Wednesday, February 29, 2012

Kickstart the NEA Shutdown

Talking Points Memo has an interesting post about Kickstarter. If you haven't heard of Kickstarter before, here's a summary from Wikipedia:
One of a new set of fundraising platforms dubbed "crowdfunding", Kickstarter facilitates gathering monetary resources from the general public, a model which circumvents many traditional avenues of investment. People must apply to Kickstarter in order to have a project posted on the site, and Kickstarter provides guidelines on what types of projects will be accepted. Project owners choose a deadline and a target minimum of funds to raise. If the chosen target is not gathered by the deadline, no funds are collected...

Unlike many forums for fundraising or investment, Kickstarter claims no ownership over the projects and the work they produce. However, projects launched on the site are permanently archived and accessible to the public. After funding is completed, projects and uploaded media cannot be edited or removed from the site.

“Kickstarter can be used to fund projects from the creative fields of Art, Comics, Dance, Design, Fashion, Film, Food, Games, Music, Photography, Publishing, Technology, and Theater. We currently only support projects from these categories.” It seems that there could be opportunities to bring crowdfunding into other business fields as well.

I think the crowdfunding innovation is a benefit to society as a whole, and Kickstarter seems to be quite a success at it. Recently Kickstarter has had 3 projects raise over a million dollars, but the main point of the TPM post was that Kickstarter is on track to raise about $150 million this year which makes its funding total greater than the NEA.

That is fantastic on many levels!

First, that these projects get to be made enriches society. Second people chose which projects they wanted to donate to. Therefore, all these projects are just that... wanted. This is much more effecient than a panel of "experts" deciding who and what gets funded because it taps in to the Hayekian distributed knowledge. Third, it proves that the argument that important projects won't get fund without government assistance argument is wrong. Of course, some projects won't get funded. "54 percent of all projects launched on the website fail to reach their funding goals, according to Strickler, but the projects that are wanted and needed still would. Fourth, should a project that needs funding be morally objectionable to someone, they don't have to fund it. Every year people argue about some of the things the NEA funds because something or another upset their delicate sensibilities. In a voluntary system people can't complain about being forced to fund something they don't like.

For all of these reasons I was surprised to this article on TPM which usually leans to the left politcally. Then I saw this disappointing quote from the founder of Kickstarter about raising more money than the NEA: “But maybe it shouldn’t be that way,” Strickler said, “Maybe there’s a reason for the state to strongly support the arts.”

He might as well have said: "Maybe Kickstarter shouldn't be so successful. Maybe people should get the projects they want. Maybe people should be forced to fund things they don't like." Actually, I can think of two reasons "for the state to strongly support the arts". One is to create propaganda, and the other is to promote a particular agenda favorable to the state. Personally, I don't like either one.

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