present system
Note to Trial Schools an addendum to the first lecture from The Political Economy Of Art by John Ruskin

It will be observed that, in the lecture, it is assumed that works of art are national treasures; and that it is desirable to withdraw all the hands capable of painting or carving from other employments, in order that they may produce this kind of wealth. I do not, in assuming this, mean that works of art add to the monetary resources of a nation, or form part of its wealth, in the vulgar sense. The result of the sale of a picture in the country itself is merely that a certain sum of money is transferred from the hands of B. the purchaser, to those of A. the producer; the sum ultimately to be distributed remaining the same, only A, ultimately spending it instead of B., while the labour of A. has been in the meantime withdrawn from productive channels; he has painted a picture which nobody can live upon, or live in, when he might have grown corn or built houses; when the sale therefore is effected in the country itself, it does not add to, but diminishes, the monetary resources of the country, except only so far as it may appear probable, on other grounds, that A. is likely to spend the sum he receives for his picture more rationally and usefully than B. would have spent it. If, indeed, the picture, or other work of art, be sold in foreign countries, either the money or the useful products of the foreign country being imparted in exchange for it, such sale adds to the monetary resources of the selling, and diminishes those of the purchasing nation. But sound political economy, strange as it may at first appear to say so, has nothing whatever to do with separations between national interests. Political economy means the management of the affairs of citizens; and it either regards exclusively the administration of the affairs of one nation, or the administration of the affairs of the world considered as one nation. So when a transaction between individuals which enriches A., impoverishes B. in precisely the same degree, the sound economist considers it an unproductive transaction between the individuals; and if a trade between two nations which enriches one, impoverishes the other in the same degree, the sound economist considers it an unproductive trade between the nations. It is not a general question of political economy, but only a particular question of local expediency, whether an article in itself valueless, may bear a value of exchange in transactions with some other nation. The economist considers only the actual value of the thing done or produced; and if he sees a quantity of labour spent, for instance, by the Swiss, in producing woodwork for sale to the English, he at once sets the commercial impoverishment of the English purchaser against the commercial enrichment of the Swiss seller; and considers the whole transaction productive only so far as the woodwork itself is a real addition to the wealth of the world. For the arrangement of the laws of a nation so as to procure the greatest advantages to itself, and leave the smallest advantages to other nations, is not a part of the science of political economy, but merely a broad application of the science of fraud. Considered thus in the abstract, pictures are not an addition to the monetary wealth of the world, except in the amount of pleasure or instruction to be got out of them day by day: but there is a certain protective effect on wealth exercised by works of high art which must always be included in the estimate of their value. Generally speaking, persons who decorate their houses with pictures, will not spend so much money in papers, carpets, curtains, or other expensive and perishable luxuries as they would otherwise. Works of good art, like books, exercise a conservative effect on the rooms they are kept in; and the wall of the library or picture gallery remains undisturbed, when those of other rooms are re-papered or re-panelled. Of course, this effect is still more definite when the picture is on the walls themselves, either on canvass stretched into fixed shapes on their panels, or in fresco; involving, of course, the preservation of the building from all unnecessary and capricious alteration. And generally speaking, the occupation of a large number of hands in painting or sculpture in any nation may be considered as tending to check the disposition to indulge in perishable luxury. I do not, however, in my assumption that works of art are treasures, take much into consideration this collateral monetary result. I consider them treasures, merely as permanent means of pleasure and instruction; and having at other times tried to show the several ways in which they can please and teach, assume here that they are thus useful; and that it is desirable to make as many painters as we can.