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Opening Arguments

Class act

Remember when city officials here were enamored of Richard Florida and his "creative class" spiels? Hey, all we have to do is become more hip so we attract all the cool people, and they will transform our city into a dynamic center of growth? Well . . . oops:

Florida himself, in his role as an editor at The Atlantic, admitted last month what his critics, including myself, have said for a decade: that the benefits of appealing to the creative class accrue largely to its members—and do little to make anyone else any better off. The rewards of the “creative class” strategy, he notes, “flow disproportionately to more highly-skilled knowledge, professional and creative workers,” since the wage increases that blue-collar and lower-skilled workers see “disappear when their higher housing costs are taken into account.” His reasonable and fairly brave, if belated, takeaway: “On close inspection, talent clustering provides little in the way of trickle-down benefits.”

One group certain to be flustered by this new perspective will be many of the cities who have signed up and spent hard cash over the years to follow Florida’s prescription of focusing on those things—encouraging the arts and entertainment, building bike paths, welcoming minorities and gays—that would attract young college-educated workers. In his thesis, the model cities of the future are precisely those, such as San Francisco and Seattle, that have become hubs of highly educated migrants, technology, and high-end business services.

Yeah, well at least we have the bike paths -- guess that's a positive change. OK, everybody now: Well, duh. The funny thing is that this idea has had the enthusiastic support of all those people who pooh-pooh the "trickle down" theory in other circumstances. If we've learned anything from  experience it is that you can't force a city into anything. It's going to grow organically no matter what you do. The best you can do is notice what is already going on and provide incentives for the best of it to keep getting better.

". . . the benefits of appealing to the creative class accrue largely to its members . . ." Well, duh again, and doubled.