The Waning of the Public and Privatithing [sic]

| February 23, 2011

Roderick’s mention of Henry Giroux’s article Youth, higher education and the crisis of the public time: educated hope and the possibility of a democratic future from Social Identities is duly noted.   Earlier, I had posted on a book on the corporatization of art and privatization of culture.  I am bemused however, by the the Borgheses and the Medicis who privately patronized some of the greatest works of art.  Giroux needs more to counter my amusement than referring to the Benozzo Gozzoli fresco of the Three Wise Men as a statistical outlier in middle Renaissance art.

Far from apathetic, I am keenly aware of the immense loss to the public should the invisible (and the many visible) hand that props up the “public” go limp.   After all, I am, and have been an avid listener of NPR for over a decade, and Masterpiece on PBS’s Sunday program is appreciated.  But I do wonder, to whom these “services” reach.   Americans have long held a deep suspicion of the “public”, but on other hand, this is precisely what prompts the daring few into charting out new territory and calling it their own, distinct from the rest.  The Duponts and the Carnegies carved out their own in chemicals and steel.  Even they realized that the public will benefit in the end, and the public certainly did.

I have good reasons to liken such a web of phenomena to a Nash non-cooperative game in which each is attempting to maximize its own payoff.  I am aware that there are loci of fixed points that are suicidal, but on the whole, I feel my confidence in the system working out of its own Golgotha is justified by history.  Maybe the academicians should broaden Smith’s “invisible hand” to include the Federal Government, should everything else fails – we are living in such a time, and recent history attests to that not so “invisible hand”.