Skip to content
 

Florida backlash

In a post entitled, “A holiday message from the creative class to Richard Florida — screw you,” Mark Palko argues that Florida’s famous theories about the rise of the creative class have not held up over time:

Florida paints a bright picture of these people and their future, with rapidly increasing numbers, influence and wealth. He goes so far as to say “Places that succeed in attracting and retaining creative class people prosper; those that fail don’t.” . . .

But, Palko argues,

Except for a few special cases, this may be the worst time to make a living in the arts since the emergence of modern newspapers and general interest magazines and other mass media a hundred and twenty years ago . . . Though we now have tools that make creating and disseminating art easier than ever, no one has come up with a viable business model that supports creation in today’s economy. . . .

OK, fine, so individual creatives aren’t doing so well? But what about the larger urban economies? Palko links to this piece by Alec MacGillis who argues that Florida has reversed his earlier claims:

Few purveyors of big ideas have as much riding on a single notion or catch phrase as Richard Florida does with the “creative class.” Florida’s idea of a group of highly mobile, Mac-toting professionals driving economic development has sold him a lot of books, spurred a lucrative speechmaking and consulting career . . . He is our premier celebrity urbanologist, whose home page features a clip of Bono mentioning him on a panel with Bill Clinton.

All of which explains the awkwardness of the current moment for Florida: His theories about how to boost city economies have, quite simply, been discredited. . . . Ever since the economy fell apart, the creative class (which Florida defined loosely enough to include bankers along with Web designers) has come to look less like savior than culprit. Florida is nothing if not nimble, however. Far from abandoning the field or holing up at the library to devise a new theory, he is simply recalibrating his pitch. . . .

And here’s the punch line:

Writing in January on The Atlantic Cities site he co-founded, he tossed off a line that undercut the whole premise that the creative class was the key to a fully thriving metropolis. “On close inspection, talent clustering provides little in the way of trickle-down benefits” for low-income workers, he wrote; meanwhile, the chasm between creative-class bastions and other cities is “not just a vicious cycle but an unsustainable one—economically, politically and morally.” He now laments “uber-gentrified” New York and Washington in Urban Land magazine, worries about “disconnected youth” in Washington Monthly, and, in The Huffington Post, calls for a “new social compact” that invests more in cities’ “human capital” than in programs that attract affluent outsiders. And Florida is now one of the leading boosters for the comeback of Detroit.

I don’t know what to think about all this. Part of my unease comes from the generally positive feelings I’ve had about Richard Florida’s work, over the years. I’ve never met Florida personally but I’ve had the occasional friendly email exchange with him (indeed, MacGillis, too, reports that Florida is a friendly emailer) and I once spoke in his department at Toronto and talked about a joint research project with one of his collaborators. Nobody ever claimed that the “creative class” thing told the whole story of the economy, but ever since I first heard the idea, it struck me as catching some important aspects of society and the economy that was not included in the usual descriptions. So my first inclination is to defend Florida, even when he is criticized by people such as Palko and MacGillis whom I respect.

OK, so with that background, here are my reactions to the criticism of Richard Florida’s ideas:

1. Palko points out that, in the past few decades it’s become much tougher to get by as a “creative” and pay the bills. Indeed, it used to be possible to live in a city full of artistic ferment and still pay low rent and live a reasonable life without too much money. Now, though, rents and other expenses are high, and the decline of the traditional news and entertainment media has made it harder to get paid for creative work. Various high-profile exceptions aside, you’re not likely to make a living as a blogger, that’s for sure. If you’re a programmer or a statistician, that’s another story, but, even there, as Palko points out, there can be a lot of uncertainty about employment.

But I don’t know that Palko’s observations contradict Florida’s position, which seems more about the connections between creative-class workers, geography, and the economy. There seem to be two different stories going on: one about individuals and one about geography and the economy. So let’s get back to creative-class individuals. To some extent, people work in creative fields because of the money or the opportunity. If the motivations are purely economic, then it would make sense for some sort of equilibrium to arise: opportunities increase, more people go into the field, there’s more competition, etc. But people also do creative work because they want to (e.g., Mark Palko and I are blogging for free), hence you can get lots of “musicians, actors, writers and directors” (in Palko’s example) trying to make a living out of it, even when times are tough. In any case, my point is that Florida could be completely correct about the creative class being a key incubation point of the new economy, even if the creatives themselves aren’t living so comfortably.

2. MacGillis’s articles are interesting—especially where he pushes Florida regarding his different statements regarding economic opportunities in Detroit—but I feel like he’s just throwing everything he can at Florida, resulting in some incoherent arguments. For example, MacGillis writes:

As Florida tries to rebrand himself, the old business he built up endures. Struggling Holyoke, Massachusetts, population 40,000, now employs a “creative economy coordinator.” In Roanoke, Virginia, where a Florida underling was paid $50,000 for a two-day consulting session, what remains is an aborted “creative connectors” website and an annual downtown music event.

There seem to be two criticisms here. One is that Florida and his colleagues are profiteers, getting rich on the backs of others’ struggles. The analogy might be to an oncologist charging high fees for an experimental treatment that turns out not to be effective, with the added twist that, to the extent that business consulting is considered to be part of the creative-class economy, Florida’s recommendations are themselves self-reinforcing.

But MacGillis’s second (implicit) criticism seems weaker, in pointing to things like Roanoke, Virginia’s “annual downtown music event.” A key point I associate with Florida is that cities should grow locally rather than install megaprojects that are supposed to stimulate the economy but end up having no collection with the existing urban environment. Consider the notorious example of Detroit’s zillion-dollar Renaissance Center built in the 1970s. My impression is that Florida’s work was in many ways a reaction against the idea of spending scarce city resources on renaissance centers, sports stadiums, etc., and instead spending much smaller amounts on smart improvements that make a city more livable for the people who want to live there. Roanoke’s arts initiative might be a big scam, I have no idea, but I think a lot has to do with how such things are implemented and the extent to which they involve the local creative class, rather than just dropping a money bomb on a 1950s-style construction project.

At this point, a critic of Florida might reply that it is the very vagueness of his prescriptions which have made him so popular, so maybe it’s fair enough for the criticisms to be all over the map as well. I don’t really know, but I think the subject is important enough that I don’t think Florida’s ideas should be dismissed. To put it another way, I like Richard Florida and so I want to interpret his ideas in a generous way.

38 Comments

  1. Rahul says:

    Does Palko use “Creative class” to include only artists, writers & such? Or does “creative class” include guys like an Intel chip designer or a Exxon refinery architect or a PhD at a a startup discovering new drugs or the Boeing team coming up with Dreamliner plans?

    By the latter definition I don’t think Richard Florida has been too wrong? I mean, yes, the recession hurt everyone but yet circuit designers seem better off than blue collar assembly line workers.

    I can think of several university-town hubs with spillover in the form of startups etc. They all weathered the recession far better than the average manufacturing town.

    • B Mills says:

      This was my thought as well. In what world is Silicon Valley, a place built solely on creative people taking large risks, struggling?

      I do agree that the next question is whether or not gentrification has value, as it often isn’t real economic development, but relocation of the less well off folks to somewhere we can’t see them. This can speak to the issues mentioned by MacGillis. As someone who researches sports stadiums, financing strategies, and economic impacts, it hits close to home. Certainly Florida has had a large influence on the sports stadium gambit, as some economists like to call it, so I usually have mixed feelings on the idea.

      I have now lived in 2 college towns: Ann Arbor and Gainesville. The level of creative class in A2 was not like anything I have experienced, let alone in a smaller sized town. I like to think that has value. And there is a big change when moving to Gainesville. While it is also a beautiful college town, it is a very different atmosphere. It seems like it would be tougher to retain that creative human capital here in Gainesville than where Google and many pharm companies have main offices like in A2.

      • Joseph says:

        Interesting. Gainesville is my go to example for the difficulties of trying to engineer these conditions (as the University is trying to encourage tech start-ups to relocate there). I also think that heterogeneity in the creative class is an important element in trying to understand Richard Florida. I quite liked his initial insights, but it is also worth taking the time to demarcate the limitations of his theory.

        Artists versus engineers is an interesting way to do so. Both involve creativity, but the rewards are distributed very differently among the population (with artists typically having a few big winners, say Taylor Swift, and a lot of marginal players barely making it). I see less of either extreme with engineers.

        • B Mills says:

          I like the idea of thinking about heterogeneity in creativity, and I think that’s what I’m trying to get at, though you describe it more eloquently. Yes, we need the Googles to be there. But we also need the things that enrich and attract outside of the job. The big question is how do we engineer this, as you say. The answer is that I haven’t a clue, and have no idea if it can be–but urban planners will certainly have ideas for you.

          So I guess we’re at Rahul’s comment: what gets them there in the first place? Then we can look for the optimal heterogeneity in creative skills.

          • Steve Sailer says:

            Here’s what I wrote about Dr. Florida’s popular theory in 2005:

            George Mason U. professor Richard Florida gets paid up to $35,000 per speech to lecture city officials and civic leaders on how they can turn their dismal burgh into the next Austin or Seattle. Inspired by Florida’s three Ts, which say that for a city to make lots of money from Technology depends on attracting Talent which depends on Tolerance, Spokane is intending to officially declare part of its city the Gay District. (Florida measures “tolerance” primarily by the number of gays, but also by artists, immigrants, and “bohemians.) Here’s part of my review of Florida’s new book Cities and the Creative Class from the new Washington Examiner:

            Dr. Florida’s much publicized theory, which he developed during the Internet Bubble of the late 1990s, is that an urban region’s economic success depends on its tolerance level. He argues, “Diverse, inclusive communities that welcome unconventional people-gays, immigrants, artists, and free-thinking ‘bohemians’-are ideal for nurturing the creativity and innovation that characterize the knowledge economy…”

            Unfortunately, as a theory of economic development, this book suffers from the same combination of obviousness and obtuseness that plagued Dr. Florida’s first paean to “Talent, Technology, and Tolerance,” 2002’s The Rise of the Creative Class.

            Sure, regions with smarter people tend to enjoy higher incomes. But, most high tech centers, such as the Dulles Corridor, develop far out in the suburbs away from the hip parts of town. The nerds who invent the new gizmos and the golf-playing business people who sell them tend to be relatively monogamous and family-oriented, and thus soon wind up in the ‘burbs, with their backyards and quality public schools.

            And, sure, booms and bohemians tend to correlate, but who really attracts whom to a metroplex? Do the engineers and salesguys actually pursue the gay art dealers and immigrant restaurateurs, or are Dr. Florida’s footloose favorites more likely to follow the money generated by the pocket-protector boys?

            In the 1970s, for example, Houston suddenly became one of the gayest cities in America, even though Houston was not famously tolerant. No, Houston got (briefly) hip because gays, immigrants, and artistes flocked there because OPEC had raised prices, making Houston’s unhip oil companies rich for a decade.

            In contrast, famously tolerant New Orleans and Las Vegas (“Sin City”) rank today near the bottom of Dr. Florida’s talent tables because his kind of folks can’t make much money in either. So, he appears to have gotten the arrow of causality mostly backwards.

            • Steve Sailer says:

              One development since I wrote this in 2005 is that the rise of big money social media companies in Silicon Valley like Facebook has meant a big change in makeup of employees from the old days when Intel and its hardware engineers were the signature SV firm. Facebook employs many media industry people, often single women who want to live in a big sexy city where you can have a glass of wine without worrying about a DUI. And single women attract single men. So, Facebook sends buses to pick up its employees in San Francisco and drive them 30 miles out to the suburbs where the jobs are. Twitter has gone one step further and located in San Francisco.

              Nonetheless, the great majority of tech jobs created over the last 50 years have been on the suburban fringes of metropolitan areas, such as North San Diego country for telecom and Ventura County for biotech. Dr. Florida’s bit of statistical sleight of hand was to work with sprawling metropolitan statistical areas rather than more precise geographic entities, then attribute the tech job growth 30 miles out of town to the people in the center of the town.

    • Mark Palko says:

      As I discuss in the original post, the situation for STEM-creatives is less extreme but it shares many of the same issues. A few high-profile pockets of success paint an overly rosy picture. For example, according to Erik Brynjolfsson and Andrew McAfee, “Only 4 percent of software developers in the burgeoning app economy have made over a million dollars. Three-quarters of them made less than $30,000.”

      • Rahul says:

        Well, you can always cherry pick pockets. The underlying question is did the more educated, more broadly creative professions (not just artists & writers) do better or worse off than blue collar manufacturing.

        The winner-take-all structure of the new economy is hardly a critique against Florida. Nor the recession in general.

        Overall I think it’s still true that people having higher education & living in university town / high-tech clusters weathered the recession a lot better than others.

        • Mark Palko says:

          The idea of including artists, writers, etc. to the list of people we should think of as driving the economy comes from Florida. If we leave them out and simply talk about STEM innovators, we’re left with the position held by, well, everybody. Likewise, pretty much everyone agrees that people with graduate degrees and cities with high-tech clusters have done better than their peers.

          It’s when Florida strays from areas of universal agreement that the trouble starts. Florida says “Everywhere we look, creativity is increasingly valued.” Thomas Frank and others point to numerous counterexamples. Florida pitches a narrative where cities raise their “Bohemian index” thereby attracting the creative class which drives economic growth. Critics like MacGillis point out that the causal relationships and their directions are unproven and that there are, again, plenty of counter examples.

          That doesn’t mean that I don’t find Florida’s underlying research worthwhile; It’s the TEDification that worries me.

          • Mark Palko says:

            Meant to change “adding artists, writers, etc. to the list” to “including artists, writers, etc. in the list.” Made it halfway.

          • Rahul says:

            Agreed. To me the most intriguing aspect is whether a city can successfully attract STEM innovators & translate their presence into a thriving economy by creating a set of attributes that these guys would be attracted to.

            I think that’s the crux of the Florida thesis. I’m not sure how empirically sound it is though I’ll admit it is intuitively tempting based on anecdotal interactions with various STEM guys I know.

            • Mark Palko says:

              But if we’re just talking about how a city can attract innovators, presumably away from other cities, isn’t that a zero-sum game?

              • B Mills says:

                I tend to agree with Rahul that the winner-take-all in the context of the tech start-up industry isn’t necessarily an indication of a poor economy, particularly when we’re talking about a large collection of a very young workforce. But it sounds like everyone is on the same page.

                With that said, I think this is where a University plays a role in order to make it more than a zero sum game. A university provides both innovation and creativity in a heterogeneous fashion, and grows it within the population. But again, that’s not a new idea.

              • Rahul says:

                I think you are wrong. It’s a zero sum game if only the total number of innovators were somehow constrained to be constant. Also, presumably these measures affect an innovator’s quality of life and hence his productivity.

                Finally, even assuming you are right and it is indeed a zero sum game, it still behooves every city to try their best at playing this game. It’d be nihilistic for a city planner to use the zero-sum argument to not try at all.

              • Mark Palko says:

                Rahul,

                I realize that this may be not-quite-standard, but when I say at least some of Florida’s recommendations may be zero-sum, I mean that the rate of growth of innovators may be independent of whether or not these policies are implemented. Adding bike lanes and hiking trails may be good things in and of themselves — they may even make members of the creative class more likely to pick a certain city — but it’s not obvious too me that they will convince a significant number of people to go into a field like computer science or to make those who have gone into these fields more productive.

                As for the individual city planner not opting out, that strikes me as more of a collective action problem with cities pressured to borrow money to participate in the arms race.

                Of course, if we’re talking about well-thought-out civic projects that benefit all members of the community, that’s not so much of a problem. I’m concerned though that, since we’re often talking about projects that appeal to high end professionals, we may end up diverting money from the needy, for example, shutting down libraries and firing teachers in Watts to finance cool public spaces around the emerging Venice Beach tech hub.

    • Steve Sailer says:

      No, engineers definitely don’t count in Dr. Florida’s theory. He counts a city’s gays, artists, immigrants, and bohemians and finds that cities that have a lot of them tend to be more prosperous.

      Of course, he’s mostly getting the arrow of causality backwards. It’s the engineers and salesmen who create most of the wealth, and Florida’s folks show up to help their wives spend it more tastefully.

      For example, Houston in the 1970s developed the fourth largest gay community in the country, after New York, Los Angeles, and San Francisco. Why? Because OPEC raised oil prices in 1973 and the oil companies, many of which are centered in Houston, prospered mightily. Oil company workers’ wives thus had money to hire interior decorators, figure skating coaches for their daughters, and so forth, attracting gays from across the country to supply those kind of skills.

  2. Rahul says:

    One point I find interesting is whether there might be a set of attributes the young innovators of today may be attracted to. Innovators in a general sense: guys founding startups, designing new devices, coming up with medicines, medical devices etc.

    And if there is a set of such attributes what are they? And if so, ought cities try to improve their desirability on such metrics, in the hope such people will follow & roost.

    The specific attributes might be the most controversial part. But my suspicion is varied stuff like gay-friendliness, bike-routes, public-transport, cafes, low crime, good schools, music-festivals, farmers markets, ethnic food options, multilingual, diverse populations. A lot of cliches really. Or SWPL.

    Probably, everything that Steve Sailer might hate, may be a good way to sum it up.

    • B Mills says:

      To your comment on the attributes, I know of this paper:

      http://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0261517708001866

      It at least discusses the question and makes some claims. I’ll leave without comment.

    • Brad Stiritz says:

      Rahul,

      >everything that Steve Sailer might hate, may be a good way to sum it up.

      Steve is a frequent & constructive commenter here, as you & I are. Not to start anything, but your comment strikes me as an odd, inapt & inappropriate ad hominem. Steve can obviously defend himself, I’m just calling you out for the sake of general collegiality.

      • Rahul says:

        Brad:

        I don’t think it is inappropriate. Many of the attributes I mentioned (if not all) are ones I think Steve Sailer would indeed not like e.g. diversity, gay-friendliness. My assessment is based on his fairly public opinions about these. Truth is a good defense against libel.

        Further, in the context of a post critiquing the ideas of one public intellectual (Richard Florida) I fail to see why critiquing those of another (Sailer) is not fair game.

        It would be ad hominem to attack, say, Steve’s character, but to question his ideas, hardly so.

        • Brad Stiritz says:

          Rahul,

          Look at the list you wrote. Do you honestly get the impression from SS’s blog that he’s against low crime, good schools, farmers’ markets, bike routes & ethnic food options? My limited reading suggests the exact opposite. Your original comment only makes marginal, cryptic sense to me if everything is stricken but “gay-friendliness” & “diverse populations”, the only two items you repeated. Even then, it’s still a vague connection & on this basis, seems unfair & kind of a cheap shot.

          Certainly, if you have a very clear point to make about SS vis-a-vis RF, you should absolutely spell it out, please.

          • Rahul says:

            Fair enough. I take back “good schools” & “low crime”. It’d be silly to suggest Sailer hates those though his methods might differ.

            Anyways, you think Steve Sailer likes bike routes? Best to quote what the man has written himself:

            ….. it’s considered smart, cool politics for politicians to encourage bicycle riding….Bicycles and parking spaces are a zero sum game, so it’s more fun to act Pro-Bycycle just by painting logos of a happy cyclist right in the middle of traffic…..Driving through bicycle-friendly Silver Lake is kind of like getting stuck on a busy two lane highway in Mexico behind a truck full of chickens. ….My recollection was that cycling became immensely fashionable in Los Angeles during the “ten speed” craze of the early 1970s. It was kind of a post-hippie thing….Now, though, there is a lot of political pressure to encourage cycling, and negligible media attention on the dangers. But, this too shall pass.

            Some other Steve Sailer quotes relevent to this discussion. Again I quote verbatim but selectively. If you need context, google them.

            In general, the Stuff White People Like coterie sees immigrant-dominated retail streets as “vibrant” and chain-dominated retail streets as “boring…..For over a decade, I’ve periodically debunked the theory of Richard “Rise of the Creative Class” Florida:,[..] the way to make your little backwood burgh rich is to bring in a lot of gays, artists, bohemians, and immigrants……the techno-innovators congregate out in the far suburbs, a long, long way from what is normally called “diversity.” … ……

            Look, whether Florida’s right or wrong is a separate issue. But it seems factual enough to assert that attributes Richard Florida pushes are mostly those Steve Sailer hates. Hope this is clear enough?

            • Brad Stiritz says:

              Very good, thank you for narrowing your focus & for the supporting quotes. Yes, your point is very clear now & well-taken.

            • Steve Sailer says:

              A whole lot of ellipses in those quotes from this:

              http://isteve.blogspot.com/2013/11/future-class-action-lawsuits-and.html

              I wrote:

              Bike paths with their own right-of-way are a wonderful urban amenity. When I lived in Santa Monica three decades ago, I rode the Venice Beach bikepath a couple of times per week. I used to ride to Chicago’s Loop down the lakefront bikepath most weekends during the warmer months. I didn’t ride anywhere else in Chicago, however, because I’m not nuts.

              Unfortunately, retrofitting bicycle lanes with right of way on top of existing street grids can be immensely expensive.

              Moreover, the trend toward gentrification is even worse for safe cycling than the old trend toward suburbanization. Bicycling to school down broad Riverside Drive in leafy Sherman Oaks in the 1970s was dangerous, but, leaving aside improvements in helmets, bicycling down a 19th Century street in crowded Silver Lake in the 2010s is more so.

            • Steve Sailer says:

              Similarly, selective quotation leaves out the point I was making about “chain-dominated retail” in South-Central Los Angeles, which was that boring national chains of restaurants and retail outlets are much more likely to hire local African Americans than are vibrant small immigrant-owned businesses, who are notorious for discriminating against American black jobseekers. I wrote:

              Interestingly, the recent proliferation of chain fast-food restaurants and retail outlets in South-Central LA is actually the solution to an older problem.

              As you’ll recall, South Central LA witnessed vicious racial pogroms in April 1992 against immigrant (typically Korean) entrepreneurs operating within the black community. Korean shopkeepers tended to treat black customers brusquely and would seldom hire and almost never promote local blacks.

              Since then, corporate America, often in partnership with black entrepreneurs like Magic Johnson, has greatly expanded the number of chain outlets in South Central. These are more willing to employ local residents than immigrant mom-and-pop establishments, and promote them too.

              For example, the Florence-Normandie neighborhood where the 1992 riot broke out now has a quite decent chain-run supermarket with a first rate fresh produce section.

              In general, the Stuff White People Like coterie sees immigrant-dominated retail streets as “vibrant” and chain-dominated retail streets as “boring,” but the latter are better for African-Americans looking for jobs.

              http://isteve.blogspot.com/2008/08/temporary-ban-on-new-fast-food.html

            • Steve Sailer says:

              Similarly, here’s the context of what I first wrote way back in 2002 about Dr. Florida’s theory of why high tech centers grew up in the metropolitan statistical areas of San Francisco (Silicon Valley), Boston (Route 128), and New York (Armonk):

              http://www.vdare.com/articles/brookings-does-diversity-sort-of

              These research high technology centers are not actually located in the cities of San Francisco, Boston and New York at all, but in their much less diverse suburbs. The authors’ methodological blunder is obvious: they use overly expansive definitions of “metropolitan areas.” Thus, they label “San Francisco” both the Gay Capital and the Tech Capital, even though Castro Street in San Francisco and Sand Hill Road in Palo Alto might be 90 minutes apart – in normal traffic.

              All across the country over the last 45 years, the pattern has been unmistakable: the techno-innovators congregate out in the far suburbs, a long, long way from what is normally called “diversity.”

              Generally, high-hip equals low-tech. I used to live in the extremely diverse Uptown neighborhood on the North lakefront of Chicago, where about 100 languages are spoken in two square miles. My wife used to live in the New Town neighborhood, complete with a 6′-4″ transvestite hooker on her corner. Both neighborhoods were high in tolerance – but not high in technology. In Chicagoland, the tech firms are way out on the Silicon Prairie in the sprawling high-tech low-hip suburb of Naperville.

              In Southern California, the tech districts are spread all over the map: biotech in Ventura County, aerospace in the high desert, and telecomm in posh North San Diego County. Even Hollywood (the industry) centers not around Hollywood (the place), but around the uncool suburb of Burbank. Conversely, East LA is extremely “diverse” (i.e., all Hispanic). But there’s no high tech there, just lots of low-tech manufacturing. And Compton is closer to no-tech.

              Obviously, colleges can play important roles in creating tech centers, as can nice weather and good scenery. Yet the Bay Area’s technopolis didn’t grow up around UC Berkeley, as the Florida & Gates’ theory would predict, but around Stanford – the school for smart rich kids way off in the orchard-filled Santa Clara Valley. As the great Tom Wolfe painstakingly documented in a 1983 article collected in his latest book Hooking Up most of the men who pioneered the Silicon Valley were products of the much-derided Midwestern Protestant culture.

              http://www.stanford.edu/class/e140/e140a/content/noyce.html

              Bohemians don’t invent technology. Nerds do. …

              The suburban high tech nerdistans (to use Joel Kotkin’s phrase) are diverse in the sense that they are full of not only white nerds, but also Chinese and Asian Indian nerds. But that’s not exactly what most pundits mean when they talk about Diversity.

    • Steve Sailer says:

      “Probably, everything that Steve Sailer might hate, may be a good way to sum it up.”

      In other words, noticing complex, uncomfortable ironies = hate.

  3. Entsophy says:

    I’ve got a paper coming out demonstrating that the economy would be much better off if automatic million dollar grants were given to people who dropped out of physics grad school to join the Marines (p <.001).

    Show me the money! show me the money!

  4. Brad Stiritz says:

    Andrew,

    You paint a pretty damning portrait of RF. We all have friends who we know deep-down don’t live up to our own personal standards in whatever way, but we like / love them anyway. It sounds like you’re expressing this kind of recognition, disappointment & reaffirmation.

    Beyond the articles you cite, RF’s wiki page mentions a number of methodological critiques:

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Richard_Florida

  5. Joseph says:

    Interesting. I am actually critical of Florida because of how much I like his theories and how influential they have been on my own thinking. I always get worried, when something works awfully well and seems awfully explanatory, that I have missed something.

    Maybe a bad side effect of my area of research?

    • Mark Palko says:

      I’d take Joseph’s point about liking Florida’s positions even further. Of all the utopian urbanists, Florida’s vision is by far the most appealing. He describes a future that most of us (myself included) find remarkably attractive. What’s more, he has some strong research and clever insights to back this vision up.

      Unfortunately, all of this has made people more likely to overlook some serious concerns:

      while Florida has identified many interesting correlations, he also has a tendency to make big causal assumptions, a tendency acerbated by the TEDification of his work;

      much of his narrative simply does not gibe with what we’re seeing on the ground (which is what I was getting at in my post);

      though most of his suggestions for improving urban livability are unobjectionable, they run the risk of both draining resources away from more effective programs and of creating a false sense of complacency.

  6. Thomas Ball says:

    Credit should be given to the giant on whose shoulders Florida stands — the late Daniel Bell. It’s not an exaggeration to say that Bell’s analysis of post-industrial society in the 70s created the Knowledge Society that we now all live in. Bell posited that the point in the 20s when the wealth and jobs generated by the Service or tertiary economy surpassed those of the manufacturing or secondary economy was a key watershed in US economic development. He was prescient in noting that the production of ideas would become the primary source of economic growth.

    Then there’s Elizabeth Currid, one of Florida’s students and now a Berkeley sociologist, whose 2008 book The Warhol Economy clarifies Florida’s definition of the “creative class” by focusing on “high skills” occupations related to media, arts and culture, fashion, film, music, etc. Currid offers reasonably compelling evidence for the critical competitive advantage NYC holds over other large cities with its concentration of these job classes. In her view, the driver of NYC’s economy is not finance but the arts and culture in all its various forms and manifestations from MoMA and the Met to the bohemian fringes in the East Village, Williamsburg and Bushwick.

    Florida stands between these two. However flawed some of his more controversial or provocative suggestions may be, the core of his ideas stand the test.

  7. Brent Buckner says:

    My read of Florida’s bit here is that he thinks, absent other additional policies, if a city caters to the “creative class” there may not be net positive externalities for other classes in that city:
    http://www.thedailybeast.com/articles/2013/03/21/did-i-abandon-my-creative-class-theory-not-so-fast-joel-kotkin.html

  8. Nony says:

    I find some of the creative class stuff to be similar to the Bell Curve remarks about sorting into classes by intellect. How important Universities are for the social sorting, etc. Going to same fancy schools, dating each other, some detachment of cultural values, etc.

    And there’s actually things I like about the yupp…er I mean creative class crowd. I enjoy bike riding and some 80s New Wave music and a kick ass public library like Bellevue Washington (write an article on this, Steve). But there are some things I like better about traditional Red State Americans. Willingness to serve in the military. Truthfullness and a value of “what your grandma would expect” rather than tortured ethical ambiguity excuses. Or even lower middle class people who will stop and help you change your tire.

    I do think there are some differences of nerd versus artist (and some points of alliance). Even within nerd, there are some pretty big differences of natural/physical scientists versus software types.

Leave a Reply