When most people think about about government funding, the arts are probably not the first thing to come to mind. Arts funding is often shunted aside in favor of other priorities, and indulged at the rare times when there is extra money in the coffers, as Bill Ivey found while serving as chairman of the National Endowment for the Arts. But is access to the arts really just a luxury, should it be a basic right?

In an article in the RSA Journal, Ivey, the author of Arts, Inc, argues that the right to an “expressive life”—a life enriched by cultural and artistic traditions and one’s own creative pursuits—is as critical for the well-being of society as public education, environmental protection, and health care. He proposes a set of cultural rights, that show how an expressive life contributes to the greater good, advances democratic ideals, and is a key component of happiness, offering an alternative way of life to rampant consumerism. Ivey describes how public policy can be changed to ensure that all citizens can claim the right to lead a creative life, without having to find creative ways to make a living.