Why John Blundell is wrong about art subsidies

Response to Blundell's Capitalist Manifesto Against UK Poverty last week

Sir –We read with interest John Blundell’s article “A business manifesto to make poverty history” (26/27 February), where he refers to the Arts Council as “another example of poor people being creamed to help rich people enjoy the opera or ballet or theatre”.

Whilst it is true that we provide subsidies for opera, ballet and theatre, one look at the range of projects we fund, and have funded in past years, will demonstrate our commitment to supporting arts projects which promote art in the community, social inclusion, and which bring the arts to people who do not normally have access to them.

This includes funding for everything from reading groups in prisons to local brass bands, and we have worked in partnership with groups such as the Youth Justice Board to find ways of reaching as wide an audience as possible for the arts.

We neither “ignore” nor “harm” the poor. And we would be happy to show John around our Westminster building to prove to him that it is far from being a “palace”.

Peter Hewitt

Chief Executive

Arts Council

London

Sir –John Blundell’s manifesto to make poverty history understands economic issues very well. However, he fails to appreciate the moral, psychological underpinnings of so-called welfare; imputing altruism to people who are as selfish as anyone else.

Many affluent people experience unearned guilt at the very fact poor people exist – and always will. Such sentiments tacitly admit their money was either stolen or inherited – not earned. And yet the latter is no real reason to feel guilt since one has no control over one’s birth circumstances and so no reason to experience Original Sin concerning money.

This guilt conflicts with the idea that it benefits the affluent to have a large pool of manual workers to choose from – the poor. They work for them yet lack the education to compete with them for traditionally middle-class, professional jobs. This makes it inevitable that the poor will always need to work for the middle-class; this keeps them poor since their employers will always try to maximise their own incomes by minimising pay-rates.

For the middle class to successfully educate the poor would mean (they think) their own middle-class offspring having to face greater competition for always-scarce professional jobs. No middle-class parents (eg teachers) are ever going to do this because they aren’t educated enough t