Defund the Arts

On March 16, the Office of Management and Budget released the President’s proposal for a budget for the fiscal year of 2018. In summation, the President’s budget increased funding for all military related departments and entitlements programs and cut everything else. However, among some of his more controversial cuts was the decision to eliminate funding for the “arts.” Funding for programs such as the National Public Radio (NPR), the Public Broadcasting Service (PBS), the National Endowment of the Arts (NEA), and other “cultural programs” that having received support from the Federal government has been eliminated.

Despite the backlash, this is the correct decision as it returns entertainment and public enlightenment into the private sector where it belongs and can be more fully realized.

The first and most obvious argument against funding these programs is that they are not constitutional. There is no section in the constitution that authorizes the government to provide funding for the arts and it was not intended to be a federally supported. Under Article I, Section 8 of the US Constitution, the only thing Congress is allowed to do is provide patents for the arts, but not direct support. There is no section in the Constitution that allows Congress to fund these programs. So overall, this is not actually within the authority of Congress to do.

Beyond that, these programs could just as easily be privately funded. Any one of these organizations could pursue donations from small donors to run, private investors who sought to profit from it, sell its assets to a private firm, form a Kickstarter, or any other means an entity could pursue to be privately funded. For example, the show Sesame Street, which had traditionally been on PBS, just last year was moved over the HBO due to the fact that it had been operating at a loss and needed more funding.

An NPR exec even admitted that the organization "would be better off in the long run without federal funding." Privatizing these organizations would not be a problem at all and is easy to accomplish.

The private sector at the moment is already performing very well without federal funding. At the moment, there are several private media organizations such as the Walt Disney Corporation, the Turner Broadcasting System, and 21st Century Fox which are all private media organizations that provide news the same as NPR (which only receives only 2% public funding anyway). These organizations all compete with PBS as well to provide educational television. There is also private philanthropy that could replace the NEA just as easily as the previous two organizations. At the moment, the private sector already has replacements for either these organizations or the reduced funding.

Arts and humanities are a private matter and in the private sector is where they belong. There is plenty of funding to cover them and any services they provide. Even then, it is not the duty of the United States government to provide or fund these programs since they belong within the realm of private interest. For this reason, President Trump and Director Mulvaney are correct in eliminating this funding. This is a step in the right direction for reducing the size and scope of the federal government.