Wednesday, October 12, 2005

Friedman, Hayek, Buckley and the Vienna State Opera

Enough of heavy and contentious subject for this week. So here is something light - or lighter.
An interesting post by Peter Robinson at the Corner. Peter, trying to decide whether PBS should continue to exist asked readers to email a quote (if it is true) that Von Hayek supported public subsidy of the Vienna State Opera. Apparently, Peter could not make up his mind. Myself, despite being a small-government conservative I must confess my worst sin, I supported government subsidy of the National Endowment for the Arts. Milton Friedman on an email to Peter said:
I believe your memory is playing tricks on you. It was Ludwig von Mises who was notorious for supporting state opera. I never heard that Hayek was a fellow sinner…. Re my view on PBS, I believe the government has no business running a propaganda mill, by radio, TV, or in print. I would completely privatize PBS.
Who am I to argue with Milton Friedman? Especially if I claims to be his greatest admirer. But Mr. Friedman, unlike me, was never poor. Until very recently, I could not afford to attend classical music concert without government subsidy - it would be cost prohibitive if it is privately funded. I love classical music. When I went to war, beside defending democracy, I thought of myself as defending Mozart against Islamofacism. Yes, I fought for W but W. Mozart, not W. Bush. Who would you rather fight for? After the porks ladden highway bill and the Harriet Miers nomination, I am glad I fought for Mozart.
Yet, being poor is not a good accuse for my position. I was essentially supporting socialism - that someone else pay for my pet cause. And then William Buckley came to the rescue. In an inteview with Brian Lamb (via Peter original post), Buckley said:
Adam Smith said that the state can legitimately do certain things. And those are a very short list. It can look after the common defense and it can be the custodian of monuments. So I asked myself the question: Does the authority of Adam Smith attach to a state enterprise that takes dead musicians and makes their music available? to suggest that a monument need not only be something chiseled in marble, sitting in the middle of a park, but might also be keeping alive a musician and providing the wonderful amenity.
I know some of you may still be unconvinced and think of me as a hypocrite. You may even be right. I am afterall flaw. But if I died in war and requested that the government pay for Mozart Requiem to be sung at my funeral (which I actually did in my will - it is my favorite requiem). Would you object?
If you are still unconvinced by my shamless emotional argument above, I still have one last argument (even more shamless) - this.


Anonymous Anonymous said...

This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

6:35 PM  
Blogger VietPundit said...

I thought you promised to post more on Salma Hayek.

11:39 PM  
Anonymous Progressive said...

Hello. We're running an ongoing commentary on the current scandals besieging the Republican Party (i.e., Bill Frist was indicted today) and we greatly enjoy some imput. Since you've visited the site previously, we hope you'll put your two cents in.

7:53 AM  
Blogger Sissy Willis said...

I like your idea of Mozart's music as a monument worthy of governmental custody. It's when we get to the works of living composers that subsidy becomes questionable.

6:51 AM  
Blogger Richard Zundritsch said...

Interesting posts, even though I can't say anything about Hayek favoring opera subsidies maybe the following will help round out the picture. Just to introduce myself, Hayek was my great uncle (the brother of my grandfather) and I've just completed an exhibition on his early years in Vienna and been sifting the family papers. Some of this will be shown on my blog below. Anyway I still live in Vienna and there is still an ongoing discussion on state subsidies for the arts. The are very high and the only day the opera actually shows a profit is the night of the Vienna opera ball i.e. when they aren't playing. Hayek worked and studied in New York in 1923/24 and since due to inflation in Austria at the time he got no financial support from home, he had to live on a scholarship and what little he made as a research assistant. In his letters home he regrets not being able to afford the arts and especially the opera. He has two solutions: first he writes how wonderful the advent of the radio (which seems to have been mass marketed for the first time about then) made culture available to the masses and second he succeeded in getting himself invited to the opera by wealthier friends. If I can find a Hayek quote more recent than 1923 I'll let you know.

4:44 AM  
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12:25 AM  

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