Tuesday, February 15, 2005


Flight of the Creative Class

Richard Florida on How to Kill What Makes America Work

A couple of years ago, Richard Florida published a book titled "The Rise of the Creative Class." It was an interesting tome on how creative individuals (computer workers, educators, writers, artists, lawyers, and other entrepreneurs) flock to certain areas of the country that offer a diversity of experiences, a tolerant environment, and a good quality of life. These cities, like Austin, Seattle, DC, NYC and others are the core of the continuing reinvention of American culture and business. The benefits of the work of the creative class spill over to other parts of the country, but the genesis of this constant reinvention is the socially diverse, libertarian realms that consistently vote blue. What's more important is that workers in the creative class are sought the world over and can work just as easily in Austin or Brussels or Tokyo. How to get them and keep them is key not only to a healthy city, but a healthy national economy.

However, the results of the last election have Mr. Florida feeling a little down. His next work is titled "Flight of the Creative Class" and his main hypothesis is thus. . . .

Thanks to the GOP takeover of Washington, and the harsh realities of the Big Sort, economically lagging parts of the country now wield ultimate political power, while the creative centers--source of most of America's economic growth--have virtually none. Democrats Dianne Feinstein and Barbara Boxer speak for Silicon Valley and Hollywood. New York Charles Schumer and Hillary Clinton, also Democrats, represent New York's finance and publishing industries. Washington State, home to Starbucks and Microsoft, has two Democratic senators, Patty Murray and Maria Cantwell. Boston's Route 128 and Washington's high-tech Maryland suburbs are also represented by Democratic senators. It's hard to understate how little influence these senators have with the Bush White House and in the GOP-controlled Congress.

The gist of Mr. Florida's theory is that state's like Ohio, Michigan, Virginia and others that choose to take a hard line on social issues will continue to see a migration of the best and brightest to other more socially liberal areas of the country. The result will be higher growth and wages in those regions and lower growth and reduced opportunities in the more hardline states. It's not an argument for Democratic (the party) economic theory, but rather an argument for a more libertarian social policy as the key to attracting the type of knowledge based workers that are key to current and future economic success. If Ohio chooses to pass a ban on gay partnerships, it shouldn't be surprised to find an exodus of the creative types to more socially tolerant states. Ohio can do what it wants, but DC, NY, MA and other states should be free to do what they wish on social issues as well. It's the imposition of some national homogeneity, I think, that could kill the creative class in American.

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