It’s not “sticker shock” when it’s someone else’s money

The N&O discusses another public-art project in Chapel Hill:

Glass and light artist Ray King has spent five years on his latest project. … King completed his piece, “Eddies of Light,” this week at the new Chapel Hill Aquatic Center in Homestead Community Park off Homestead Road. The glass cylinders set into the floor of the sunlit main lobby reflect color to mimic the appearance of walking on light. The $55,000 project was funded in part through the town of Chapel Hill’s Percent for Art Ordinance, which allocates 1 percent of selected capital projects for public art.

“It’s a democratic artwork. Everybody is going to come in, and they’re all going to walk across the floor,” King said. “Just by moving, you’re going to experience art.”

Chapel Hill is one of three North Carolina municipalities with percent-for-art ordinances. Charlotte and Asheville are the others, said Jeffrey York, the town’s public arts administrator. …

King, who is from Philadelphia, has worked on public art projects in New York, Alaska, Florida and other states. He said he has seen the difference it can make in a community.

“People start to recognize the design and quality and how they see the town changes,” he said. “It adds to the cultural network of the town. Art shouldn’t be elitist, and it’s not a mystery.

“Once you get past sticker shock, you find it’s worth it more and more,” he said.

Really expensive “democratic artwork” (there’s a wonderful euphemism for you) doesn’t give citizens “sticker shock.” For someone to experience sticker shock, he must be the one making the choice to buy with his own money.

When town leaders use tax revenues for things over which reasonable citizens differ as to whether they are appropriate public expenditures, and those things are expensive, what the citizens — whose funding of those ideas is guaranteed via coercion — experience can’t be called sticker shock. Statist shock, perhaps, but not sticker shock.

Jon Sanders / Research Editor and Senior Fellow, Regulatory Studies

Jon Sanders studies regulatory policy, a veritable kudzu of invasive government and unintended consequences. As director of regulatory studies at the John Locke Foundation, Jo...