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November 29, 2007

Richard Florida

Getting to Know You

« Real Estate and the Creativity Index | Main | Geonomics »

When Rise of the Creative Class was published I was shocked by the vehemence of personal attacks - some of them quite vicious and insulting - that came my way. I was said to have a gay agenda, to be anti-family, and of attempting to undermine the precepts of Judeo-Christian civilization. I took this quite hard at first, and it took some time to develop a thicker skin. I`m told that great public intellectuals like Robert Putnam also were surprised and hurt by the vehemence of personal attacks that came their way. Having faced this this made me considerably more sensitive when writing about others.

So this post by Tyler Cowen resonated big time with me.

I'd like to propose a new research convention.  Anytime a writer or blogger talks about what The Right or The Left (or some subset thereof) really wants or means, I'd like them to list their personal anthropological experience with the subjects under consideration. ...  Tell us how much field work you did, who you did it with, how much they trusted you, and what you wish you could have done but didn't. 

Bryan Caplan adds:

Since the publication of my book, I've been meeting a much wider range of people. I've talked to an elite Republican book club, a room full of vaguely Marxist academics at the New School, retirees, Cato, Heritage, a conference of largely leftist philosophers, the State Department (!), the Yale law school, DC economists, and UVA social scientists. I've also spoken on a wide range of radio shows and podcasts, left and right.

What have I learned?  Primarily, I'm more convinced than ever that virtually everyone is sincere. The legions of people who imagine that their opponents secretly agree with them are utterly deluded. Even when you've got undeniable facts on your side, your opponents probably think that those facts don't matter; you're missing the deeper picture.

The lesson I draw: Sincerity is greatly overrated. It's an easy and widely distributed virtue. So what is in short supply? Common-sense. Literalism.  Staying calm.  Listening.  Sticking to the point.  Accepting and working through hypotheticals. 

If you've got these, I'd like to meet your tribe.

I could not agree more. In the age of attack journalism, these are words to live, and work by. I will do my best to abide by them.

 

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Robert

One reason that Dr. Florida is attacked for having a "a gay agenda," is that he seems to promote incorrectly the idea that tolerance for homosexuals is necessary for modern economic development and he sites the positive correlation between gays and engineers in cities. Engineers are living in these cities mainly because they are highly developed and embody technology with tall impressive buildings, bridges, and other landmarks as well as having many fine restaurants, movie theaters, etc. Gays are living in these cities because these cities have huge populations and they can loose themselves, and not be the subject of ridicule and suspicion like they would in a small town where everyone seems to know everyone and what they are doing. Artists, musicians, and writers are attracted to the city because of the need to showcase their work, find wealthy customers for their work as well as find steady work and a highly dense prosperous city is the ideal location not some farm in Iowa. Each of these groups has a different reason for living in the same city and the desire for diversity is not the main reason.

Furthermore, all you have to do is look at Japan, China , and India to realize that tolerance for homosexuals is not necessary for high tech modern economic development. In addition, Indian and Chinese engineers did not come to America because they wanted more diversity but it was a strong dollar and the wealth that those dollars could buy that was the main attraction. If Richard Florida wants to encourage high tech modern economic development he should work on improving the social status of engineers and scientists in America and help to elevate those professions to the high level that they have in India and China and not waste his time trying to get America more tolerant of a bunch of homosexuals.

DC

OK, Robert, as Tyler Cowen would say, what is your personal anthropological experience with the subjects under consideration? Tell us how much field work you did, who you did it with, how much they trusted you, and what you wish you could have done but didn't.

Robert

TO DC:

First of all I have an engineering degree. Based on my life experience with other engineers in both direct conversations and conversations I have overheard, diversity and tolerance toward homosexuals has never come into play as a factor in deciding where to live. In fact, in Florida's own book he asks some students where they want to live after graduation. As I recall he asks a Korean, Indian, black american, gay student , and Iranian immigrant this question(page 226 of Rise). Each person wishes to live in an area where there are many people like themselves. However, the Iranian/Persian immigrant says that she was looking for a "diverse" area and thus Florida seizes upon this as proof that most of the group somehow put "Diversity" first as a criteria as to where to live. The reason she wants to live in a diverse area is probably that she is a Muslim and since 911 Muslims have been targeted for violence as well as people that look Middle Eastern. I would like to know if offered a good job back in Iran or the Middle East where there is a lot less tolerance for diversity what would this person's response be? Would she take the job?? If so then "diversity" was not really the real criteria for selecting where to live America for her but it was "SAFETY". That is the follow up question Florida should have asked of that Persian premedical student but didn't.

DC

Ah, but the whole point isn't that engineers are seeking places that are tolerant toward homosexuals (though I'm sure that is a major issue with some engineers, especially the gay ones), but rather that engineers are attracted to places with robust lateral job markets and a high quality of life. Those are the places that are also attractive to other creative professionals, and particularly to the core creative individuals. Those are the places that foster ingenuity and support diversity. Tolerance toward homosexuals is but one aspect of a creative, tolerant, diverse community. That decency and respect helps to build communities that have features that attract engineers is a wonderful perk.

RF

Thanks DC. That is the point. Open places attract people across the board. It might be "better" if everyone got along, held hands and sang "kumbaya" but that's not the point. The point is that they all feel free to live there without falling under some imposed note and without overt prejudice.

And Robert, safety does mean a lot. I'll have much more to say about that in Who's Your City? Though I do also mention it in Rise where I recount how astounded I was by what two young women told me about why they chose the place they live. They said they looked mainly at gay neighborhoods and ultimately picked one for their residence. Hearing that, I asked it was because of the amenities, nice restaurants, coffee bars, and boho shops, or the diversity. "No," they replied, "the main reason was safety," partly from crime but also from the relatively smaller numbers of overly aggressive heterosexual men who would hit on them.

Gary Dee

I'm an Engineer and am attracted to the sort of creative class-friendly urban environments promoted by Richard Florida. However, I must say that it has been a struggle to land in those places (Toronto, Montreal, Geneva, Grenoble, New York City, Chicago and Portland, Oregon) and I have been fortunate to land good positions in those places, which are NOT quite central hubs for high technology like Silicon Valley or Ottawa. Even in Portland, high technology is located in the suburbs outside the city (e.g., Intel in Hillsboro) where most of my colleagues also live. In Geneva, many people in tech lived in France and had visas to cross the border for their day jobs while their evenings were spent in Chamonix, etc. I would say that the main reason for high tech operations in Geneva was that companies are able to place their European HQ's there, and Dublin is now that city's chief rival for that.

Robert

To: RF

In your example you just stated with the women who chose the gay neighborhood in which to live I detect some "spin" intentional or not that might lead people to believe that you had some "gay agenda" besides objective observation. Specifically in your book you state "Younger women in particular said they liked to live in gay neighborhoods because they are "safe". In terms of violent crime that is probably true which is an objective observation that most people would make. However, the real reason you have just revealed for these younger women that you interviewed to choose this gay area is that they had bad experiences with heterosexual men to such an extent that this drove them to this gay area. I don't consider this to be positive. I don't think most people would consider this to be positive. Furthermore, you don't mention this key point in your book. It is things like this that also contribute to the notion that you have an "agenda".

In terms of "Tolerance" it seems you have changed your definition of what is tolerance from being welcomed and included in the mainstream society to where people can live in an area without "falling under some imposed note and without overt prejudice." If this is the case then China may be more tolerant then America is now based on an article I have read in the Washington Post called "Chasing the Chinese Dream
A Growing Number of the World's Emigrants Are Heading East, Rather Than West, in Search of Safety, Tolerance and Opportunity."

http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2007/10/20/AR2007102000530_pf.html

However, I don't think China would rank high on your Gay Friendly Index which again leads me to believe that things like legalized gay marriage that you advocate is not necessary for modern economic development and this is another reason why many people believe you are not objective.

Your comments on these items are welcome.

Pietro Focaccia

The themes of 'tolerance' and 'safety' are noted above when it comes to the presence of homosexuals in a community.

As I understand the matter, societies which foster tolerance both demonstrate an innateness for precipitating the conditions which encourage creativity and this, in turn, fosters creativity. Since heterosexuals predominate in societies, the tolerance of said gatherings would be demonstrated towards minority groups such as gays.

But, let's flip that around a bit. What if homosexuals attain influence due to numbers, or because of the particular positions attained by certain gay members of the community? Is there a complementary tolerance which is exhibited towards the community by those homosexuals?

Exhibit: This past week, one of the stories which was carried by the media and which generated a reaction, was the request to the City of Toronto, by the Royal Ontario Museum, to displace and relocate street vendors who had been selling food from carts for many years on the public sidewalks adjacent to the ROM. I think that we can agree that the socio-economic status of street vendors generally does not match that of the many 'elites' of influence at the ROM who regularly are featured on the pages of our newspapers as they display their gowns, cleavages, tuxes and Rolexes at galas launched in benefit of the ROM.

We should be reminded that William Thorsell, as CEO at the ROM, is a homosexual of some influence in the City of Toronto. (For a reference, see his interview with fab magazine: Feature 275, available on the Web.) The head of an organization sets the tone for that organization and orders are issued directly from that head or, the aura set by the CEO of the organization is well-understood, and the underlings issue directives in accord with that tone. So, we have to ask, just how tolerant of diversity are organizations which come under the leadership of a gay person? In this case, the diversity consists of blue collar labour striving to make an honest living adjacent to an elite institution.

So, at least with street level food purveyors, just how much creativity is being encouraged at the corner of Bloor St. and Queen's Park Crescent? And what does that do for the nascent creative efforts of the people who are dependent on those food dispensers and who may soon find their incomes diminished because their presence does not match someone's idea of just what is appropriate use of the public sidewalks which happen to pass by the Royal Ontario Museum and its CEO ensconced within?

Exhibit: Homosexual 'marriage' was instituted through a climate fostered by a concerted campaign by the "Globe and Mail" (et al) and whose editor-in-chief at the time was? Yes. William Thorsell. (Again, see fab Magazine: Feature 275).
There were a number of occurrences which carried this societal issue along but, in the end, it was a Liberal government under Prime Minister Paul Martin which pulled out all stops in Parliament and rammed the required legislation through that body in an undemocratic manner. Aside from being undemocratic, I would suggest that such dramatic changes to the fabric of society was not up to Parliament to pass judgement on but that it was a matter for Canadians to decide in a referendum which was never on offer. And, again, the question has to be asked, just how tolerant was the gay community towards heterosexuals when it purposefully set out to undermine the long-held concept of "marriage", and then to usurp one of society's fundamental building blocks?

And now we come to "safety". This being sought by women who felt uncomfortable with the advances made by seemingly heterosexual men so they chose to live amongst homosexuals.

Exhibit: Are boys and young men "safe" in homosexual-dominated environments?
For some time now we have been regaled with stories of adult males who were in positions of authority over young males and how those adult males violated their charges. The context has often been with the clergy, teachers, sports coaches and in similar milieu where young males come into contact with male mentors.

These boys were violated sexually by the adult males. A male on male sexual encounter is known as a homosexual relationship. In the case of an older person exerting this influence on a younger person, that is a predatory relationship.
Ergo, what we have here is a matter of homosexual pedophiles preying on young males. But, you will never see that term used in stories in our mainstream media.

Thus, the (now) thousands of cases of pedophilia in the clergy and elsewhere were perpetrated by homosexuals who probed society for the most likely places which they could successfully insert themselves and wield influence.

Documentation for the takeover of some major Catholic institutions in the far west, around the Great Lakes, and in the north east of the United States, by homosexuals, can be found in a book by Michael Rose: "Goodbye, Good Men". The pervasiveness of the takeover is quite remarkable and speaks to the aggressiveness of the homosexual community once it gains a foothold in some areas. It also speaks to the spinelessness and "turn-a-blind-eye" attitude of certain Catholic Bishops and other Catholic administrators in those areas that were co-opted by gays.

So, again, as an indicator of creativity, and as a promoter of creativity, the presence of homosexuals in critical numbers would seem to be a double-edged sword. As noted above, that sword can, and has, caused severe wounds on the fabric of some societies.

And, where does Richard Florida stand on the matters as noted above?
*****

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