Potentatus - Politics and Policy

Politics and Policy Blog

Sunday, August 29, 2004


Olympic Musing: Civil Society, Privatized Government, and Modern Art

what amazes me about america starts with the world's fair of 1889, Paris premiers the eiffel tower, the world's governments turn out to show off their might, all except for the United States. The government of the US takes no part and instead the US pavillion is entirely privately funded and has representatives of US industries, carnegie, rockefeller, etc...

flash forward to 2004. Every man, woman, and child in Greece is paying over $600 for the Olympics. For a typical family of four, that's $2400. Admittedly a lot of it is for infrastructure, but for a country whose per capita GDP is around $12,000, that's quite a hefty burden. Are the citizens of Greece well served? Compare to the US, where the US Olympic Commission is entirely privately funded. The games in Atlanta, largely so. What is amazing is that in America, people voluntarily contribute rather than being forced to.

in the arts, the US government indeed spends a paltry amount on the arts, but the country as a whole spends loads more on art per capita than any other country. (and in terms of levels, probably more than the rest of the world combined) (i was just in the bellagio at vegas where people are paying $15 a pop for a small gallery with 15 lesser Monets. and it was packed to capacity)

it is a country where the amount of money i am forced to spend on art is minimal, yet art flourishes, because people choose to support what they like, and the people decide rather than venal politicians or venal bureaucrats. Americans spend more on the performing arts than on movies or on sports. The average American is more likely to attend a museum than a football game. and far more likley than the average European. (every time i've been to the Louvre, the number of Americans always seemed to outnumber the french)

it is a system that makes america still the leader of art, from madonna to will eisner to whatever's hot at the Venice Bienniale. a leader in sports with the most medals at the olympics. a leader in culture, with a hegemonic grip on the hearts and minds of consumers the world over regardless of the politics, people buy coke and watch Star Wars...

for better or worse...

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