Western governments have spent many billions bailing out the banks in these crunched-up-credit days; and the US motor car industry is, even as I blog, begging the US govt for billions more in similar subvention. The next move? Paul Greenberg, writing for the New York Times, thinks that governments should put billions into paying writers not to write:
In the 1930s, Franklin Delano Roosevelt started the Federal Writers’ Project, under which some 6,000 out-of-work writers were hired over a period of several years to write guidebooks, oral histories, ethnographies and the like, and in the process “describe America to Americans.” … I am not suggesting that a Rooseveltian approach to the writing crisis is inappropriate. Rather, we should look elsewhere in Roosevelt’s legacy for a modern solution. A good place to start would be the Agricultural Adjustment Administration. This entity recognized that an overcapacity of farms and farm produce was driving down crop prices, and that elimination of that overcapacity was needed … According to the industry tracker Bowker, about 275,000 new titles and editions are published in the United States each year. Let’s say we want to eliminate half of them. Assuming it takes about two years to write your average book, we would offer book writers two years of salary at the writers’ average annual income of $38,000 a year. Add it all up and you get a paltry $10.5 billion to dramatically reduce the book overcapacity.
Greenberg then ups the ante, suggesting that the sum ought to be not 38 but 400,000 dollars per year per writer, on the extremely reasonable grounds that it would all still add up to only “about half of what the government paid for the first installment of the A.I.G. rescue. Should you still find that number too big to swallow, let me ask point blank: Whom would you rather bail out, a writer or an insurance executive?”
I, for one, would take money from the US Government not to write a book. Indeed, I’d be tempted to undertake not to write a fat Fantasy trilogy (The Weevil of Time, the 3000-page adventures of a magical weevil trapped in the biscuit of Eternity) at $120,000,000 flat fee. I’m sure there are some others amongst us who’d be tempted, along similar lines. [AR]