The Corner

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Meanwhile, Over in Paris …


The following was published in “The Week” section of the new (November 7, 2005) issue of National Review:

The latest bad idea from UNESCO is a proposal for a new convention to protect “cultural diversity.” The convention combines economic protectionism with cultural philistinism — a neat trick. The protectionism comes in an assertion that “cultural activities, goods and services have both an economic and a cultural nature” and so cannot be treated “as solely having commercial value.” The upshot is that, freed from trade obligations, countries would be at liberty to define almost anything they liked as a “cultural good” and protect it from competition. (One suspects that American films, music, books, and food would be among the first things attacked.) The philistinism comes in the convention’s assumption that culture flourishes best when hermetically sealed. One can imagine UNESCO’s dull bureaucrats slapping fines on the German Handel for composing English oratorios and Italian operas, or on Sir Thomas Wyatt for importing the sonnet from Petrarch. What UNESCO wants to do is protect cultural diversity by stamping it out. Louise Oliver, America’s ambassador to UNESCO, is doing her best to amend the convention’s most noxious bits. We wish her well.

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