Concert pianist James Rhodes on the nobility of his lifestyle: I went a little extreme – no income for five years, six hours a day of intense practice, monthly four-day long lessons with a brilliant and psychopathic teacher in Verona, a hunger for something that was so necessary it cost me my marriage, nine months in a mental hospital, most of my dignity and about 35lbs in weight. … My life involves endless hours of repetitive and frustrating practising, lonely hotel rooms, dodgy pianos, aggressively bitchy reviews, isolation, confusing airline reward programmes, physiotherapy, …
Why not earn the minimum amount of money necessary to prevent starvation while you are at it? What I am trying to establish is whether you don't care about status (or self actualisation) at all, or you are being selective).
Assuming I cared about that, it sounds like a zero sum game. If my nation gets more cultured, it will raise the standard, and some other nation will now look like a cultureless barbarian in comparison. I'm certainly not willing to pay money to change the pecking order. Besides, this way I can laugh at foreigners and call them overly-cultured snobs.
Why not just enjoy the more blunt things in life? That is, why not just enjoy the things I don't need training to enjoy.
> . Besides, why should I care what's high status?
If you are anything like most people, you don't want foreigners sneering that your nation is a bunch of cultureless barnarians.
> How will getting an education in art pay off?
In the sense that money isn't a terminal value. If you learn to appreciate the finer things in life AND learn how to make money, you will be able to spend the money you make on the finer things in life, instead of putting into a pile and looking at it.
I research to see if there's any good treatments of depression that he hasn't tried. If there are, I suggest he try them first. If not, I tell him to go for it.
Back to your point: If classical music is so inspirational, why won't people pay for it? Pop music isn't exactly hard for money.
Come to think of it, the problem is probably that we're subsidizing it. People would pay for it, on a smaller scale. Sort of like how we'd still grow corn if we didn't subsidize it, just less of it.
Why do we subsidize education?
I'm actually against subsidizing education, but I'm willing to pay for education because it's an investment that will pay off. How will getting an education in art pay off?
1. I don't like the idea of the government taking my money just to show something is high status. Besides, why should I care what's high status?
2. Lots of things are fun. Should the government subsidize video games? Fun is important, but it's not something you have to be altruistic to do. People do fun for it's own sake.
"Look folks, all this "altruism" stuff has to bottom out eventually"
It will, but we're nowhere near that. More accurately, we personally are nowhere near that. There are people that are poor enough that the best thing they can do is help themselves. We can worry about that when we get there.
Art and music SHOULD be a part of education. We subsidize every other part of education.
Even at the margin, other things no doubt can seem more important. I don't think failure to consider value at the margin is Luke Muehlhauser's fallacy, which actually involves the standard oversimplifications of rationalistic technocracy:
1. Only crediting what can be measured;
2. Extreme political naivete (total lack of understanding of the left-right political dimension ( http://tinyurl.com/6pt9eq5 )).
On the second, the way to defend spending on "more valuable things" isn't to support cuts to spending on the arts. The same coalitions that want to cut one want to cut the other: for example, general spending on education.
Those who favor further reducing the status of unemployed workers favor reducing unemployment benefits (and the other way around).
[...] government subsidies serve to signal which activities we consider high-status.
More accurately, they serve to signal which activities State bureaucrats either personally prefer or think will get them more votes or more power.
(This may, of course, relate to what "we" evaluate as high-status, but it's not isomorphic.)
The State is not "us".
"government subsidies serve to signal which activities we consider high-status"
I didn't know unemployment was considered high-status.
"Me, I can admire his dedication, but I can’t see much net social value from subsidizing his favored art over others, via money or status, or even from so subsidizing art in general."
What do you tell a depressed person who asks you for a reason not to commit suicide? Do you tell him he should continue to live so he can accumulate wealth for the sake of accumulating wealth, or do you try to inspire him with tales of exploration, passion and triumph? Human beings want a purpose in their lives, something to inspire them to get out of bed and work hard for relatively meagre pay. I mean why innovate to lengthen life if you feel there's no purpose to life, no inspiration? You can't just assume life being intrinsically precious and "worth it", in practice people struggle with it because in the end it doesn't follow from the laws of physics. Things like manned space programs and the arts exist largely to inspire people.
I can see how art music composing might accumulate, being attentive to building on its past. I just can't see how playing it so builds. Can we really be getting better overall at playing 300 year old music?
Isn't it obvious that a culture that values playing good music will be apt to be one that values composing it? If society invests in teaching music to youth, it will probably produce more players and more composers. It seems folly to micromanage the kind of musical activities, playing or composing, that you subsidize. Society may commit to "good" music or not; it can't effectively commit to composition but not to playing. They would seem to comprise too organic a whole for your near-mode analysis.
I wonder if Robin actually knows anything about music. I don't, yet I think the claim that music doesn't "accumulate" is suspect, in that music "develops." For example, commenters note that classical music 300 years ago prepared the way for (arguably) better music 150-200 years ago.