How We Create the Wealth of Nations
Chapter 20: Arts
At first sight, the relationship between the arts and economics appears to take one of two extreme forms. The first is the common stereotype: that the artist is unworldly, completely absorbed in his/her art, and takes no interest in economic and financial matters. So, for example, Vincent Van Gogh only sold one painting during his lifetime. And, although Mozart had no difficulty in selling his works to many eager patrons, he was constantly in financial difficulties, died in poverty and had a pauper’s burial. At the other extreme, the works of the greatest artists (including Van Gogh, indeed) sell for incomparable prices to the richest collectors, after these great artists have died. And in a similar way, while many musicians struggle to earn a living from their music, a few of the greatest names command exceptional fees for their performances – for example, great classical conductors, pianists, violinists and singers. In this chapter, however, we are concerned with neither of these extremes. Instead, we shall consider a third, and quite different, type of relationship between the arts and economics. We are interested in the many channels through which innovation around the arts, often common innovation, can contribute to the creation of R-wealth. I suspect that most of those working in the arts would say that if you want to understand how common innovation adds to the arts and how the arts add to R-wealth creation, you would not ask an economist. I would agree, and I suspect that many other economists would too. But I think it is essential – especially in the context of this book – that economics should develop such an understanding. It is in this spirit that I offer this chapter.
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