A German vs. American per capita arts funding comparison.

January 7, 2002

I made some calculations to see what it would cost the US government to support the same number of 52 week season opera houses per capita as Germany.

There are 80 such houses in Germany for a population of 85 million. Since the USA has 280 million residents that would make 263 opera houses. Let's assume these houses would be subsidized at a very generous 30 million dollars each. (To that would be added to money from ticket sales and other sources.)

The total subsidy budget for 263 houses would be 7.89 billion. 

That is only 2.4 % of the military's annual budget of 329 billion. 

If we started with only half as many houses as Germany (130 houses lavishly funded at 30 million each) the cost would only be 1.2% of the military's budget. 

Try to imagine 130 American cities with lavishly funded 52 week season opera houses (as opposed to the *one* 52 week season house that we have now -- the Met.). Then consider that it would cost only 1.2% of the military's annual budget.

European levels of culture in America are easily realizable. Instead of opera houses, the funding could also be used for other more American forms of intelligent cultural expression.

One other thought. In American society as a whole, isn't the military gendered as masculine and the arts as feminine? Does the 3290 to 1 ratio in military vs. arts funding tell us something?

William Osborne