Thinking about the economy can be rather depressing. For many people, it can seem like a volatile god: a mysterious force that affects everything and we mere mortals have no control over its whims.
Let’s start with a basic idea of what I mean when I write about “the economy.”
Economic analysis is often an attempt to make the complex world of interconnectedness more comprehensible by quantifying everything, usually through monetization. In other words, the world is complicated so we make charts.
The “economy” is everything that happens. Economics is a (left-brained) method of analyzing everything that happens, and it’s mostly focused on measuring everything in dollars and euros.
This focus on monetization is problematic for the arts because the value of artistic products is not always calculable by how much it cost to make them or by how much people are willing to pay for them. In fact, we often strive for the opposite—to give away the arts for free and know that they are priceless.
The subversive tack accepts economics for the way it is and uses the system to our advantage. In order to do that, we need to know the basic principles and be able to speak the lingo: quantification.
The arts sector is getting much better at quantifying the value and impact of the arts. Here are three great examples:
- National Endowment for the Arts report on arts education
- The Otis Report on the Creative Economy of the Los Angeles Region
- The Cultural Data Project
I took my first economics class in graduate school. I had no idea what to expect. As it turns out, the heart of economics can be summed up in a phrase: “supply and demand.” This is something we already understand in the arts. Read the rest of this entry »