Thursday, November 1, 2012

Is the State Department Cultural Heritage Center Worth Funding with Money Borrowed From China?

During one of the presidential debates, Republican Presidential Candidate Mitt Romney said his test for whether a federal program should be continued is whether it was worth funding with money borrowed from China.   Whether Romney wins the presidency or President Obama is reelected, the next Administration will face some hard choices about what programs are really worth funding. 

If the State Department is forced to start watching its pennies, I'm not sure its Cultural Heritage Center could really justify its worth compared to other worthy State Department programs.

The Center caters exclusively to a small group of academics and foreign cultural heritage bureaucrats.   The money it hands out to foreign countries to fund archaeological projects could probably be better spent on things like supplies of clean water or fighting aids.

Moreover, the actual public support for its program to restrict the import of cultural goods is quite slim.  And the net result of its activities has simply been to give foreign collectors and cultural goods dealers a competitive advantage.  While Americans face stifling red tape requirements that preclude entry of  thousands upon thousands of cultural artifacts, foreign collectors and dealers face no such hurdles and go about their business as usual.

Perhaps, the best thing to do would be to eliminate the Cultural Heritage Center and transfer CPAC and the decision making regarding import restrictions to the Department of Commerce.  Commerce is well suited for handling trade issues and would likely not take the anti-business stance that seems ingrained in the State Department bureaucracy.   

Will this happen anytime soon?  No, but hopefully federal budget makers will start asking some hard questions about exactly what the Cultural Heritage Center does for the American taxpayer.  Certainly, the Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals recently suggested that it might be time for Congress and the Executive Branch to pay more attention to what the Cultural Heritage Center is doing.


Ed Snible said...

Do any of the third party candidates support collectors' rights?

Cultural Property Observer said...

Don't think that's ever been ascertained, but I assume Libertarians would support collectors rights. As mentioned previously, there has been biparisan support, but the issue has been follow up after State Department stonewalling.