Thursday, June 21st, 2012

Richard Florida's House o' Lies

It's been a while since there's been a good Richard Florida takedown. (The 2010 Alec MacGillis piece was pretty terrific!) Also terrific: the other day, Frank Bures wrote this piece on "the creative class" and how it is, you know, fake science and lies basically. "I know now that this was Florida’s true genius: He took our anx­i­ety about place and turned it into a prod­uct. He found a way to cap­i­tal­ize on our nag­ging sense that there is always some­where out there more cre­ative, more fun, more diverse, more gay, and just plain bet­ter than the one where we hap­pen to be."

11 Comments / Post A Comment

freetzy (#7,018)

Now what am I going to do with all this artisinal shit I made?

freetzy (#7,018)

If you want to sell magazines to Minnesotans, you'll never go wrong slagging Madison.

Abe Sauer (#148)

@freetzy No joke!

bthny (#2,907)

Was really hoping this would be about a takedown of his abortion piece in Atlantic Cities – not that his conclusions are necessarily incorrect, he's just not talking about the geographic inequality of abortion access in any kind of meaningful way.

jfruh (#713)


deepomega (#1,720)

There's always money in the telling aspirational over-educated white people how important they are stand.

lawyergay (#220)

Does it even need to be said that Richard Florida is not to be taken seriously on the subject of city-/society-planning? At least show us the courtesy of naming yourself "Richard Maine."

s. (#775)

@lawyergay It has always seemed to me like a horrible misallocation of name-capital that Dick Florida is peddling this particular line of snake oil, and not working as a professional gambler or maybe a stripper or something.

Abe Sauer (#148)

"Terrific?" Really? Ironically, that take down of Florida seemed to suffer from all the problems and liberty taking it accused Florida of. I mean, Florida might be wrong, sure, but is "I went there and in my very very very personal experience consisting of a few people I met, he's dead wrong" a good counter to "fake science and lies?"

What's more, this guy is basing all this experience on his profession as a writer? Yeah, I could have told you Madison was not a "hot bed" for writers to make tons of money and be flush with opportunity. But, then, where is that place? Was he a scientist? A graphic designer? A programmer? I think he seems to think by "creative class" Florida meant "artsists." But that isn;t exactly true.

s. (#775)

@Abe Sauer To be fair to Bures, he did engage with a lot of academics who do empirical/statistical work that seems to refute some of Florida's foundational premises. And he does address Krätke's work, which disaggregates Florida's Creative Class and specifically acknowledges the special economic effects of “scientif­i­cally and tech­no­log­i­cally cre­ative workers”. Certainly he uses his own experience as the narrative structure of the piece, but the basis for his conclusions is much broader and sounder.

Abe Sauer (#148)

@s. I get that. And again, I agree that Florida's work may be flawed, but having lived in both of the places, this core passage:

>"In the end, no amount of wish­ful think­ing, either about our­selves or about Madi­son could change what it was: A giant sub­urb with a uni­ver­sity in the mid­dle. It wasn’t a bad place, and many peo­ple we knew loved it. But the fact was that we sim­ply didn’t belong there. We didn’t have PhDs and had no con­nec­tion to the uni­ver­sity and didn’t work in gov­ern­ment. And to live in a place where you don’t belong can begin to feel like a kind of nonex­is­tence. So we sold our house, packed a truck, and headed to Minneapolis.

>This time, we moved as wiser, more reality-based peo­ple. We researched it care­fully. We picked the place we wanted to live not because of any trendy trope, or because it was high on any par­tic­u­lar list, but because of the cheap hous­ing, jobs, fam­ily and friends, as well as the arts, the bik­ing, the pub­lic tran­sit and qual­ity of life. Four years later, we’re hap­pily ensconced. Why? I’ve quit try­ing to find easy answers to that ques­tion. Min­nesota isn’t per­fect, and I’m not going to pre­tend it is. But it’s good, and we like it, and it has begun to feel like a place where we belong."

It's as if he thinks these are different places when one is really just a baby version of the other. Sure, a writer will find a boatload more opportunity in Minneapolis b/c it's situated in a greater area that draws like 2 million, whereas Madison is a kind of island with a greater area population of like 300,000.

Speaking of the long arc, he should look at where Madison has been and where it's going vs. Minneapolis. Minneapolis for decades has had industry and 3M and Target and a ton of headquartered corporations that hire creative people. Madison for a long, long time really was just "A giant sub­urb with a uni­ver­sity in the mid­dle." But in the last few years, it has also begin attracting corporate HQs and such. To know Madison 20 years ago vs. today is astounding in terms of economic growth. I mean, what the hell is "pub­lic sec­tor spend­ing through the uni­ver­sity" if not spending on creativity?

And then there is this:

>"Look­ing back, it was strangely lib­er­at­ing to have real­ized that the Cre­ative Class was a myth. It was fun for a while and, unfounded as it was, a few good things may even have come out of it. Some cities built bike paths. Oth­ers poured money into their arts com­mu­ni­ties. I’m all for bik­ing and the arts, as was every­one I spoke to for this story. In fact, they were at pains to point out that they were not opposed to the things Florida was advo­cat­ing. “To be against this,” said Jamie Peck, “is like being against moth­er­hood and apple pie. You’re against cre­ativ­ity? You’re against gays and lesbians?

>You’re against parks and bike paths?” Michele Hoy­man echoed the sen­ti­ment. “There are a whole vari­ety of rea­sons to have arts as a cen­ter­piece of your city. One is to make it a tourist des­ti­na­tion. Another is if you want to revi­tal­ize a neigh­bor­hood. Retail is fine as a revi­tal­iza­tion strat­egy, but it doesn’t have a very good mul­ti­plier effect. It’s not going to save a city that’s com­pletely dying.”
“Even as an arts advo­cate,” said Mel Gray, “I want to do it for the right rea­sons.” The right rea­son, we can now say, is that these things are good in them­selves. They have intrin­sic value. They make the place we live more inter­est­ing, live­lier, health­ier and more humane. They make it better.

>They do not make it more profitable."

Minneapolis was *(until very recently) the "gayest" city in America. It ranks #1 for bike paths and bikeability and it continues to invest heavily in being more bike able. It is extremely high in investment in the arts. The argument here seems to be that Minneapolis is NOT one of these places when in fact it might be the pinnacle "creative class" place where the presence of such a "creative class" has formed a kind of self-sustaining growth engine. It is this very reason many HR people and execs in the state are worried that November's vote to outlaw gay marriage could make the city less competitive against places like the Iowan triangle.

Anyway, doing those things–investing in the arts and building bike paths and gayness–maybe don't guarantee profitability but they can, in fact, quite literally, make a place more profitable.

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