A Modest Proposal

“The Arts–our public officials and political pundits agree–are “humanity’s hobby.” They’re not required for basic sustenance, nor do we lose physical well-being by being deprived of them. And let’s face it: the world is in a bad state. We’ve got economic challenges, climate shifts, wars, terrorism, and demographic problems ranging from population collapse to overpopulation. We need to get our global house in order and focus on the practical matters necessary to make our home world perfect before we start creating any new works of art, whether they be literature, sculpture, painting, or music. Our people and our world will not be ready and doesn’t have the right to attain self-actualization needs until every individual meets their basic needs of food, shelter, clothing, and healthcare. Therefore, as a measure of bipartisan pragmatism and goodwill, the Congress of the United States will hereby cease funding the National Endowments for the Arts and the Humanities.”

This would never happen, right? The arts and the humanities have widespread support because they are seen as necessary attributes of our civilization. They enrich our lives with new discoveries, new ideas about how to live, new aesthetic experiences, and (sometimes) new sources of wealth. Why, then, is the above logic seen as perfectly logical when it comes to funding ventures in space–public or private? Isn’t art “selfish?” Isn’t it “optional?” Haven’t great works of art been created in the midst of (or despite) great poverty or squalor?

The thing is, space exploration and development can result in the above benefits and more. Anyhow, the next time someone suggests to me that we should cut NASA’s budget or not send humans to other worlds, I will make the proposal above and see what arguments they use to defend NEA or NEH. It should be an entertaining conversation. Of course, there might be some who would agree to cut both. That, I believe, would be a mistake, but that’s a different conversation.

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