The Reagan Administrationhas been widely accused of hostility to the life of the mind. Cutbacks at the National Endowments constitute, so we are told, an attack on the arts and humanities and reflect the philistine temperament of the President's supporters, that unnatural coalition of country club Republicans and Moral Majoritarians. Maybe so. On the other hand, there is evidence that he has not gone far enough. Item: The Office of Private Partnerships at the National Endowment for the Arts is hiring a consultant to study the feasibility of a national health insurance for artists. We are not, it goes without saying, talking about Saul Bellow or Mikhail Baryshnikov, who deserve well of the American people. No, I think we know who the beneficiaries are likely to be: the practitioners of free verse, folk dancing, and nonfunctional ceramics who make up the membership of tax-funded arts councils.
Serious artists do, on occasion, fall on hard times. Keats died of tuberculosis at an early age. If he were around today, he would probably receive better health care. On the other hand, he would either have to go unpublished or learn to write like John Ashberry.