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Lauding Commercial Culture

Here’s a letter to the New York Post:

In “The art of free markets” (April 11), you rightly applaud Leonard Lauder’s gift of cubist art to the Met.  But such philanthropy is not the chief means by which free markets promote the arts.

Free markets greatly expand the availability of the leisure that is necessary for both the creation and enjoyment of art.  Perhaps even more importantly, though, as my colleague Tyler Cowen documents in his book In Praise of Commercial Culture, free markets also create a diverse range of high-quality, affordable media on which art is fashioned and through which it is shared widely with the public.

For example, it’s only because of market-generated recording studios and consumer electronics that nearly every denizen of capitalist economies today can listen – whenever, wherever, and how ever often he or she pleases (and in high-quality stereo) – to some of history’s finest performances of Handel’s oratorios, Beethoven’s symphonies, Verdi’s operas, and Gershwin’s musicals.  Think about it: without these free-market wonders, only a minuscule number of human beings – and no one born after the mid-1950s! – would ever have heard music performed by The Beatles.

Art – its production, promulgation, and preservation – owes vastly more to free markets than most people, including most artists, realize.

Donald J. Boudreaux
Professor of Economics
Martha and Nelson Getchell Chair for the Study of Free Market Capitalism at the Mercatus Center
George Mason University
Fairfax, VA  22030