More Valuable Than Ever in an Economic Crisis

The Humanities Department invites you to read this brief article, “The Tolstoy Bailout,” by Leon Wieseltier of The New Republic in which he responds to the New York Times article, “In Tough Times, the Humanities Must Justify Their Worth.”

Wieseltier argues that the liberal arts, so seemingly impractical, are more valuable than ever in light of our current economic crisis. “It is worth remembering,” he writes, “that the crisis in which we find ourselves was the work of practical men…. No poet cost anybody their house. No historian cost anybody their job…. The creativity of bankers is a luxury that we can no longer afford.”

The humanities inspire self-reflection, an ethical and holistic perspective, and ideally wisdom. These cannot be easily measured and thus are not readily justified in a short-term cost/benefit analysis where all that is taken into account is perceived practicality. Yet, as Wieseltier suggests, in the long run, the cost to a society of devaluing them is just too great.