I write to applaud Sen. Vincent Sheheen, Rep. James Smith, and Sen. Joel Lourie for leading the call to override the recent veto by Governor Haley of arts funding in South Carolina. This veto is unprincipled, unsupported by evidence, and does not reflect any principle of government that any reasonable person in the modern world understands as “core.”
Like literacy, a vital arts program is a social good, a good or service that benefits the greatest number of people in the greatest possible way. Contrary to the spin from Haley’s office, it is not the role, goal, or responsibility of the private sector to provide it.
As John Updike once wrote, “Whatever art offered the men and women of previous eras, what it offers our own, it seems to me is space – a certain breathing room for the spirit.” By defunding the South Carolina Arts Commission, Haley’s veto doesn’t offer breathing room to anyone. The arts provide not only experiences that produce inspired and creative citizens, but also preserve and cultivate the cultural heritage for all South Carolinians. Government ought to encourage personal and social engagement in the arts, not crush it by yanking out the funding mechanisms that make the arts possible.
In a recession, the costs of reduced arts funding in South Carolina and other states are greater than ever before, as entire segments of the population, especially children, young adults and lower income groups are denied life-changing experiences through art. It is these experiences that Haley’s veto will deny. The private sector has neither the obligation nor ability to fund the arts on any level that could possibly benefit the state as a whole. It is commendable when the private sector chooses to support arts-related causes through philanthropy, but it is not the private sector’s duty. Governor Haley is wrong.
The writer lives in Washington, D.C.