Archive for November, 2004

Richard Florida defends gay and elitist charges

November 17, 2004

The huge success of his 2002 book, “The Rise of the Creative Class,” and its economic prescription for declining cities – technology, talent and tolerance – brought a backlash from both the right and left. 

One side accuses Florida, formerly an economic-development professor at Pittsburgh’s Carnegie Mellon University, of having a “gay agenda” or an “arts agenda” and of undermining the Judeo-Christian foundations of our society.

The other side asserts that he has abandoned the working class in favor of promoting a group of elites.  

Last month at the University of Akron, an amused but clearly exasperated Florida spelled out exactly where he – and the national economy – stands. Noting that he is neither gay nor an artist, but simply a student of economic development, Florida said the findings in his work are based on a reality that people are going to have to confront sooner or later.  

“Our demography has changed. Like it or not. We are living through a demographic earthquake, in which only 8 percent of Americans grow up in a “Leave It to Beaver”-style family. Women are breadwinners; singles, grandparents and gays are raising kids. A large number of American CEOs are immigrants… an “aggressive acceptance” of all different kinds of people – is now essential to economic success because every human being has creative talent.”  

It won’t stop there, Florida asserted, saying that the economy is in the middle of changing from heavy industry to creative, knowledge-based work such as design, engineering, science, arts, law, medicine and business entrepreneurship.

The transformation is as great as the Industrial Revolution that took America from farming to manufacturing. “You gotta create the talent. Creativity is the great growth engine of our time.”  

Florida noted that some people have mistaken his findings to mean a city needs to turn itself into a “yuppie playground” for high-paid workers to frolic in. But that’s not the point, he said. Yes, “the jobs are moving to the people” because creative workers tend to cluster in what they think are desirable places, such as Boston, Seattle, Austin and North Carolina’s Research Triangle.

But what makes those places desirable is not amenities first, he said. Instead, the primary draw is an atmosphere of acceptance, including creative freedom, moral support for new ideas and different ways of life, that leads to thriving arts, nightlife, intellectual stimulation and booming business.  

Source: IEDC and the Cleveland News.