Every time there are budget cuts to the arts, I hear the same figure bandied about: every dollar of spending on culture yields seventeen dollars in economic benefits. That’s a hefty return on investment and I have to wonder about the wisdom of the recent reductions in the budgets of the CBC (Canada’s public broadcaster) and the National Film Board. Our economist prime minister and his right-wing thugs seem hellbent on slashing cultural funding despite the billions that the arts inject into the Canadian economy.
Since I lack the knowledge to crunch the numbers, I have to trust the experts’ figures, but I can share anecdotal evidence from my personal experience. Yesterday, John came home with a book of short stories by Mavis Gallant. He picked it up at a bookstore on Bloor after listening to a CBC Radio documentary about the prolific Canadian writer. This got me to thinking about my own recent non-fiction reading, which has been largely influenced by CBC Radio. John recommended Martin Lindstrom’s Brandwashed after hearing about it on CBC. I also read Christian Lander’s Stuff White People Like because the author was interviewed on CBC and I have Charles Duhigg’s The Power of Habit on my reading list for the same reason.
When you think about it, a staggering number of people are kept employed because John and I buy or borrow from the library the books we hear about on CBC Radio. This number includes librarians, publicists, the RIM engineers who designed my Blackberry PlayBook, bookstore owners, managers and clerks, and the mail carriers who deliver my albeit infrequent online orders. Suddenly that one-to-seventeen ratio begins to make sense and it doesn’t take a Ph.D to see that arts spending is an excellent investment.