As long as people in a society are hungry or out of work or lack the basic skills needed to survive, the use of public resources to support the arts is inappropriate - and, perhaps, even cruel - when one considers all the potential uses of such money.
The speaker asserts that using public resources to support the arts is unjustifiable in a society where some people go without food, jobs and basic survival skills. It might be tempting to agree with the speaker on the basis that art is not a fundamental human need, and that government is not entirely trustworthy when it comes to its motives and methods. However, the speakers overlooks certain economic and other social benefits that accrue when government assumes an active role in supporting the arts.
The implicit rationale behind the speaker’s satement seems to be that cultural enrichment pales in importance compared to food, clothing, and shelter. That the latter needs are more fundamental is indisputable;after all, what starving person would prefer a good painting to even a bad meal? Accordingly, I concede that when it comes to the use of public resources it is entirely appropriate to assign a lower priority to the arts than to these other pressing social problems. Yet, to postpone public arts funding until we completely eliminate unemployment and hunger would be to postpone arts funding forever; any informed person who believes otherwise is envisioning a pure socialist state where the government provides for all of its citizens’ needs - a vision which amounts to fantasy.
It might also be tempting to agree with the speaker on the basis that arts patronage is neither an appropriate nor a necessary function of government. This argument has considerable merit， in three respects. First, it seems ill-conceived to relegate decision and choices about arts funding to a handful of bureaucrats, who are likely to decide based on their quirky notions about art, and whose decisions might be susceptible to influence-peddling. Second, private charity and philanthropy appear to be alive and well today. For example, year after year the Public Broadcasting System is able to survive, and even thrive, on donations from private foundations and individuals. Third, government funding requires tax dollars from our pockets - leaving us with less disposable dollars with which to support the arts directly and more efficiently than any bureaucracy ever could.
On the other hand are two compelling arguments that public support for the arts is desirable, whether or not unemployment and hunger have been eliminated. One such argument is that by allocating public resources to the arts we actually help to solve thses social problems. Consider Canada’s jobs for film-industry workers as a result. The Canadian government also provides various incentives for American production companies to film and produce their movies in Canada. These incentives have sparked a boon for the Canadian economy, thereby stimulating job growth and wealth that can be applied toward education, job training, and social programs. The Canadian example is proof that public arts support can help solve the kinds of social problems with which the speaker is concerned.
A second argument against the speaker’s position has to do with the function and ultimate objectives of art. Art serves to lift the human spirit and to put us more in touch with our feelings, foibles, and fate-in short, with our own humanity. With a heightened sensitivity to the human condition, we become more others-oriented, less self-centered, more giving of ourselves. In other words, we become a more charitable society–more willing to give to those less fortunate than ourselves in the ways with which the speaker is concerned. The speaker might argue, of course, that we do a disservice to others when we lend a helping hand–by enabling them to depend on us to survive. However, at the heart of this specious argument lies a certain coldness and lack of compassion that, in my view, any society should seek to discourage. Besides, the argument leads inexorably to certain political, philosophical, and moral issues that this brief essay cannot begin to address.
In the final analysis, the beneficiaries of public arts funding are not limited to the elitists who stroll through big-city museums and attend symphonies and gallery openings, as the speaker might have us believe. Public resources allocated to the arts create jobs for artists and others whose livelihood depends on a vibrant, rich culture–just the sort of culture that breeds charitable concern for the hungry, the helpless, and the hapless
Hunger as well as unemployment have always been people’s most concern for thousands of years, no matter what the society they are in. Presumably, the use of public resource to support art is irrational as long as there are people in hunger or out of work, then rapid development of arts is seemingly against people’s will. Nevertheless, arts have witnessed the different status of society, no matter how prosperous or declined the society is, and the truth that arts have been supported by countless people is contradictory to the speakers’ opinion, due to which I’m opposed to the topic and believe the rational existence of arts.
I concede that the speaker is on the correct philosophical side of this issue. After all, the use of money is the lasting solutions to our enduring problems, such as hunger and employment. Proper use of public resources is also the chief means by which we have the probability to get rid of poverty and satisfy our insatiable appetite for better life. Yet, in the very notion of proper use of public resource also lies my first point of contention with the speaker, who illogically presumes that the use of money to support arts is of no help to alleviate the problems of hunger and unemployment. To the contrary, the evidence that arts help dealing with poverty and huger is consolidated and apparent.
The long history of arts shows to us the necessity of higher pursue for life and the basic function arts provide for us – the satisfaction for mental demand. At the same time, people’ demands for arts create the opportunities for others to achieve their goals and make a living by devoting themselves to arts. Despite the fact that arts is in need of public resources to support, arts itself can also be used as public resources and applied to other fields of society. The LIVE AID held in 1985 raised enormous money to helped millions of people in Africa. Singers and groups, representing music arts, were regarded as strong support for people in poverty and even cast a ray of hope to dealing with starvation.
The speakers’ assertion is troubling in two other respects as well. First, no amount of money can completely solve the enduring problems of poverty, unemployment and starvation, for the reason that they stem from the nature of society structure. The use of public resources to support art, if applied to helping people in hunger or out of work, means little to mitigate these problems due to the small percentage that the money account for and the seriousness and large scale the social problem is. At the same time, with slight attention to arts, people will lose the exploration of the unknown for true answers to our questions. Secondly, people who contribute to the society and consist of the different social status vary, which means the demand of them are different as well. The neglection to their demands for arts is another kind of pure cruelty to those people. In short, so-called “the proper use of public resources” is another form of inappropriate use in the name of mitigating social problems.
In sum, the speaker’s assertion that we should invest little or none to arts when hungry or unemployed people exist in society begs the question, because we cannot eliminate the problems of poverty and hunger no matter what the society status is. As for the speaker’s broader assertion, I agree that proper use of money is needed because only when the society is stable can arts be encouraged. Nevertheless, when we purely invest money in those problems, we neglect the diverse needs of our society in the name of relieving the immediate suffering of our dispirited, disadvantaged, and disenfranchised members of society. In the final analysis, given finite economic resources we are forced to strike a balance in how we allocate those resources among competing social objects.
At various times in the geological past, many species have become extinct as a result of natural, rather than human, processes. Thus, there is no justification for society to make extraordinary efforts, especially at a great cost in money and jobs, to save endangered species.
What are the limits of our duty to save endangered species from extinction? The statement raises a variety of issues about morality, conscience, self-preservation, and economics. On balance, however, I fundamentally agree with the notion that humans need not make “extraordinary” efforts – at the expense of money and jobs – to ensure the preservation of any endangered species.
As I see it, there are three fundamental arguments for imposing on ourselves at least some responsibility to preserve endangered species. The first has to do with culpability. According to this argument, to the extent that endangerment is the result of anthropogenic events such as clear-cutting of forests or poluting of lakes and streams, we humans have a duty to take affirmative measures to protect the species whose survival we’ve placed in jeopardy
The second argument has to do with capability. This argument disregards the extent to which we humans might have contributed to the endangerment of a species. Instead, the argument goes, if we are aware of the danger, know what steps are needed to prevent extinction, and can take those steps, then we are morally obligated to help prevent extinction. This argument would place a very high affirmative duty on humans to protect endangered species.
The third argument is an appeal to self-preservation. The animal kingdom is an intricate matrix of interdependent relationships, in which each species depends on many others for its survival. Severing certain relationships, such as that between a predator and its natural prey, can set into motion a series of extinctions that ultimately might endanger our own survival as a species. While this claim might sound far-fetched to some, environmental experts assure us that in the long run it is a very real possibility.
On the other hand are two compelling arguments against placing a duty on humans to protect endangered species. The first is essentially the Darwinian argument that extinction results from the inexorable process of so-called “natural selection” in which stronger species survive while weaker ones do not. Moreover, we humans are not exempt from the process. Accordingly, if we see fit to eradicate other species in order to facilitate our survival, the so be it. We are only behaving as animals must, Darwin would no doubt assert.
The second argument, and the one that I find most compelling, is an appeal to logic over emotion. It is a scientific fact that thousands of animal species become extinct every year. Many such extinctions are due to natural forces, while others are due to anthropogenic factors. In any event, it is far beyond our ability to save them all. By what standard, then, should we decide which species are worth saving and which ones are not? In my observation, we tend to favor animals with human-like physical characteristics and behaviors. This preference is understandable; after all, dolphins are far more endearing than bugs. But there is no logical justification for such a standard. Accordingly, what makes more sense is to decide based on our own economic self-interest. In other words, the more money and jobs it would cost to save a certain species, the lower priority we should place on doing so.
In sum, the issue of endangered-species protection is a complex one, requiring subjective judgments about moral duty and the comparative value of various life-forms. Thus, there are no easy or certain answers. Yet it is for this very reason I agree that economic self-interest should take precedence over vague notions about moral duty when it comes to saving endangered species. In the final analysis, at a point when it becomes critical for our own survival as a species to save certain others, then we humans will do so if we are fit- in accordance with Darwin’s observed process of natural selection.
The following appeared in a newspaper feature story:
“There is now evidence that the relaxed manner of living in small towns promotes better health and greater longevity than does the hectic pace of life in big cities. Businesses in the small town of Leeville report fewer days of sickleave taken by individual workers than do businesses in the nearby large MasonCity. Furthermore, Leeville has only one physician for its one thousand residents, but in Mason City the proportion of physicians to residents is five times as high. And the average age of Leeville residents is significantly higher than that of Mason City residents. These findings suggest that people seeking longer and healthier lives should consider moving to small communities.”
This news paper story concludes that living in a small town promotes health and longevity. The speaker bases the conclusion on a comparison between the small town of Leeville and nearby Mason City, a larger town. While the argument appears valid enough at first glance, a closer look reveals a few distinct weaknesses.
One initial problem with the argument is that the author draws conclusion about the effect of a town’s size on the health and longevity of its residents but doesn’t really present any evidence. There are a lot of indications that the residents of one town are healthier but the speaker doesn’t indicate why. More specifically, the only evidence presented here is the pace of life. This does very little to establish requisite links.
Next, the author cites the fact that the incidence of sick leave in Leeville is less than in Mason City. This evidence would lend support to the argument only if the portion of local residents employed by local business were nearly the same in both towns, and only if the portion of employees who are local residents were nearly the same in both towns. Of course, in a more densely populated area with more people, the incidence of something like sick leave would be higher. Without offering a per-capita, one cannot come to the conclusion that the rate is higher or lower in either case.
The author also cites the fact that Mason City has five times as many physicians. However, any number of factors besides the health of the town’s residents might explain this disparity. For example, perhaps people in the city are concerned with cosmetic issues rather than health matters. Without ruling out such explanations, these physician-resident ratios prove nothing about the comparative health of Leeville and Mason City residents.
Finally, the author cites the fact that the average age of Leeville residents is higher than that of Mason City residents. However, any number of factors might explain this disparity. For example, perhaps Leeviller is a retirement community, while Mason City attracts younger working people. For that matter, perhaps Leeville is comprised mainly of former Mason City residents whose longevity if attributable chiefly to their former life-style in Mason city. In any event, the author cannot justify the conclusion that this disparity in average age has anything to do with the healthy benefits.
In conclusion, the argument that small-town living promotes good health and longevity based on the examples above is not very persuasive. However, it seems like a sensible one that one should consider trying to strengthen. The argument could be improved if the author provided cleared connections between his example of health and of the causes of such healthy examples. More specifically, if he could prove that there was a very specific attribute in one place or the other that affected health, the argument would be far more convincing.
Practicality is now our great idol, which all powers and talents must serve. Anything that is not obviously practical has little value in today’s world.
In today’s world is practicality our idol – one which all powers and talents must serve? While this claim has considerable merit with respect to most areas of human endeavor – including education, art, and politics – I take exception with the claim when it comes to the direction of scientific research today.
Practicality seems clearly to be the litmus test for education today. Grade-schoolers are learning computer skills right along with reading and writing. Our middle and high school are increasingly cutting arts education, which ostensibly has less practical value than other course work. And more and more college students are majoring in technical fields for the purpose of securing lucrative jobs immediately upon graduation. Admittedly, many college students still advance to graduate-level study; yet the most popular such degree today is the MBA; after all, business administration is fundamentally about practicality and pragmatism – that is, “getting job done” and paying attention to the “bottom line”.
Practicality also dictates what sort of art is produced today. Most new architecture today is driven by, safety, and cost; very few architectural masterpieces find their way past the blue print stage anymore. The content of today’s feature films and music is driven entirely by demographic considerations – that is, by pandering to the interests of 18-35 year olds, who account for most tickets and CD sales. And, the publishing industry today is driven by immediate concern to deliver viable products to marketplace. The glut of how-to books in our bookstores today is evidence that publishers are pandering to our practicality as well. It isn’t that artists no longer create works of high artistic value and integrity. Independent record labels, filmmakers, and publishing houses abound today. It’s just that the independents do not thrive, and they constitute a minuscule segment of the market. In the main, today’s real-estate developers, entertainment moguls, and publishing executives are concerned with practicality and profit, and not with artistic value and integrity.
Practicality is also the overriding concern in contemporary politics. Most politicians seem driven today by their interest in being elected and reelected – that is, in short-term survival – rather than by any sense of mission, or even obligation to their constituency or country. Diplomatic and legal maneuverings and negotiations often appear intended to meet the practical needs of the parties involved – minimizing costs, preserving options, and so forth. Those who would defend the speaker might claim that it is idealists – not pragmatists – who sway the masses, incite revolutions, and make political ideology reality. Consider idealists such as the America’s founders, or Mahatma Gandhi, or Martin Luther King. Had these idealists concerned themselves with short-term survival and immediate needs rather than with their notions of an ideal society, the United States and India might still be British colonies, and African Americans might still be relegated to the backs of buses. Although I concede this point, the plain fact is that such idealists are far fewer in number today.
On the other hand, the claim amounts to an overstatement when it comes to today’s scientific endeavors. In medicine the most common procedures today are cosmetic; these procedures strike me as highly impractical, given the health risks and expense involved. Admittedly, today’s digital revolution serves a host of practical concerns, such as communicating and accessing information more quickly and efficiently. Much of chemical research is also aimed at practicality – at providing convenience enhancing our immediate comfort. Yet, in many other respects scientific research is not driven toward immediate practicality but rather toward broad, long-term objectives: public health, quality of life, and environmental protection.
In sum, practicality may be our idol today when it comes to education, the arts, and politics; but with respect to science I find the claim to be an unfair generalization. Finally, query whether the claim begs the question. After all, practicality amounts to far more than meeting immediate needs; it also embraces long-term planning and prevention aimed at ensuring our future quality of life, and our very survival as a species.