How do all you libertarians out there feel about cultural exchange programs? I know you don’t like government funding of the arts, but can this count as a legitimate tool of foreign policy? I am willing to favor these programs if they are applied in a revenue-neutral manner. American libraries abroad and musical performance exports have carried ideas of liberty and free expression across the world. Furthermore the arts programs themselves tend to be vital and customer-oriented, albeit for propagandistic motives.
But sadly cultural exchanges have been sinking in scope and importance:
…a new study, “Cultural Diplomacy: Recommendations and Research,” concludes that U.S. cultural diplomacy — the notion that by exporting American artists, we burnish our image around the world — has become a neglected facet of foreign and domestic policy, too.
Beginning in 2002, the Washington, D.C.-based Center for Arts and Culture, working with the Coalition for American Leadership Abroad, also headquartered in the nation’s capital, set out to assess the state of cultural exchanges. The study was published in July.
And the bottom line: “The annual number of academic and cultural exchanges has dropped from 45,000 in 1995 to 29,000 in 2001.” This means that far fewer American artists, including performing artists, are being given chances to ply their crafts on foreign soil. The study presumes that those figures have decreased even further in recent years.