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Cultural Goods and Cultural Welfare

Cultural Goods and Cultural Welfare Some Praxeological and Proprietarian Notes

The core intellectual conundrum that fuels the present essay is the following: is culture a product made in “free markets” or a “public good” to be provided by the state – allegedly the only societal institution able to grant individuals the collective means for bundling cultural values, for breeding cultural capital, and for maintaining sustainable cultural behaviour? The answers diverge culturally: from laissez-faire French harmonists to Marxist or Maoist communists, from cosmopolitan libertarians to nationalist autarkists, from old-school conservatives to politically-correct progressives, from Maecenas-entrepreneurs to sacrosanct bureaucrats, from freelance, self-contained artists to publicly-subsidized, politically-connected spoiled artificers.

The economists acknowledge the dual view of culture: anthropological (viz., “shared attitudes, beliefs, customs, traditions, values, and practices”) and artefactual (viz., “cultural goods / organizations / industries / sectors”). They see that both economy and economics display the profound imprints of culture: the material substance upon which spiritual symbols are imprinted is scarce, while scientific truth is often discounted through value judgments. Still, a hardly deniable feature of economic analysis, to be processed / professed, is that societal workings are always “property rights-sensitive”, irrespective of the cultural background of the observers, as well as of the observed. By virtue of being mine, yours, ours or theirs, culture is property.

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OEconomica No. 1, 2016