Northfolk/Al, your post reminded me, and Frank's has made me think more about this idea--
Isn't it Japan that has a "national treasure" program for artists? I don't know how it works, or how an artist can survive on his or her art long enough to qualify for a lifetime achievement award...Does anyone here know more about it?
I don't know much about the USSR model either, but I think it selected individuals with (politically correct) creativity and talent at a very early age and supported and trained them, so they didn't have to worry about starving or health care unless they suddenly started biting the hand that fed them. That might not work so well in a political system that *requires* that its citizens have "freedom" of expression--an artist might be more prone to biting a feeding hand.
Just more thoughts...fwiw.