by Simon Black
February 28, 2012
[Editor’s note: Tim Price, a frequent Sovereign Man contributor and Director of Investment at PFP Wealth Management in London, is filling in for Simon today.]
In December last year, the poet Alice Oswald withdrew from the TS Eliot poetry prize on the grounds that the prize was being sponsored by an investment company (Aurum, a fund of hedge funds manager).
How you feel about this principled stance may depend on whether you are a UK taxpayer. If you are a UK taxpayer, you will probably feel relieved that your tax pounds are no longer being squandered on the Arts Council’s sponsorship of the prize in question “a tiny victory” but a victory nevertheless against the arrogant dissipations of the state.
Ms Oswald seems to believe that poetry prizes should be funded with everybody else’s money, rather than by a private patron grown-up enough to be responsible for its discretionary expenditure (private patronage being what you might call “traditional” in the arts).
As a graduate in English Language and Literature, this commentator has no animus against poets. But I am not sure we want them in charge of the economy. They are notorious for starving in garrets for a reason.
Ms Oswald’s “protest” is part of a wider intellectual malaise that lazily conflates government spending with the real economy and which conveniently ignores the fact that without a flourishing private sector, there would be no government and certainly no government spending to speak of.
It is part of that lazy thinking that inspires journalists to keep speaking of “the government” spending money on this or that, as if “the government” were somehow sitting on an infinitely large pile of “government money” that most of the time it was unreasonably withholding from worthy causes.