones? When we reject subsidies, it is said that we reject the very thing that is being subsidized, and that we are the enemies of all kinds of activities, because we demand that these activities be both free and find their reward in themselves.

So if we ask the state not to support religious matters from taxes, we are said to be atheists; if we want the state not to contribute to taxes on education, we are supposed to hate enlightenment as such. If we say that the state should not artificially increase the value of land from taxes or do the same in an industry, we are the enemies of property and labor. And when we believe that the state should not subsidize artists, we are barbarians who believe that all art is useless.

I protest with all my might against these deductions.

We are very much distant absurd idea to destroy religion, education, property, work and art, though we call on the state to protect the free development of all kinds of human activity without maintaining one at the expense of the other. On the contrary, we think that all these living forces of human society would develop harmoniously under the influence of freedom, that none of them would become - as we are witnessing today - a source of confusion, abuse, tyranny and disorder.

Our opponents think that if an activity is neither subsidized nor regulated, it is simply liquidated. We think the exact opposite. Their faith clings to the legislator, not to humanity.

We believe in humanity, not the legislature.

Mr de Lamartine therefore said: "In the name of this principle (ie the abolition of state subsidies - JP) we cancel public exhibitions that honor and bring wealth to this country. "

I answer Mr de Lamartine: From your point of view not to subsidize means cancel, for your initial premise is that everything exists only by the will of the state, from which you conclude that only what taxes allow life can live.

However, I will turn against you the example you have chosen, and I will show you that the largest and most sublime of all exhibitions, an exhibition based on the most liberal and universal concept of thought - and I could even use the term "universal", which is no exaggeration here. - Yippee exhibition being prepared in London, the only one in which no government interferes and which is not financed by any tax.

Returning to the fine arts, someone could, I repeat, give compelling reasons for and against the subsidy system. The reader will understand that, given the special subject matter of this file, I do not have to interpret these reasons or decide which one to choose.

However, Mr de Lamartine has already made one argument in advance, which I cannot go over by silence, as it fits perfectly into the scope of this economic study.

He says:

"The economic question of theaters can be summed up in one word: work. Little depends on the nature of this work; it is work as fruitful, as productive, as in the nature of everyone workwhich the nation performs. Theatersas you know, they give work and wages in France to eighty thousand workers of all kinds, painters, bricklayers, decorators, tailors, builders, etc., who bring life and movement to many neighborhoods of this capital, and that is why they invoke your sympathies ! ”

Your sympathies! - Translated: your subsidies.

And further:

"The pleasures of Paris provide work and consumer goods for the countryside, luxury is rich in wages and bread for the 200 workers of all kinds who feed such a diverse industry serving theaters throughout our republic and who, of these noble pleasures that make France famous, have living for themselves, for their families and their children. They are the ones to whom you give the 000 francs. (Very good! Bravo!. Countless expressions of consent.)

As for me, I am forced to say: Very bad! Very bad! - while, of course, I limit the scope of this court to the economic argument at issue here.

Yes, the 60 francs, or at least some of that amount, really goes to the workers working for the theaters. A few crumbs can certainly get lost along the way. If we took a closer look, we might even find that most of the cake gets lost along the way; workers will be very lucky if they have a few crumbs left. However, I would like to admit that the whole subsidy will go to painters, decorators, tailors, hairdressers, etc.

That's what you can see.

But where does this subsidy come from? There is rub question, which is just as important to examine as hers face. Where is the source of those 60 francs? And where would they have gone if the legislators' vote had not been conducted first rue Rivoli and then to rue Grenelle?

This is what is not visible.

Certainly no one dares to claim that the very vote of the legislators is what causes this amount to hatch in the ballot box; that, as such, it represents a net addition to national wealth, and that without this miraculous vote, those 60 francs would have become something forever invisible and intangible.

It must be acknowledged that all the majority can do is decide that the money will be taken from somewhere so that it can be sent elsewhere and given a certain purpose only on the basis that it has been prevented from fulfilling another purpose.

If things are so, it is clear that a taxpayer who pays a tax of one franc can no longer freely dispose of that franc. It is clear that he will be deprived of the opportunity to satisfy his needs to the extent of the value of one franc, and that even a worker who could obtain this satisfaction will be deprived of the same amount of wages.

So let us not have the illusions of children and let us not believe that the vote on 16 May is something adds to national well-being and employment. It will only reallocate benefits and reallocate wages - that's all.

A when will it be said that that vote will replace the satisfaction of a need of a certain kind and a certain kind of work by the satisfaction of such needs and such work as is more urgent, moral and sensible?

I could fight on this terrain as well. I could say: if you snatch 60 francs from taxpayers, you will reduce the wages of farm workers, day laborers, diggers, carpenters, farriers and increase the wages of singers, hairdressers, decorators and tailors by the same amount. However, there is no evidence that this class is more important than the previous one.

Mr de Lamartine is not proving this. He himself says that theatrical work is as well fertile, as well productive like any other job (and not more), which could still be objected to, as the best proof that theatrical work is not as fruitful as other work is the fact that it is to this other work that an appeal is made to subsidize theatrical work.

However, this comparison of intrinsic value and merit for different types of work is not the subject of this consideration. My whole task here is to show that if Mr de Lamartine and those who applauded his argument saw with the left eye the revenues obtained by the suppliers of the theatergoers, they should also have seen with the right eye the lost revenues from the suppliers of the taxpayers; because they did not do so, they are ridiculed because mistakenly considered reallocation to be zisk.

If they were consistent in their doctrine, they would demand subsidies indefinitely; for what applies to one franc and 60 francs also applies to one billion francs in the same circumstances.

When it comes to taxes, gentlemen, prove their usefulness for reasons that stand on a solid footing, but not with this unfortunate statement: "Public spending provides livelihood for the working class."

This erroneous assertion obscures the essential fact that Public expenses they work always like surrogate private expenditure and that, as a result they provide a livelihood for one worker instead of another, but nothing they do not contribute to the fate of the working classif we understand it as a whole. Your argument is at the level of the latest fad, but it is completely absurdBecause your understanding is not able to give a reasonable reason.

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