Op-Ed; Opinion

Creativity has nothing to do with money

Creativity has nothing to do with money. That might sound strange, in a world where some artists get rich beyond recognition, and thousands go by unrecognized. But when someone creates something, he or she does it out of a primal urge to give life to something new, to express feelings and to show there is more to a human being than meets the eye.

Money is about access to resources and trust. Of course, an artist needs access to resources, like any other human being, and to trust and be trusted in the use of human talent. They need things in order to survive and thrive. There is no such thing as an absolutely independent person. We are all interdependent. What sometimes gets difficult to understand is the role of art in society. Because, what is art anyway? And, is it important? If so, are there art forms we should value, and others which are worthless?

A society without art is a dead society. Surely, it is not indispensable for survival but, really, who wants to just survive? Our brains have grown too large to be satisfied only with the comings and goings of getting shelter, food, water, and clothing. At the end of the day, we all crave for song, story, and image. For some kind of beauty. Granted, people like different things, and that is why there are audiences, smaller or larger, for every conceivable form of art. But to say some art products are genius, and others are rubbish, misses the point.

First, because that is simply not true. Art quality is totally relative to taste, culture, and time. Even to a particular personal disposition: the same song might appeal to us on a sunny day, but not on a rainy one. Secondly, because to say something is rubbish implies that whoever thinks otherwise is somehow wrong, or inferior. That is also wrong. There are no second-rate humans or species. Nature does not create inferior beings: all are part of this universe’s creation, and unique as such. Hence, all beings are equally important. Even if we do not like what they do.

This brings us back to the original point: selling art makes no sense. Because let’s face it, when we love something, it is not about the money. We may worry we do not have enough of it to go to that concert, or to buy that book or, from the creator side, to spend enough hours creating without knowing if that will generate enough income to sustain a human life within this society. But the primal thrust is related to feeling. To the need to feel, not to have enough food on the plate. And that is something universal.

So, probably, in no other human activity will a universal basic income make more sense than in the arts. If creators are freed from the nonsense of selling their art, for a bunch of coins or for millions, eventually people will also be freed from the need to pay for it, which is what we all want. For who is he or she that does not like to be offered a gift?

About Andre Coelho

André Coelho has written 329 articles.

Activist. Engineer. Musician. For the more beautiful world our hearts know it's possible.

The views expressed in this Op-Ed piece are solely those of the author and do not necessarily represent the view of Basic Income News or BIEN. BIEN and Basic Income News do not endorse any particular policy, but Basic Income News welcomes discussion from all points of view in its Op-Ed section.


  • Beautiful, thank you …

    Interestingly, before reading this article I just got home from the cinema where I watched the movie “At eternity’s gate” about Vincent van Gogh. His paintings were called awkward and ugly by the audience back then, Vincent was poor and financially dependent on his brother. Now his works are seen as genius and are “worth” tons of money. How bizarre. Who are we to judge which art is good or bad, even what we personally like or dislike (as you said, even this may change like the wind)!?

    We could say art is like spices; we need food on the plate for mere survival, but most people prefer to add some additional flavouring. UBI creates the environment for creativity to be freed from economic thinking. Almost unimaginable how it can thrive then …

  • Makepost Firemail

    I’d rather focus on the benefit for the worker. With basic income, if you raise vegetables, build houses, fix furniture, install plumbing etc, you can always keep on, not threatened by artificial supply limiting, market cornering attempts and corporate hostile takeovers. And you do it because you’re good at it, for its quality and your pride, not out of desperation at proving to bureaucracy that you’re worth of being given stamps for a fragment of food surplus this month. Doing the jobs that other people actually require to live becomes valued and even desired, providing a reasonable standard of living and a positive work environment.

    • Andre Coelho


      I totally agree. That doesn’t, however, disprove the idea being described in the article. The latter only says that our brains have evolved beyond our basic needs, not that people should stop working to have them covered altogether.


  • tom harvey

    Commercial value brings with it confidence, a sense of worth, validation and access to markets and audiences. Being creative full time takes resource, office/studio space, time, focus, access etc. It’s infinitely harder to be creative when you are hungry, worried, stressed and disenfranchised.

    Van Gough was supported by his brother Theo, and he suffered huge mental health problems partly as a result of his struggle for validation.

    Yes, creativity exists theoretically as a driving force, in the same way fire exists without an actual flame. But far more creative careers have been launched by financial support than have been launched by starvation.

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