In this issue

Jonathan Tobin: Defending the Right to a Jewish State

Heather Hale: Compliment your kids without giving them big heads

Megan Shauri: 10 ways you are ruining your own happiness

Carolyn Bigda: 8 Best Dividend Stocks for 2015

Kiplinger's Personal Finance editors: 7 Things You Didn't Know About Paying Off Student Loans

Samantha Olson: The Crucial Mistake 55% Of Parents Are Making At Their Baby's Bedtime

Densie Well, Ph.D., R.D. Open your eyes to yellow vegetables

The Kosher Gourmet by Megan Gordon With its colorful cache of purples and oranges and reds, COLLARD GREEN SLAW is a marvelous mood booster --- not to mention just downright delish
April 18, 2014

Rabbi Yonason Goldson: Clarifying one of the greatest philosophical conundrums in theology

Caroline B. Glick: The disappearance of US will

Megan Wallgren: 10 things I've learned from my teenagers

Lizette Borreli: Green Tea Boosts Brain Power, May Help Treat Dementia

John Ericson: Trying hard to be 'positive' but never succeeding? Blame Your Brain

The Kosher Gourmet by Julie Rothman Almondy, flourless torta del re (Italian king's cake), has royal roots, is simple to make, . . . but devour it because it's simply delicious

April 14, 2014

Rabbi Dr Naftali Brawer: Passover frees us from the tyranny of time

Greg Crosby: Passing Over Religion

Eric Schulzke: First degree: How America really recovered from a murder epidemic

Georgia Lee: When love is not enough: Teaching your kids about the realities of adult relationships

Cameron Huddleston: Freebies for Your Lawn and Garden

Gordon Pape: How you can tell if your financial adviser is setting you up for potential ruin

Dana Dovey: Up to 500,000 people die each year from hepatitis C-related liver disease. New Treatment Has Over 90% Success Rate

Justin Caba: Eating Watermelon Can Help Control High Blood Pressure

The Kosher Gourmet by Joshua E. London and Lou Marmon Don't dare pass over these Pesach picks for Manischewitz!

April 11, 2014

Rabbi Hillel Goldberg: Silence is much more than golden

Caroline B. Glick: Forgetting freedom at Passover

Susan Swann: How to value a child for who he is, not just what he does

Cameron Huddleston: 7 Financial Tasks You Should Tackle Right Now

Sandra Block and Lisa Gerstner: How to Profit From Your Passion

Susan Scutti: A Simple Blood Test Might Soon Diagnose Cancer

Chris Weller: Have A Slow Metabolism? Let Science Speed It Up For You

The Kosher Gourmet by Diane Rossen Worthington Whitefish Terrine: A French take on gefilte fish

April 9, 2014

Jonathan Tobin: Why Did Kerry Lie About Israeli Blame?

Samuel G. Freedman: A resolution 70 years later for a father's unsettling legacy of ashes from Dachau

Jessica Ivins: A resolution 70 years later for a father's unsettling legacy of ashes from Dachau

Kim Giles: Asking for help is not weakness

Kathy Kristof and Barbara Hoch Marcus: 7 Great Growth Israeli Stocks

Matthew Mientka: How Beans, Peas, And Chickpeas Cleanse Bad Cholesterol and Lowers Risk of Heart Disease

Sabrina Bachai: 5 At-Home Treatments For Headaches

The Kosher Gourmet by Daniel Neman Have yourself a matzo ball: The secrets bubby never told you and recipes she could have never imagined

April 8, 2014

Lori Nawyn: At Your Wit's End and Back: Finding Peace

Susan B. Garland and Rachel L. Sheedy: Strategies Married Couples Can Use to Boost Benefits

David Muhlbaum: Smart Tax Deductions Non-Itemizers Can Claim

Jill Weisenberger, M.S., R.D.N., C.D.E : Before You Lose Your Mental Edge

Dana Dovey: Coffee Drinkers Rejoice! Your Cup Of Joe Can Prevent Death From Liver Disease

Chris Weller: Electric 'Thinking Cap' Puts Your Brain Power Into High Gear

The Kosher Gourmet by Marlene Parrish A gift of hazelnuts keeps giving --- for a variety of nutty recipes: Entree, side, soup, dessert

April 4, 2014

Rabbi David Gutterman: The Word for Nothing Means Everything

Charles Krauthammer: Kerry's folly, Chapter 3

Amy Peterson: A life of love: How to build lasting relationships with your children

John Ericson: Older Women: Save Your Heart, Prevent Stroke Don't Drink Diet

John Ericson: Why 50 million Americans will still have spring allergies after taking meds

Cameron Huddleston: Best and Worst Buys of April 2014

Stacy Rapacon: Great Mutual Funds for Young Investors

Sarah Boesveld: Teacher keeps promise to mail thousands of former students letters written by their past selves

The Kosher Gourmet by Sharon Thompson Anyone can make a salad, you say. But can they make a great salad? (SECRETS, TESTED TECHNIQUES + 4 RECIPES, INCLUDING DRESSINGS)

April 2, 2014

Paul Greenberg: Death and joy in the spring

Dan Barry: Should South Carolina Jews be forced to maintain this chimney built by Germans serving the Nazis?

Mayra Bitsko: Save me! An alien took over my child's personality

Frank Clayton: Get happy: 20 scientifically proven happiness activities

Susan Scutti: It's Genetic! Obesity and the 'Carb Breakdown' Gene

Lecia Bushak: Why Hand Sanitizer May Actually Harm Your Health

Stacy Rapacon: Great Funds You Can Own for $500 or Less

Cameron Huddleston: 7 Ways to Save on Home Decor

The Kosher Gourmet by Steve Petusevsky Exploring ingredients as edible-stuffed containers (TWO RECIPES + TIPS & TECHINQUES)

Jewish World Review Feb. 9, 2009 / 15 Shevat 5769

No arts czar, please, we're American

By Jeff Jacoby

Jeff Jacoby
Printer Friendly Version
Email this article

http://www.JewishWorldReview.com | There is nothing new under the sun, says the Good Book, and the plea for a Cabinet-level secretary of arts and culture is no exception.

That plea came recently from composer-producer Quincy Jones, who has long wanted the United States to establish a national ministry of culture akin to those in Italy, Germany, or France. "The next conversation I have with President Obama is to beg for a secretary of arts," he said in a radio interview shortly after the presidential election. Culture and the arts are "just as important as military defense," Jones argues, and a federal arts czar can ensure that American students learn something of their cultural roots. "Every country can be defined through their food, their music, and their language," he told NPR last month. "That's the soul of a country."

Jones's call has been taken up by jazz musician Herbie Hancock, who has not only lobbied Obama on the need for a secretary of culture, but offered to fill the position, and by New York musicians Jaime Austria and Peter Weitzner, whose online petition endorsing the idea has been signed by more than 228,000 people. The president hasn't taken a stand, but supporters are expectant. In his campaign arts platform, after all, he and Joe Biden were described as "champions of arts and culture." Surely, they hope, a president who is a best-selling author — and who totes an iPod containing "a lot of Coltrane, a lot of Miles Davis, a lot of Charlie Parker" — will embrace the idea of a high-ranking arts czar.

But the case for a national cultural overseer is no better today than it was 50 years ago, "in the early and artistically optimistic days of the Kennedy administration," as Harper's editor Russell Lynes wrote at the time, when "there was a good deal of enthusiastic talk about a Cabinet post for a minister of culture."

The idea went nowhere then, just as it had gone nowhere a decade earlier, when the president of the American Federation of Musicians insisted that only a federal Department of the Arts could lift American culture from its "sad and declining estate." Or even earlier, when the muralist George Biddle, who headed the War Department's Art Advisory Committee during World War II, was urging fellow artists to support a strong federal role in the arts. One prominent artist, the realist painter John French Sloan, replied scornfully: "Sure, it would be fine to have a Ministry of the Fine Arts in this country. Then we'd know where the enemy is."

That was putting it strongly, but Sloan had the right instinct.

Culture and art at their best are potent wellsprings of meaning and insight. With their power to illuminate, motivate, or elucidate, the arts are indispensable to the nation's intellectual life. They mold our understanding of ourselves; they shape, at least in part, our perception of the world around us; they communicate — or they challenge — our deepest values. No sensible person could deny the importance of art and culture to the American experience.

Which is exactly why they shouldn't be entangled with government. A ministry of culture has no place in a society committed to liberty of conscience and a robust marketplace of ideas. Like religion, the arts are best left government-free. The state should no more be entrusted with making artistic judgments than with making theological ones — there is no place in our system for a ministry of religion, either. Of course religion is profoundly important — the Framers repeatedly called it indispensable to the success of American democracy — but importance alone is no justification for government involvement.

"I yield to no one in my belief that the arts need all the support they can get, but some kinds of support make trouble," wrote Lynes, who in addition to editing Harper's was a highly regarded art historian and Renaissance man. "The less the arts have to do with our political processes, I believe, the healthier they will be, the more respected, the more important to Americans, and the more productive."

Quincy Jones may be right in pointing to food, music, and language as the essence of any nation's culture. But no food czar is charged with defining or promoting American cuisine, and there is no Secretary of Language to coordinate American idioms and grammar. In all their democratic splendor and variety, American gastronomy and American English flourish without centralized supervision from Washington. So do American arts and culture. The art world has its problems, but too little government isn't one of them. If the president truly wants to be a "champion of arts and culture," the best thing he can do for them is nothing at all.

Every weekday JewishWorldReview.com publishes what many in the media and Washington consider "must-reading". Sign up for the daily JWR update. It's free. Just click here.

Jeff Jacoby is a Boston Globe columnist. Comment by clicking here.

Jeff Jacoby Archives

© 2006, Boston Globe