Expensive Tastes and Public Funding for the Arts
18 Pages Posted: 23 Aug 2019
Date Written: August 21, 2019
A challenging question in moral philosophy is how to gauge the achievement of equity between individuals when people differ in their preferences, and in particular where some people might have “expensive tastes”, in that the goods necessary to bring them to a certain level of welfare are much costlier to obtain than the goods that bring others to the same level of welfare. “Opera” is an example often presented in the literature, although we can imagine other aspects of culture that are vitally important to a small minority but very costly to provide, and whose benefits are not most often enjoyed by the well-off; the preservation of an aboriginal language, or the specific cultural practices of an immigrant minority, for example. A distinction might also arise if equity involves consideration of whether the “expensive tastes” were deliberately cultivated by the people who hold them. This paper situates the “expensive tastes” debate in the real world of arts funding bodies that value equity in funding, and are challenged with making allocation decisions under hard budget constraints. Should “expensive tastes” matter at all in choices regarding funding, and, if so, how?
Keywords: Arts policy, expensive tastes, equality
JEL Classification: H41, Z11
Suggested Citation: Suggested Citation