Monday, March 14, 2005

Libertarians Say: Privatize Virginia Fine Arts Museum

It seems that I (and six other LP candidates for the General Assembly) suggested way back in 1993 that the Virginia Museum of Fine Arts should be privatized, along with several other museums, libraries, and cultural institutions that suck money from the taxpayers.

Still, it is good to see that someone, even if it is only the leadership of the Libertarian Party of Virginia, is keeping an eye on the state budget for cuts that the House of Delegates and state Senate avoid.

Here's the text of a news release from the LPVA's communications director:


Privatize the Virginia Museum of Fine Arts, state party says

RICHMOND, VA - Libertarians have found another $15 million in the state budget that should be eliminated.

"The Virginia Museum of Fine Arts is yet another program that could be handled better by the private sector," comments Steve Damerell, Chairman of the Libertarian Party of Virginia. "This represents a biennial savings of $15 million to taxpayers."

The Virginia Museum of Fine Arts is a state-supported, privately endowed educational institution created for the benefit of the citizens of the Commonwealth of Virginia. Its purpose is to collect, preserve, exhibit and interpret art, and to encourage the study of the arts.

According to the VMFA's Annual Report (2003-04), individuals gave $6.4 million in gifts to VMFA Foundation for 2003-04, an increase of $1.2 million over 2002-03. Another $3 million came from corporations, foundations and other non-governmental orginizations. Total attendance at VMFA events and galleries increased by 32% to 359,743 attendees in 2003-04. "With significantly increasing donations and attendance, it is clear the private sector could support the VMFA," notes Damerell.

Critics of privitization argue that because of increased fees, the museum would serve fewer people. Libertarians disagree. Damerell notes, "If privatized, the museum would have a greater incentive to keep costs down and expand its membership. More people would be served, not less."

Privitization would also decrease the tax burden on Virginians. Damerell observes, "Lower taxes mean that people will have to work less to fund the government. They will have more time and money to spend on cultural activities like the VMFA."

Even Communist China has realized museum privatization is the best way to preserve history. In 2002, China amended its Cultural Relics Law to allow private ownership. In less than a year, there were over 1,000 new private museums and a thriving trade in relics.

Damerell concludes, "Communist China, after decades of oppression and suffering, finally understands that private, market-based institutions are better than government-supported institutions. It is a sad commentary that Virginia's politicians do not understand this."

One must wonder, however: Why did the LPVA distribute this news release after the General Assembly adjourned, therefore losing any chance of having an impact on deliberations on the state budget in Richmond?

In politics, as in comedy, timing is everything. Not that there is much of a difference between the two.

1 comment:

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