When the news broke that if Detroit goes into bankruptcy the city might cover some of its $15 billion debt by selling Detroit Institute of Arts treasures, the reaction was predictable and the language harsh.

The DIA's director, Graham Beal, called the idea "sickening." Michigan columnist Eric Baerren denounced it as a sign of "Babbitt Nation, where the value of absolutely everything can be summed up by the number of dollars people are willing to trade for it." Museum patron A. Alfred Taubman said selling artworks "would be a crime." Arts blogger Lee Rosenbaum termed it "possible rape." Political blogger Walter Russell Mead accused Detroit's corrupt politics of sparking a "modern-day bonfire of the vanities."

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