Capitalism, and why it is good for the furry fandom

Furries, or so it seems to me, have a split in their views. When it comes to sex, we are all in favor for allowing two individuals to get up to whatever they want, so long as they both consent. However, when it comes to money, we suddenly become a lot more wary about letting others make their own decisions. Surveys done by [adjective][species] seem to agree with this; finding social liberalism much higher than economic liberalism. It would seem that attitudes are correct on the former, but these are contradicted by the latter. In this essay, I will attempt to show why capitalism, and a free-furry-market, are ultimately a huge boon for the fandom.

Before going on, I wish to address a criticism now – In this article, I will be talking about the “quality” of pieces that an artist can produce. It may be argued that the quality of art is purely subjective, and thus the quality of two pieces cannot be compared so objectively. To an extent, I would agree that taste comes into how much a person is willing to pay for artwork. When I use “quality” I am using it the sense of complexity – whether something is shaded, sketched, accurately represent what the artist wishes it to represent, etc… Whilst the artist style will obviously effect what a person is willing to pay, it is also clear that a fully coloured and shaded piece is of a higher quality than just a sketch.

A lot of furries wonder about the value of a piece of art, that is to say, how much an artist ought to be paid, and for what. One assumption I have seen is that there is a “true” value behind an artist time. Many furries will encourage artists to charge the “right amount” for their time, due to how valuable it is.
But this is missing out on what really determines the value of an artist time – how much people are willing to pay, and for what. A piece of work may take artist A hours upon hours to finish, and, at the end of the effort, that artist may have a decent quality piece. In the meantime, artist B, who is more experienced, produces two pieces, which are of equal standards to A’s. Artist C can also only produce a single piece in that time, but, unlike A and B, they have given it detailed backgrounds, shading, and other such things. If those three artist then sold their work, C would likely charge the highest, say, $90. A and B may then both sell their pieces for $40 each.

A – Decent quality – 1 piece, $40
B – Decent quality – 2 pieces, each $40
C – High quality – 1 piece, $90
1. Assuming all three artist sell their work for the prices they wished, C will make the most money, followed by B, and then A. Because B was able to create two pieces within the same time as A, and the market was willing to pay $40 for a decent quality work, they were able to make double what A made. C made more than either artist, but in the same time frame. The market does not care how long it took any of these artists; what matters is the quality of the work and the amount that each charge for that piece of work. The fact that A tried their hardest, yet still only made half of what B made just goes to show that markets do not care for the actual subjective effort required. An artist time is only worth as much as what they can produce, and what the market is willing to pay for.
To further prove this, let’s introduce artist D, who is still fairly new, but their work is of a marketable quality, though not nearly as good as A or B’s. If they then sold their work for $40, and it took them double the time to create that work, then they would make even less. If the market did not wish to pay $40, they would make nothing; and why should the market pay for lesser quality, when the same price will afford them A or B’s work? The truth of the matter is that, whilst D is a new artist, and of less skill, they may only be able to charge $5 to create a piece that would take the same time to create as A, B, or C.
Does that seem unfair? It may, since artist D tries extremely hard, but is only able to make a fraction of what C does, but consider the alternatives:

If nobody was allowed to charge for their work, then C would not be able to become rewarded for their time, and may lose what supports them financially. The inability to charge would also hurt D, as people would suddenly wonder why they should bother with them, when A, B, and C are all producing higher quality works. Before, D could gain attention by offering their work for cheaper, allowing them to earn something from their work whilst honing their skills. If they enjoy making art, then why should it matter that somebody else is making more? Is it fair to remove a small bonus to D’s artistic endeavors, simply because somebody more skilled is earning more? If D is happy just to be earning something, then what C is earning should not matter. As D gets better, demand for their art will increase, and, eventually, they will be able to charge more, but until that time, they have to start somewhere. Why try and tackle inequality by making everybody worse off?

Another suggestion might be to make all artist charge a minimum amount. This would mean that C can still charge $90, but it would also mean that D cannot be undercut for their time. If the minimum began at, say, $40 per piece, then it may seem at a first glance that D would be much better off. However, let us consider this more closely: If D charged $40 for a piece of their work, then they would suddenly be competing with both A and B. When D’s work is of a lesser quality than A or B’s, the market would simply decide to spend that $40 on the higher quality product. D would not be able to compete with that: the reason they were able to earn $5 a piece as they grew as an artist was because they were not competing with others, but instead occupying a slot in the market. Even though D may not be able to produce pieces of the same quality as A or B’s, people would still allow them to earn something purely by virtue of D being cheaper. Ultimately, if all artist were forced to charge a “minimum”, it would hurt newer artist the most. Sure, A and B would be protected from having to lower their prices to compete with another, but that problem can also be addressed.
If artist C improved in quality, and could produce three pieces of art of the same quality as A and B, but decided to sell each piece for $30, then that would seem to hurt both A and B, since the market would surely choose C instead of either of them. However, this is not necessarily so. Consider the perspective of C; they can see the market will pay $40 for their pieces, due to the success of A and B. If the market would willingly pay for this, then why would they suddenly decide to lower their prices? They could just as easily charge $40 per piece, and if A and B are successful, the market will pay that price. It would therefore not be in C’s interests to undercut A or B. If the market suddenly decided not to pay $40 for work of the quality of A, B, or C, then it would make sense for C to lower their prices, but it would also make sense for A and B to lower their prices as well, whether C existed or not. The “minimum” charge for a piece is not needed to protect A and B from being undercut, as it is not in anybody’s interest to undercut them for the same quality work as them.

An additional factor to consider with art commissions is that they are not mass produced. If an artist has a truly unique, or very unusual, style, then they can control almost all of the supply for the demand. Because what anyone is willing to pay for any style of art is so determinate upon the buyer, it is very difficult to place an “ought” on what the buyer should pay. It may be believed that there is an objective price for any given piece, but somebody may take a liking to a particular style, and be willing to pay more for it. If there is a particular group of people who share the same liking of that style, then the artist who produces it will have found themselves a market. When somebody commissions them, it should be trusted that both parties – the commissioner and artist – have accepted the price being placed on the artist time. The commissioner knows how much they are willing to pay, knowing they can walk away, yet freely choose to pay. Meanwhile, the artist has decided for themselves what their time is worth.

Why can’t furries treat business like sex? Why is it that, during intercourse, we seem content to let others do whatever they wish with one another, so long as all parties give consent, and not with art? When it comes to financial agreements over art, I believe the same should apply. Instead of telling artist what their work is worth, why not simply allow them to decide exactly how much their time is worth? If an artist prices are too high, you do not need to tell them, simply do not buy from them, and if the market agrees, the lack of sales will be the most obvious sign of “you’re charging too much” that can be given. On the other hand, that same artist may keep their prices consistent, or even raise them due to high demand. There is no reason to tell them their prices are too high; people are buying from them, and those people are willingly giving money over to that artist. When you say that an artist “charges too much”, you’re not just insulting their judgment, but the judgment of that artist customers – both of whom seem perfectly happy with the transaction. There is nothing wrong with going elsewhere because you do not want to pay the asking price for something, in fact, that’s good, as it’s showing awareness of your role as an active consumer. But, if an artist is finding customers for what they value their work at, then there is no reason for them to drop their prices for anyone.

It is an artist’s right to charge whatever they want for their work. If they charge too much, the market will reject it. Yet, if they decide to charge a low price, then it is their choice to do so. They know how much they believe their time is worth, and whether you think they should be charging more or less, a free-market will send a better message than any individual ever could.

Ultimately, a free-market is the best way for the furry market to function. As it stands, the community is almost completely laissez-faire with it’s approach to commissions – with many artists able to live off their work, as new artists develop their skill whilst earning something from it – while providing a rich choice to those wishing to spend money on commissions. Not only that, but I believe that it is important to respect the artist’s judgment, and the ability for others to know what they value.

About Corgi W.

Corgi is currently studying for a degree in philosophy. She enjoys writing and writing anthropomorphic fiction, and has a passion for philosophical debate.

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9 thoughts on “Capitalism, and why it is good for the furry fandom

  1. I more or less agree with the point that pricing art by the time it takes to complete doesn’t make sense, but I have issues with this premise:

    >When I use “quality” I am using it the sense of complexity – whether something is shaded, sketched, accurately represent what the artist wishes it to represent, etc… Whilst the artist style will obviously effect what a person is willing to pay, it is also clear that a fully coloured and shaded piece is of a higher quality than just a sketch.<

    Quality, like many other things in art, cannot be defined with scientific accuracy, but if anything it is the exact opposite of "complexity for complexity's sake" which is how you seem to define it here. Quality is first and foremost unity – the feeling that in a picture everything has its place and purpose and there is nothing missing or gratuitous. It has nothing to do with the choice of medium or the type of art or the amount of time spent on a piece. That's the reason why a sketch from a skilled master can command a much higher market price than a fully rendered color piece from an average artist: the superior quality is obvious even to the untrained eye. If you want to get an idea of what quality art is for the world at large, don't look just at furry artists, look at what the high end artists do in general. Here are some warm up sketches from top illustrators which are guaranteed to sell for more money than 99% of furry art:
    http://art.cafimg.com/images/Category_1275/subcat_163727/wendling.jpg
    https://s-media-cache-ak0.pinimg.com/736x/e1/cf/df/e1cfdfd6e31370b994aab4f66d05eeb2.jpg
    https://scontent.cdninstagram.com/hphotos-xpf1/t51.2885-15/e15/10895204_275243442599810_986821893_n.jpg
    https://s-media-cache-ak0.pinimg.com/736x/a5/04/63/a50463cda473864699d28f453761455c.jpg

    There are even artist who only produce "sketches", like Kim Jung Gi, albeit you admittedly need superhuman skills to make a living that way. :-)
    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Bg1j9xwcij8

    Some of these sketches may be studies for parts of color pictures, but in any case it's stuff that looks exceptionally good as it is and that many people would be proud to have in their home. And who wouldn't want to own a Da Vinci sketch if he or she could afford it?

    The examples I linked above are all traditional media, because in fact I think it's the prevalence of digital art that warps the furry fandom's perception of quality and value of art. In furry digital art sketches are indeed worthless money wise, because digital art has more limited uses in general, and furry digital commissions in particular are usually meant to be private or only shared on internet. In that context a full color picture is (usually) objectively better suited than a sketch. But this is just a limit of the way furry art is used and has little to do with artistic quality in the broader sense. I hate the fandom's tendency to classify sketches and lineart as mere uncolored/incomplete pictures, that's the kind of shallowness we need to get over if we want furry art to progress beyond its tiny niche.

  2. Although I agree with the conclusion that artists should be able to set their prices freely I do think the writer makes the mistake (in the first paragraphs) of confusing less liberal economical (against capitalism) thinking with being completely against free market economies. Even going so far as claiming that this is the reason people are dicks to artists (even those people are just cheapskates and often loud so more visible then the silent (hopefully a) majority who just goes on with life).

    For example I myself think that the neo-liberal macro economic policies of the last 20~30 years where mostly a failure but don’t think that means we should abolish free markets just that we should be harsher in preventing (and dealing with) monopolies and collusion and that some thing should just be provided by the state (healthcare/basic infrastructure) since sharing the costs of those makes it much more affordable. Yes this is less liberal on economics (especially macro economics) so in a test/survey like the ones done by A/S I will show up as more socially liberal then economically.

    Now those things don’t apply to furry (or any art) for that matter and that art is a luxury product a free market makes sense, and in such a free market artists are free to set their prices and customers are free to take it or leave it.

    1. [I know this is a couple of months old now but I forgot something important]

      I also would like to note that although most useful definitions of Capitalism include free markets for the distribution and price setting of goods it isn’t defined by this (actual definition is who own the means of production a.k.a. the capital). And as such it is quite possible to have free markets without Capitalism (in fact some forms of socialism/communism do include free markets!)

      So a better title would be “free markets and why it is good for the furry fandom”

  3. Nearly all the artists I have spoken with on Facebook would agree with you, manly would love to charge a fair price for their work. But the reality of it is that a lot out terrific artists are practically giving their work away. The reasons behind this is simple, many are just starting out, the quality of the work can vary tremendously, a glance at any art related Facebook page. You see vary in quality from literal works of art, to something that a 6th Grader could have done with their feet…and I am being polite. And then their is the name factor. As in well known artists can charge more, for example Mary Mouse charges $50 for her custom Certified Badges, other artists such as Adam Wan could charge even more.

    It well enough we can look at any artist and say, you should be charging this for your work. But the reality of it is quite different.

  4. Well done in using furry artist in describing how the free market works and the problem of Government interference in the market. There other issue can be explored like the problem of government subsidies. Lets what happen is D gets a $100 grant to make and give away art by the for the National Endowment for the Arts not because of excellence but political connections. Will D have the incentive to improve. Waht happens to A, B and C who doesn’t get a grant.

    Another issue I am keen on is excessive regulation imposing an occupation license (like hair braiders and nail salons). Let say the state charges $500. C could afford and even pass on the const but D who can only charge $5 at first the fee is a barrier to entering the market.

    1. Well done in using furry artist in describing how the free market works and the problem of Government interference in the market. There other issue can be explored like the problem of government subsidies. Lets what happen is D gets a $100 grant to make and give away art by the for the National Endowment for the Arts not because of excellence but political connections. Will D have the incentive to improve. Waht happens to A, B and C who doesn’t get a grant.

      Another issue I am keen on is excessive regulation imposing an occupation license (like hair braiders and nail salons). Let say the state charges $500. Only C could afford the fee and even pass on the cost to customers, but D who can only charge $5 at first the fee is a barrier to entering the market.

  5. But furry art is a free market.
    The government isn’t interfering with prices, art sites aren’t interfering with prices.
    Sure buyers lobby for lower prices, just as sellers lobby for higher prices, but that’s an absolutely legitimate part of a market.
    If art prices are too low (by which metric?), that’s just a result of too much supply and too little demand.

  6. Thinking of the idea of holding virtue to a more free market economic ideal versus having public sector investment and a safety net would perhaps leave me concerned somewhat.
    In the 1970s and partly in the 1980s here in Canada the federal government had a more proactive involvement in funding the arts and other accomodating measures as well. Canadian music and movies received federal funding to boost Canadian media content to domestic audiences, resulting in outstanding entertainment content, such as David Cronenberg’s movies of the late 70s / early 80s, and a whole assortment of talented early ’80s pop groups such as Strange Advance, Rough Trade, Images In Vogue and Trans-X. Nelvana animation and Fraggle Rock produced by CBC television also made a hit with audiences.
    Other provisions would cover housing initiatives such as artists’ non profit housing co-operatives or artist studios, or art showcase venues such as the Harbourfront centre here in Toronto, another federal government venture that originally envisioned a grand federal park waterfront public space for Toronto.
    As much as a free market approach may seem ideal, many artists can struggle with costs as well as the costs of getting by. Even in the Furry Fandom there can be many artists and content creators on the lower end of the income spectrum.
    A more proactive public sphere involvement in the arts is a greater benefit to all, as well as where it concerns the quality of the arts, how it is valued and society’s involvement in such matters.
    With the right connections and the right people, perhaps the furry fandom could come closer to producing full length animated or live action feature productions, even if such accomplishments took decades more to bring to reality.

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