Jason Alexander from Seinfeld Opposes Public Funding for the Arts

October 18th, 2013

Generally speaking, celebrities in the entertainment industry tend to lean towards socialism on economic issues. Ironically, many of them are wealthy self-starters whose work would have been entirely too shocking to receive public funding and who only succeeded after years of hard work. However, artists, musicians, writers, actors, and other artistic professionals tap into emotion on a level that most can’t, and, as such, the community has a tendency, on the whole, to rationalize matters in terms of feelings, rather than logic.

Jason Alexander, the actor who played George Costanza on Seinfeld, recently broke the mold with his comments opposing public funding for the arts. According to Alexander, public funds should go to necessities, particularly when the nation is in a financial crisis. He also questioned the morality of spending people’s tax revenues on artistic programming that they might not like.

Jason Alexander’s Fiscal Argument Against Public Funding for the Arts

In an interview with Fox, Jason Alexander from Seinfeld challenged public funding for the arts with an economic and moral argument, “Clearly, we are in a financial crisis in this country so you want to spend money where it is going to make sense. Do people absolutely need the arts to get by day-to-day? You can make that claim but they also really need a lot of things before that. I would love to see more funding for the arts but I think the community to which it serves should sponsor. There are tax payers in this country that never go to the theater, that never read a book or poetry or go to a museum and their tax dollars are being spent on the arts…”

Alexander has a point, as a nation facing rising debt levels at nearly every tier of government, there comes a point when public funds need to be spent based on priorities, and entertainment is not purely necessary for survival and tends to exist on its own, regardless whether or not the government funds it. Nearly everyone spends their own money on entertainment, and consumers are fairer in how they allocate those funds than governments are. In essence, the entertainment industries have functioned for centuries without government help, so why would it be necessary for the state to intervene in that market now?

The Political Process Creates Redundant, Politicized Art

If something new and groundbreaking hits the art, music, film, literature, or theater scene, governments are more likely to ban it than provide funding. Government-funded art must conform to the political process. Artists who vie for public funding typically do so by offering up the 10 millionth re-hashed painting of children holding hands across the world or a neutral, standard depiction of a historical event.

Meanwhile, if a musician inspired by the tradition of artists like Marilyn Manson, the Dead Kennedys, Frank Zappa, or Iggy Pop breaks out in the music world by challenging fans to think, governments are more likely to swing the ban hammer than pony up startup cash. New art, music, literary, and film movements tend to emerge as reactions to previous ones, and the controversial process that this involves is simply incompatible with politics.

Jason Alexander has a point. We should trust fans of the arts to make the best choices about how to allocate funding for entertaining and artistic media.

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About the Author: Barry Donegan

Barry Donegan is a singer for the experimental mathcore band Look What I Did, a writer, a self-described "veteran lifer in the counterculture", a political activist/consultant, and a believer in the non-aggression principle.