What does a twenty-year-old article tell us about conservatives?

Plenty.

The National Endowment for the Arts (NEA) “is an independent federal agency that funds, promotes, and strengthens the creative capacity of our communities by providing all Americans with diverse opportunities for arts participation.” The NEA “works with other federal agencies, state and local governments, state and regional arts agencies, and private nonprofits on national initiatives.” NEA funding “is project-based and goes to thousands of nonprofits each year, along with partnerships and special arts initiatives, research and other support that contribute to the vitality of our neighborhoods, students and schools, workplace and culture.” In fiscal year 2016, “the NEA recommended more than 2,400 grants in nearly 16,000 communities in every Congressional District in the country.” Its budget for fiscal year 2017 (which ended on Sept. 30, 2018) was about $153 million.

Although the NEA was established in 1965, most Americans probably never heard of the agency until the late 1980s when it was revealed that it had funded blasphemous and pornographic art like the photograph “Piss Christ” by Andres Serrano that depicted a small plastic crucifix submerged in a glass tank of the artist’s urine and the self-portrait photograph of Robert Mapplethorpe with a bullwhip inserted in his anus.

I recently came across an article written in 1997 by a conservative and published by the Heritage Foundation, a conservative think tank. In “Ten Good Reasons to Eliminate Funding for the National Endowment for the Arts,” Laurence Jarvik gave ten reasons to eliminate funding for the National Endowment for Arts:

  • Reason #1: The Arts Will Have More Than Enough Support without the NEA
  • Reason #2: The NEA Is Welfare for Cultural Elitists
  • Reason #3: The NEA Discourages Charitable Gifts to the Arts
  • Reason #4: The NEA Lowers the Quality of American Art
  • Reason #5: The NEA Will Continue to Fund Pornography
  • Reason #6: The NEA Promotes Politically Correct Art
  • Reason #7: The NEA Wastes Resources
  • Reason #8: The NEA Is Beyond Reform
  • Reason #9: Abolishing the NEA Will Prove to the American Public that Congress Is Willing to Eliminate Wasteful Spending
  • Reason #10: Funding the NEA Disturbs the U.S. Tradition of Limited Government

Although these things are all true, and although Jarvik nicely supported each reason with relevant facts and figures, they are not good reasons to eliminate funding for the NEA.

Jarvik’s ten reasons inadvertently reveal what is wrong with conservatives.

Suppose the arts would not have enough support without the NEA. Suppose the NEA did not just benefit cultural elitists. Suppose the NEA did not discou