View Full Version : US social conservatism: a competitive disadvantage?

01-14-2004, 09:17 PM
In this opinion piece (http://www.thestar.com/NASApp/cs/ContentServer?pagename=thestar/Layout/Article_Type1&c=Article&cid=1074035410159&call_pageid=970599109774&col=Columnist969907620326), Toronto Star David Crane columnist reports on the work of Richard Florida, who maintains that " follows talented and creative people."[In his book[i]The Rise of the Creative Class,] Florida showed that economic success was centred on cities and city-regions that emphasized what he called the 3Ts a large number of talented individuals, a high degree of technological innovation and tolerance of diverse lifestyles.

[In an] article in Washington Monthly, Richard Florida argues that culture wars in the United States in particular the divide between the Republican Right and the more liberal creative class is creating opportunities for [other] countries... to entice away more of the global pool of talent.

This has been reinforced by the tight security imposed by the United States since the tragedy of Sept. 11, 2001, and the feeling on the part of more people in other countries that the United States is now much less attractive as a destination.Mr Crane's opinion piece goes on to mention a number of researchers who have left for more liberal climes, and says that this has good implications for Canada.

My questions...

Is this departure of the US creative class actually taking place?

If so, is it perceived as being a long-term problem by social conservatives? Is the resulting comparatively socially-conservative and culturally-homogeneous US viewed as being worth the attendant competitive disadvantage in the world?

01-14-2004, 09:59 PM
I could agree with the general principle here. Conservative thinking typically shuns (whether intended or not) technological and intellectual advancement and is very intolerant towards people who don't conform to the norms they have established. That encourages complacency.

I certainly don't consider the United States the best place to live at the moment. I live here because I was born and raised here and have educational and vocational ties here. I certainly don't feel safe living so close to major US cities here when we are out there creating hatred for our government all over the world. Our standard of living is pretty easily matched in a large amount of countries now. Idiocy like blind patriotism isn't helping this. Trying to incite change is met with much vitriol. Apathy is obviously setting in. Look how easy it is to mold public opinion by simple stunts.

Its a decent place to live but with globalization setting in but the general attitudes here aren't encouraging progression.

01-14-2004, 11:24 PM
Is this departure of the US creative class actually taking place?

I don't know of anyone or have heard of anyone who left the US for cultural reasons. But there are a lot of people who move around to different parts of the country for cultural reasons. ALso I imagine only the cream of the creative class crop could get residence in other countries. I'm sure England or Canada doesn't need any more mediocre actors. Lastly, art follows money, and whoever has money has the art. And when money doesn't have art it buys it.

01-14-2004, 11:54 PM
Doers he give any actual evidence?

From everything I've read, he's got it backwards. There is a brain-drain coming INTO the US from many countries for a variety of reasons, the biggest being that the business environment here is far more conducive to entrepreneurialism.

He also misses the rather obvious point that nobody lives in "America" or "Canada." they live in specific places, and I'll take a wild guess and imagine that Silicon Valley or Massachusetts or New York or LA is just as "tolerant of diverse lifestyles" as Saskatchewan is.

Wishful thinking.

01-15-2004, 09:56 AM
I'd also be interested in a cite. America seems big enough so that you can always find a community in it with your philosophy. The Upper West Side sure ain't shrinking, with its populace of disgusted lefties taking off for the friendly political scene in Saskatoon.

01-15-2004, 10:15 AM
I would think that whatever disadvantages there are culturally to conservatism they are more than made up for by the economic advantages. Conservatives keep the tax rate at a relative low rate, which allows the creative people to keep more of the money they earn. This invites more people who are risk takers, and these people are the engine of the economy.

01-15-2004, 01:36 PM
He also misses the rather obvious point that nobody lives in "America" or "Canada." they live in specific places, and I'll take a wild guess and imagine that Silicon Valley or Massachusetts or New York or LA is just as "tolerant of diverse lifestyles" as Saskatchewan is.
True, but social conservatism comes both from the bottom up and the top down. Big support for gay marriage, for example, in Silicon Valley is fine and dandy, but it's not going to happen there if the state or country as a whole prohibits it by some kind of amendment.

Rashak Mani
01-15-2004, 04:07 PM
From everything I've read, he's got it backwards. There is a brain-drain coming INTO the US from many countries for a variety of reasons, the biggest being that the business environment here is far more conducive to entrepreneurialism.

This coming in of brains has been going on a long time... but the new american atitude means less brains coming in. I think that is what the OP implies. US students aren't taking up the slack either.

01-15-2004, 04:39 PM
Unless someone has a specific cite showing this I'd have to say my gut feeling is its wishful thinking by the writer cited in the OP. I certainly haven't noticed any such thing in the tech field, were a lot of foreign workers come into the US. As to the rest, the US is a pretty diverse country, and I'd say you could pretty much find whatever you wanted culturally or politically out there if you wanted too.

But lets take it a step further. Lets say that its true. Why would workers go to Canada instead? Afaik their economy isn't anywhere near as vibrant or robust as the US (and this DURING a recession). Their tax laws aren't as nice either (oriented towards the rich, you know). Where else would all these folks go? EU I'm sure, some of them anyway. But my friends in various EU countries say that there is a lot of mistrust over foriegn workers, especially the higher payed, high tech ones (this is pure anacdote and may be totally wrong...I don't live there so I'm going on what they say). I think the US, even as it is, has, if not a competative ADVANTAGE in drawing in such folks, at least parity with other countries in competing for them.

Willing to be swayed here though if anyone has any actual facts showing such a reversal is happening though as its my position is just a gut feeling atm.


Rashak Mani
01-15-2004, 06:44 PM
To prove a reversal is hard... since the number of contracted probably varies a lot due to various factors. Still the way things are going is hardly helpful to attract more and certainly might disencourage newcomers.

Yes, the US has always been very good at attracting high level foreigners... not only due to economy. They know how to give scientists and high tech people the right conditions, work environment and incentives. Other countries though have taken their time and are learning... expect more competition for those brains as well.

01-15-2004, 07:11 PM
Florida's argument assumes that this "creative class" he speaks of is the source of America's competitive "advantage". Factors he does not seem to be aware of include longer hours, fewer vacations, higher labor participation rates, worse health care, low rates of unionization, a young population, and the aftereffects of a long period when barriers to the movement of factors of production existed. I doubt the "creative class" wants to take credit for all that.

Florida strikes me as a throwback to the blowhards who inflated the dot-com bubble. What's with all the self-promotion? (http://www.creativeclass.org/index.shtml) Isn't this a bit unseemly for a professor?

The creative class produces fun things like movies, new ways of moving money around, and restaurants where you can pay $20 for a cheeseburger. None of these things creates wealth. A brownie to anyone who can guess how wealth is actually created. Hint: there's nothing trendy about it.

01-15-2004, 11:23 PM
Imagines Hyperelastic in tweed and wire-rim glasses, looking sternly into a camera and saying in a lockjaw Mid-Atlantic accent, 'They Earn It'.

01-16-2004, 09:47 AM
Having actually attended lectures on Mr. Florida's proposition, I doubt that if confronted he could claim or cite any actual Brain Flight. Just that the potential is there.

His original theory was to the effect that the "3 T's" influenced why some locations within the USA were more economically dynamic than others, and how that often went together with social dynamism (However, that's open to a chicken-or-egg argument: is a location booming because it attracts diversity, or is it diverse because the boom attracts all kinds of people?) . But then again, that's not such a radical notion -- the modern-era notion of a more "open" society being a magnet for both creativity and entrepeneurship can cite precendents to the 17th-century Netherlands, the Classic "liberalism" of the 19th Century, and yes, the urban USA of the 20th.

But the quoted article's key mistake is in positing that the 3rd T (Tolerance) is the exclusive bailiwick of a "more liberal 'creative class'" -- limiting the definitions of BOTH phrases AND forcing an arbitrary false liberal:creative conection. Apparently this is the source of Hyperelastic's discomfort -- who is also narrowing "creative" down apparently only to the arts/culture community. My take on that is that both are establishing an unfair limitation.

(1): enterpreneurship IS a Creative endeavor. Starting a business in a competitive market and succeeding DOES take creative thinking.

(2): "idea people" who come up with new ways of thinking outside the box and looking at the world, come up with or quality-of-life improvements, ARE a source of new wealth-creation ideas; and arts/culture ARE conducive to a more productive (because feeling better) workforce. The facile dismissal of "Creatives" as "not producing anything that creates wealth" is as misguided as the characterization that because you're creative you must be "liberal".

(3):"Tolerance of Diversity" does not have to mean social engineering. It can be just good sound business policy -- if the "best man for the job" happens to be a gay black woman, straightforward good economics says hire the gay black woman. If a Wiccan bookstore opens around the corner, that's a taxpayer occupying an otherwise vacant storefront, which is A Good Thing. If before the start of work a group of Christian employees want to hold a prayer circle in the break room, fine if it'll let them start the day on an up note. If anything, IMO if we redefine "creatives" as original thinkers in general regardless of their trade, what you'd find is a higher tend towards libertarian: "you do your thing, I do my thing, and we stay off each other's faces"; which tends to make it look like liberalism in the "social" sense because it means not interferring with people's, say, domestic partnerships.