Edited by Ruth Towse
Chapter 25: Cultural Value
Jen D. Snowball While most people accept that the arts have value to society, not all would agree that this value is measurable, or indeed, that it should be measured. This chapter describes the kinds of value that the arts can provide and also how at least some aspects of their value might be quantified. Why quantify the value of the arts at all? One of the questions often asked of cultural economists is why one needs to put a monetary value on the arts at all. Is it not possible to accept that the arts are valuable and so just agree to fund them publicly? If governments had unlimited funds, then this would certainly be enough, but in reality, limited public resources have to be allocated to all kinds of competing, and equally valid, needs, like education and healthcare. All funding decisions thus have an opportunity cost – the next-best alternative forgone. That is, money spent on culture is money not available to be spent on anything else. In this scenario, the question is not simply one of whether to fund the arts or not, but of whether to fund the arts or something else. A related issue is which arts to fund. Thirty years ago, there was a general consensus that what should be funded was ‘high’ culture – largely represented by European art forms, like opera and ballet and fine art forms identified by experts – while ‘popular’ culture was funded through the market by ticket sales and merchandising. Today,...
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