There is a great hue and cry as the 2012 budget reveals no funding for NPR and PBS. Having enjoyed several of PBS’s offerings over the years, even I wonder if such wonderful shows as The Power of Myth with Joseph Campbell would ever have been offered without government funding.
As my regular readers know, I have no qualms about watching PBS or listening to NPR because of my libertarian values. I helped pay for them, so I get to watch them. I also believe people have a right to seek funding under current government programs. People who are coerced into supporting a program have every right to use it. Thus my quarrel is not with those who are in fact supported by the state. My quarrel is with those who believe it is right in principle.
There are two arguments against public funding of the arts. The first is moral. It is, quite simply, wrong to force an individual to support a cause with which he/she disagrees. The fact that both broadcasting entities purport to be neutral is immaterial. You and I may think fear of Big Bird’s gayness (I heard that one for the first time yesterday–you just can’t make that kind of thing up) is nutty, but that is not the point. Some people are paying taxes to support a character they find revolting. All quite funny until a vocal critic of radical Islam or a libertarian gets a show. Now who’s laughing?
The second reason is practical. We cannot afford funding for PBS, NPR, or anything else that falls outside the few truly proper roles of a government. Loosely, that only means securing individual liberty. It is no coincidence, by the way, that the moral turns out to be synonymous with the practical. The moral is always practical if by “moral” we mean adhering to the larger principles that lead to a better life. Our failure to recognize the principles of individual liberty have allowed us to drift to the edge of financial collapse.
Our craving for things that others will not provide through voluntary trade has become an outright addiction. We have promised pensions that cannot be paid, been forced to support products that do not sell, and in countless other ways become a nation of harlots, each clamoring for the biggest handful and competing to appear the most pathetic.
Many will cry, “But we do so much good!” Maybe. Maybe not. If we do so much good, why do we have to tax people to support us (I am including higher education on the list)?
The party is over. We all have grown fat and lazy. It is time for us to man/woman up and stop relying on government to force others to do what we cannot convince them to do of their own free will. Poems will be published, plays will be produced, and paintings will be painted. Journalists will still write and speak. The difference is, each will now have to prove his/her worth. Each will have to gain a following with an offer of true value instead of the threat of a club.