Well this morning in the car, I had an idea. It's not a new idea. In fact, it's an old idea... a really, really old idea. And a slightly less old idea.
Follow my logic:
- In the Renaissance, artists were not expected to support themselves. They were supported by wealthy patrons, such as the Medici family that supported Da Vinci.
- In the current world, art organizations are not expected to support themselves--but artists still are. If we came up with a system of patronage, artists could life off of the donations of others the way that art organizations (who support many individuals).
- What would a system of patronage look like if we instituted it today?
- A single wealthy person supporting an artist is difficult to imagine. Medici might have had a personal painter/inventor/sculptor, but the idea of the Hiltons supporting Tony Kushner is ridiculous on the face of it.
- Corporations, originally, were started by a single wealthy backer, but that system didn't last very long. Rather than a single owner, today most organizations are owned en masse. Ownership is broken up into little fragments: stock.
- Rather than having a single individual be a patron to an artist, the responsibility can be broken up into little fragments, which I'm going to call obligations.
- An obligation is a stake in a playright or artist. There's an upfront price, and that upfront price defines the degree to your obligation -- like a subscription. If you purchase an obligation at $10, you're agreeing to pay $10/year (or $10/month -- I haven't worked everything out) to help support the artist.
- If you want to back out of the obligation, you sell the obligation, and other people place bids. If they are willing to support the artist more, then the obligation price goes up--just like a stock price. If they don't want to support the artist as much, the obligation price goes down. But the seller doesn't get the money, the money is still going to the artist, so there's no point in speculation.
- In other words, it's a stock market of obligations: the "value" of a share in the artist is driven by demand. It's not classical demand, because it's not self-interest (people aren't expecting anything in return). Instead, it's a method of valuing and exchanging obligations.
- Supply is harder to quantify, but it is not impossible.
- The "invisible hand of the market" should set the prices and drive them, but speculation isn't necessary because these aren't self-interested investments, because there's no return--these are the stock equivalent of donations.
- The Thriving Arts report I've been discussing mentions that arts are structured like social movements, and are irrational from an economic perspective. Similarly, the PTP Exchange will conform to things like game theory, but classical economics aren't going to predict it accurately.
I look forward to your questions. This is a very complicated schemes with a lot of variables, and I think it'd take the dedicated effort of a trained economist (which I am not) to sort out how to build the incentive structure to work correctly.
By the way, it might be possible to use a PTP Exchange on a local-level to examine the arts in a given region. It's not an index by itself, but it's a good indicator -- the way that the stock market is an indicator of the economy, but not the only one.