Book review

Arts policy library: good & plenty

11 Jun 2013
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Review Details
Date: 11 June 2013
Author: Dan Thompson
Publisher: Createquity

Book Details
Title: Good & Plenty: The Creative Success of American Arts Funding
Publisher: Princeton University Press
Date Published: 2010
Author/s: Tyler Cowen

Tyler Cowen presents a powerful idea in his 2006 book (reprised in 2010) Good & Plenty: The Creative Success of American Arts Funding: arts policy is a battle between aesthetic and economic reasoning that can be settled by keeping the American system basically as it is. His sweeping argument draws on a deeply-researched history of arts policy in the United States dating back to the late 19th century. All of his historical analysis is developed in the context of a broader argument for a “decentralized” arts policy, which means moving the responsibility of arts policy decision-making from officials to consumers.

Instead of settling the debate over the role of government in the arts, this admirable attempt at finding a central policy philosophy amenable to free-market types and progressives alike leaves considerable room for interpretation and disagreement. His argument supports policy changes to the NEA’s grantmaking scheme that won’t satisfy conservative hopes of dismantlement. Meanwhile, protecting copyright and expanding State Department arts programs is unlikely to meet arts advocates’ demands. Cowen’s argument does, though, introduce a useful concept for policy analysts as they weigh alternatives.

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