A CULTURE secretary from the Treasury – it is what John Maynard Keynes, the founder of the Arts Council, would have wanted.
That hasn’t been the mainstream reaction: Sajid Javid, newly-appointed to the Cabinet in the wake of Maria Miller’s departure, has been given a cool reception from arts quarters. A former banker, an economic policy wonk with no special interest in matters aesthetic – what sort of an ambassador for Britain’s culture is this?
Keynes saw it rather differently. The Arts Council began as an arm of the Treasury, at his request. The idea was simple: if you were going to do something as controversial as involve the state in funding art, the last thing you wanted was politicians getting involved. A corner of the Treasury was, he felt, just out of the way enough to prevent official interference. Politicians were qualified to distribute arts funding only if they could be trusted not to get involved. Continue reading
There are three lions on England’s coat of arms, but three lionesses have defended this nation’s traditional liberties and demonstrated its enduring greatness: Margaret Thatcher, Queen Victoria and Queen Elizabeth I. One of these iconic female leaders has just been honoured with a ceremonial funeral. But we often forget – or choose to ignore – how important freedom was to the success of all three. Continue reading
BLESSED with a wife born in America, Thanksgiving is a festival I am learning to celebrate. In grim economic times, it is easy to focus only the negative. But we still enjoy the rare good fortune to live, for the most part, in peace and under liberty. Freedoms of association, speech, trade, and faith enrich our lives every day. Albeit a day late, tonight I will be raising a thankful glass with my friends to these five blessings of our commercial society: Continue reading
COMMERCE and peace do best together. In her history of trade and culture in the Renaissance, Worldly Goods, Lisa Jardine points out that, within days of the fall of Constantinople in 1453, the Genoese sent ambassadors to negotiate their continued right to trade within the Ottoman Empire. The work that commerce still does today to encourage openness and mutual understanding across political and cultural boundaries remains vital. In the phrase often attributed to the French economist Frederic Bastiat, where goods do not cross borders, soldiers will. Continue reading