Qld Literary Awards going ahead anyway, meaning Govt’s decision is justified

With predictions that Queensland would become a cultural wasteland following the Government’s decision to cut funding for the Queensland Literary Awards, I’m relieved that organisers are confident they will go ahead regardless, as reported by the ABC yesterday (Qld Literary awards to go ahead, organisers say).

This actually justifies the Government’s decision to cut funding, because it is a basic principle of public policy that Government funding should encourage additional activity or behavioural change that wouldn’t otherwise have occurred. Recently economists have adopted the clumsy, ugly word “additionality” to describe this principle.

One of the organisers of the awards basically admits Government funding is unnecessary, so full credit to her for her honesty:

Ms Kneen says the publicity the September event attracts is more valuable than prize money.

“[Authors] do normally rely on prizes to kind just to give them that money to continue writing, but on the other hand they didn’t do it for the money in the first place,” she said.

“The recognition is the most important thing, and I know that writers getting awards – it just makes sure that people are aware of their work and the quality of their work.”

The scrapping of the Queensland Literary Awards has proven itself to be a valuable public policy experiment. Governments should identify a number of other prizes and grants to run similar experiments on – cutting funding and waiting to see if corporates or NGOs meet the shortfall.

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3 Responses to Qld Literary Awards going ahead anyway, meaning Govt’s decision is justified

  1. Gavin Nicholson says:

    Two key issues to include in any assessment:
    1. What is the symbolic effect of the decision? Is the service or the award the same under both scenarios – e.g. Will the publicity be as valuable without the stamp of government backing or will it be perceived as captured by the new organizers?
    2. What is the opportunity cost – what are the NGOs or Corporates not doing or funding now they are paying for this – or is the expenditure or voluntary effort truly “additional”?

    I suspect we will only be able to make an assessment in several years time…

    • Gene Tunny says:

      Yes, I agree an assessment would need to consider any symbolic effect. But the most prestigious awards globally are made by industry bodies or private endowments (e.g. Academy Awards, Nobel Prizes) so I’m skeptical about the magnitude of any symbolic effect.

      Regarding the second issue, assuming there is displacement of some other activity, if that activity is so valuable to the community then the assessment should rather be whether that activity warrants public support rather than whether the literary awards should be publicly funded.

  2. Pingback: Government was right to cut funding to Literary Awards | Queensland Economy Watch

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