“The Economics of Public Support for the Arts”, the latest publication in SIPP’s Briefing Note series, brings an analytical approach to the discussion about whether, and to what extent, there should be public support for artists and the art they produce.
While some try to seek an economic rationale for public support for the arts by arguing that support increases economic activity and improves the financial well-being of artists, this paper provides an economic perspective for public support using the principles of exclusion, rivalry, externalities, and merit goods.
In this publication, Jim Marshall, the chief economist at the Saskatchewan Institute of Public Policy, applies four fundamental questions of economics to the argument for arts funding by government: what to produce; how to produce it; how much art to produce; and, for whom should art be produced.
Marshall explores the policy implications that arise from the consideration of art as a public good. “To demonstrate a need for greater government support for the production of art,” writes Marshall, “one has to demonstrate that there is currently an inadequate supply of art; that the current means of producing art is the most effective; that the art currently being produced is of the greatest possible social value; and, that providing more assistance will be effective in generating more art and, thereby, more social benefit.” However, support for artists is the means to the ends, not the objective of government policy, argues Marshall.