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Rupert Christiansen of the UK’s The Telegraph has written a startling report on the findings of Britain’s Arts Council that “aims to show the economic value of public investment in arts and culture.” According to the report, the arts contribute 4X as much to GDP as they cost in taxes to support. Think about it: if you had a business and you knew that every dollar you invest in it would generate fourfold as much as you put into it, what is the only rational (and completely economic!) response to such intelligence?

The Guardian also reported on this same report.  The culture secretary of the UK “recently called for the economic case to be made for the arts, “to hammer home the value of culture to our economy.’ She added: ‘In an age of austerity, when times are tough and money is tight, our focus must be on culture’s economic impact.'” The report underscores that “far from being a drain on public resources,” spending on the arts brings a huge (4X) return on investment, and that culture “plays a vital part in attracting tourism (£856 million a year); that arts centers and activities transform our towns and cities and drive regeneration, making the choice to maintain investment in culture a forward thinking one… and that the arts support the creative industries and improve their productivity.”

More from the report (selected; quoting the Guardian):

•The arts provide over 110,000 jobs directly – about 0.45% of the total employment of the UK. That more than doubles when you figure in the indirect impact of the arts.

•Living in an area with twice the average level of cultural density adds ca. £26,800 to the value of a property.

•The arts and culture improve national productivity by developing “people’s critical thinking, to cultivate creative problem solving and to communicate and express themselves effectively.”

The effect of decreased spending on the arts is exactly the inverse: greatly reduced economic (and other) benefits to the country.

The Telegraph caps the argument for arts support thus:

English: Hadrian's wall just east of Greenhead...

Hadrian’s wall

“We pay something for the majesty of the monarchy, we pay something to preserve the beauty of the countryside – and for similar reasons, we should pay something for the arts. They are as essential to our national dignity as the Queen and Hadrian’s Wall or the Lake District: they make us who we are and how the world sees us. With rich and varied cultural provision – without theatres performing Shakespeare and orchestras playing Beethoven to the highest level – we could not hold our heads up in the world and ourselves civilised. Asians and South Americans, busy building their own cultural institutions and looking to us to fill them with content, would think we were fools, cutting off our nose to spite our face – and meanwhile our own children will end up as barbarians, starved of the means to feed their creativity, imagination, and sensibility. What government in its right mind would wish to have that written on its tombstone?

Are you listening, Congress?

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