As far as patronage is concerned, it seems difficult to avoid the conclusion that all the arts are in pretty much the same condition today regardless of their separate developments and relative prosperities. This condition may be characterized as an inversion of John Kenneth Galbraith’s famous (if not notorious) formulation about the state of American society in the late 1950s. For Professor Galbraith, America was then a land of private opulence and public squalor. For us today the arts in America are in a condition of public opulence and private decrepitude.

Clearly such a position does not represent the received wisdom. According to this quintessential distillation of past error, present self-service, and future illusion, the United States is the last haven of the private sector in culture. This supposed reality is pointed to with pride by conservative partisans of our democratic capitalistic society, but scorned by those...

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