Not in Canada.
Christopher Hume says,
But $975 million is not the real cost. No, the real cost is much higher This is because when we fund culture this way, we actually diminish it. The opportunity cost is, in other words, phenomenal. I reckon this cost is roughly equal to
dynamism teaches us, that cultures are like marketplaces, the less you intercede the more they flourish, the more you intercede, the less they do.
Let’s take three of the big cultural inventions of the last 30 years: Punk, hip hop, alternative. All of these were invented in the US. (Evidence for my controversial first choice: The Stooges, VU, New York Dolls, your Honor!) All were invented without the benefit of state subvention. Together, expressed in music and in film, they pretty much underwrote the America’s continued, if wobbly, ascendancy in an emerging global culture.
I’m not saying that Canada could have established it’s own cultural ascendancy, if only the state had spent less. I am saying spending more virtually guaranteed its present obscurity on the world stage. (And before someone writes in to complain about all the great music coming out of Montreal, let me point out this was made without state subvention too.)
Armies fight the last war. States embrace the last idea. There was a time when the model of state sponsorship worked. My travels in Europe might as well have been a tour of opera houses, each more glorious than the last, extravagant evidence that cities and states tied their identities to the musical accomplishment of local sons and daughters. (The Paris house, I was interested to note, was funded by private subscription.)
But that model passed. Culture changed. Cultural changed itself. Creative technologies got cheap. Training distributed. Creative communities decentralized. Barriers to participation fell. A wish to participate rose. A willingness to defer to elite judgment disappeared. Hierarchy died, the world flattened. We might say that the culture funded by the state created a world that no longer needed the state. To persevere in this funding is to discourage the cultural trend that makes funding unnecessary (could this be the bureaucrat’s secret motive)?
Call it the Yankee revelation: however much you spend, you can’t buy yourself a World Series win. Canada can try to fund a culture to call its own, but there are no guarantees. The fact of the matter is that these cultures happen, if they happen, when the state gets out of the way, when it cedes control. The new idea is to turn culture over to people working in their spare time, off grant, off license, without control or supervision. This is where culture comes from now.
Cowen, Tyler. 2002. Creative Destruction. How Globalization is Changing the World’s Cultures. New York: Princeton University Press. here.
Hume, Christopher. 2007. What’s our role on the world’s culture stage? The Star. June 04, 2007. here.
Postrel, Virginia. 1998. The Future and Its Enemies: The Growing Conflict Over Creativity, Enterprise, and Progress. New York: Free Press. here.