The Democratic Muse (New York: Century Fund) annoyed many cultural elites when it was published in 1984. Even the late Hilton Kramer, who usually is considered a conservative, was outraged. The Democratic Muse is Banfield’s most Socratic book—it unleashed reason upon federal arts policies.
Banfield examined the various arguments for government funding for arts and found them nonsensical and contradictory. So, for example, if looking at great painting is good for the public, then would it not make sense to cease funding museums (which few Americans can access), sell off the masterpieces, and use the proceeds to send high quality copies of paintings to public schools nationwide? Ultimately, Banfield exposed much of arts policy as subsidies for the upper class in major metropolitan areas.
Above is a print advertisement that Banfield sent to one of his former University of Pennsylvania students, Thomas Lanctot, who provided a copy of it to this website. Clicking on the image above will expand it to full size. On the right, one sees the photographer was Bruce Kovner. This is amusing, as Kovner was a Banfield student at Harvard, and Kovner went on to start Caxton Associates and become a billionaire. (Kovner, it should be added, remained a dear friend of Ed and Laura Banfield to the end.)