Re: ACLU to go to court over Ann Arbor

From: Robert Schaller (email suppressed)
Date: Thu Mar 22 2007 - 11:45:42 PDT

Dear Frameworkers,

    Libertarians make some good points about the perils of collectivization,
and it seems good to me that they're around pointing out follies that are
often overlooked elsewhere. However, in practice libertarianism has a
static and simplistic view of government: that is, that government has
virtually no role except for National Defense -- certainly, not in
supporting the arts. Unfortunately, this insistence on maintaining
ideological purity often outweighs any consideration of real, contingent
facts. It's attractive to smart teenagers who don't know very much, and
excellent cover for the wealthy who can claim its justifications for no
taxes and the defacto rule by an aristocracy of the richest (which is
probably not how most idealistic libertarians would put it).

    The Ann Arbor defunding is a case in point: I can't speak for anyone
else, but there seem to me to be two significant facts to consider:

1) The Ann Arbor Film Festival is one of the most important experimental
festivals anywhere, and

2) By defunding it, its survival will be made more difficult.

So, in answer to Bernard Roddy's question, "how this sounds to people on
this list," one answer is, how could making a good thing less possible be
other than a bad thing?

Or, if he's only asking that about the general proposition that "cutting all
arts funding was actually in the interest of the artists," I would ask, does
it really matter, outside the world of ideology, if an artist has to beg
money from a private patron, a foundation, or a government grant? Or from a
film studio executive? If government funds for the arts are cut, all that
does is eliminate one of the potential sources of funding for artists. What
sense does it make to propose that if you have a pie with 5 pieces, and you
take away one, that a hungry multitude will be better off with four? A
counter argument might be made that if you eliminate that one, then,
miraculously, the other four will get bigger. That's logically cohesive,
but in this world, I'd like to see any example of it being true for arts
funding. It's worth pointing out that one of the main reasons that there is
any private arts support is because of the tax structure, something created
by the government. The libertarian view is no doubt to eliminate that too.
In the end, I'm afraid that what a libertarian fiscal policy on the arts
boils down to is the right of those with money to be stingy, the right of
artists to be more vulnerable than they already are, and the right of the
public to not be exposed to art if they don't want to -- or can't -- pay for
it: less money, less art, less bother.

Frankly, the reason libertarians are picking on the arts is because we're a
relatively easy target. Their aim is off, however. If they're really
trying to save taxpayer money, it would make much more difference to bring
about a swift end to a misbegotten war; even keeping one National Guard unit
home for Iraq or not building one attack helicopter would make more
difference to the bottom line than cutting off funding for the Ann Arbor
Film Festival.

And, let us not forget that the proximal reason for the funding suspension
is not a "high-minded" application of the subtleties of libertarian thought,
but, rather, trumped-up allegations of pornography. Michael LeFaive, the
policy analyst with the libertarian Mackinac Center for Public Policy who
seems to have engineered this move, appears to have cynically used the
anti-pornography law to shut down something that he was opposed to. He
didn't like Ann Arbor's festival, so he set out to kill it, and not by
actually discussing the issue of public arts funding.

I hope that the ACLU wins their case -- and I'm very happy that they're
taking it on.

Robert Schaller

On 3/20/07 3:24 PM, "Bernard Roddy" <email suppressed> wrote:

> NPR radio just broadcast an announcement that the ACLU is going to court to
> fight the state of Michigan's decision to cut funding for the Ann Arbor Film
> Festival.
> The show included remarks from several people. The only artist who spoke
> denied that her film really does include sexually explicit material. She was
> a sweet-spoken filmmaker who said one of her voices used to play Rocky or
> Bullwinkel for the animated television show.
> The guy who wrote the article that drew attention to the festival said that
> his essay calling for cutting all arts funding was actually in the interest of
> the artists. I would be interested in how this sounds to people on this list.
> There was also someone who said the state's decision was not censorship . .
> that you can still make and show what you like but not with our tax money.
> The radio program did mention in this connection the state-sponsored bills to
> support private business. (We need some facts on the impact this has had on
> commercial pornography in Michigan.)
> A spokesperson for the ACLU said what amounts to cliche ideas about the
> importance of freedom of expression, nothing more detailed.
> The announcer of the report mentioned several cases which provide precedents
> for winning the case in favor of the festival.
> Bernie
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> For info on FrameWorks, contact Pip Chodorov at <email suppressed>.

For info on FrameWorks, contact Pip Chodorov at <email suppressed>.