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Quotation of the Day…

… is the closing paragraph, on page 262, of Joseph Epstein’s insightful 1993 essay “Culture and Capitalism,” as this essay is reprinted in Epstein’s 2014 collection, A Literary Education and Other Essays:

I love art; apart from family and friends, nothing in life is so important to me; and I am grateful to have been able to arrange my life so that I can spend a greater part of it than most people indulging myself in the splendors and delights of others’ artistic production. But however necessary to some of us art remains, it is well to remember that, in the larger perspective, art is a luxury – the luxury of luxuries – and one that is only earned by societies that, in the fundamental sense of the phrase, first take care of business.

DBx: The production of art requires scarce resources. Not the least of these resources – but not the only of these resources – is human time, effort, and creativity. And to enjoy and appreciate art requires leisure and the absence of pressing concerns such as the need to find food to feed your starving children.

As Tyler Cowen explains and documents beautifully in his 1998 book, In Praise of Commercial Culture – and as Joseph Epstein in this essay also notes – free markets promote both the creation and the sharing of great art. The state, in contrast, not so much – even if the state is championed and staffed by individuals who fancy themselves to be especially enlightened and progressive.

True, free markets promote also the creation and sharing of what many who appreciate as great art regard as bad art – often “art” that is regarded by aficionados as not art at all. Yet this latter “art” – whatever your, my, or historys opinion of it – is an unavoidable by-product of the competitive, creative, and open-ended process of the artistic experimentation that brings to us good and great art. Criticizing markets for producing “bad” art makes no more sense than does criticizing markets for producing New Coke or the Apple Newton.