How many full artistic scholarships are given out by Notre Dame University every year? If one were to compare the economic spin-off from the arts to sports in New York City I bet you'd find that New York could survive the loss of its professional sports teams a lot easier than the loss of its professional arts institutes.
It has been said that in times of oppression that the first thing closed are the theatres, and after that the intellectuals are rounded up. The governments who are oppressive are afraid of venues and people who are capable of expressing thoughts that challenge the status quo.
In the nineteenth century, riots used to break out at operas because they were the first theatre that included common people as more than just comic relief or secondary characters. The Barber of Seville was considered incendiary because it showed the mistreatment of a regular person by the aristocracy. It was feared it would give people ideas above their station.
Nowadays governments do not move overtly against the arts or intellect; instead they plant the seeds of disquiet against them through their attitudes and snide remarks. How many times have you heard a pro-government voice make snide remarks about eggheads? They play on people's schoolground prejudice against the smart kid, and do their best to make them seem different and therefore dismissible.
In their ideal form, the arts should hold a mirror up to society to allow us to take a good look at ourselves. They encourage you to think and form your own opinion. In this day and age, can you think of anything that would frighten governments that are so concerned with spin-doctoring more than people who are prepared to form their own opinions?
Artistic expression and creativity have been a natural means for humans to express their awe and wonder at the world around them since we first climbed up onto two legs. Look at the cave paintings and pictographs that have been found throughout the world for proof of that.
Without creativity and intellect, our development would have stagnated countless generations ago, yet in North America we are conditioned from an early age to look upon both those traits with suspicion. I don't think there's some government plot that created those feelings; they have been ingrained for far too long for the current crop of politicians on either side of the border to take the blame for this attitude. However, that does not mean they won't perpetuate those feelings, and take full advantage of them to fulfill their agendas.