Saturday, December 30, 2006

Why Are Artists Poor? The Exceptional Economy of the Arts

Artist/ economist Hans Abbing has written a most intriguing book on the economics of the arts. It is his thesis, counter-intuitive but brilliantly argued, that government subsidies in fact increase the poverty of artists. (That won't keep me from applying, yet again, for an NEA grant, however!) As a literary writer/ economist myself, I've often found that I think about the literary world in terms of industrial organization, which, I suppose, my writer friends find somewhat bizarre. Much of what Abbing has to say here is not new to me, but so well articulated that it is a true pleasure to read. One especially important point he makes is that "people contemplating a career in the arts are usually ill-informed; they think the arts are more open than they really are and they are unaware of the extent to which informal monopolization characterizes the arts." Ah, indeed. His personal view is that artists resemble magicians. Magicians of course, are loath to reveal their tricks. Read more here.