Christopher Knight tells us why Republican’s ideas to cut the arts are stupid:

If you gave me a buck, and next year I returned $18.75 to you, would you think that was a good deal?  I would. With savings accounts, money markets and even stocks yielding just a few percentage points on investments these days, a return in excess of 1800% is pretty staggering. Yet, that’s what happens with federal support for arts and culture. It pays for itself 18 times over.

I have a hard time believing the multiplier on Arts spending is THAT good, especially when really effective stimulus measures like infrastructure spending generate about 1.59 dollars in economic activity for every dollar spent.  (Yes, I know the figures he and I are talking about are different, with Knight talking about government outlays vs. what they take in on Arts income taxes.  Surely Knight’s numbers don’t tell you much, other than that people are donating to the arts, or that people are paying to experience art).  I’d rather see a figure like the GDP multiplier from Mark Zandi to determine the real stimulative power of arts spending, but that’s way out of my expertise area.  I’m not saying this to pooh pooh the idea that arts spending isn’t a good way to spend money (I’ll bet it is very stimulative, not to mention the well, ehrm, Art we get), I just don’t think that looking at government support vs. sector revenues tells us much.

Update: On the other hand I have seen some figures in the past that puts the Arts GDP multiplier at 3 or 6, but I couldn’t find the source or research method that the author(s) got the figure from.

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