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The Flight of the Creative Class: The New Global Competition for Talent Paperback – February 20, 2007
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From Publishers Weekly
Following up on The Rise of the Creative Class (2002), Florida argues that if America continues to make it harder for some of the world's most talented students and workers to come here, they'll go to other countries eager to tap into their creative capabilities—as will American citizens fed up with what they view as an increasingly repressive environment. He argues that the loss of even a few geniuses can have tremendous impact, adding that the "overblown" economic threat posed by large nations such as China and India obscures all the little blows inflicted upon the U.S. by Canada, Scandinavia, New Zealand and other countries with more open political climates. Florida lays his case out well and devotes a significant portion of this polemical analysis to defending his earlier book's argument regarding "technology, talent, and tolerance" (i.e. that together, they generate economic clout, so the U.S. should be more progressive on gay rights and government spending). He does so because that book contains what he sees as the way out of the dilemma—a new American society that can "tap the full creative capabilities of every human being." Even when he drills down to less panoramic vistas, however, Florida remains an astute observer of what makes economic communities tick, and he's sure to generate just as much public debate on this new twist on brain drain. 25-city radio tour.
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
Professor Florida makes an impassioned plea, using his first book, The Rise of the Creative Class (2002), as a jump start, for the U.S. to retain its stature as an open and welcoming home for talent. And lest readers think that the author has overstated the hype, that engineers, scientists, and other innovators are not emigrating from America, he musters up an incredible quantity of quality statistics that would disable any contrarian, from the unaffordability of our cities to our insistence on outsourcing. Yet this brain drain is not attributable simply to verifiable factors; rather, it is in large part driven by our demise as an open, tolerant society. Look at the numbers of films now produced in Toronto, New Zealand, and Australia. Who now has the lead in developing new ideas in consumer electronics? Note the decreasing numbers of Nobel Prizes awarded to U.S. citizens. How do we solve the problem? He admits his four-pronged program is not an overnight panacea; it requires a profound societal shift. Barbara Jacobs
Copyright © American Library Association. All rights reserved --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
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Top Customer Reviews
I think that his recommendations about education are excellent. He does NOT say that a college education is a necessary prerequisite for prosperity; rather, he points out that the present U.S. educational system doesn't foster (and indeed squelches) the creativity, flexibility, and initiative that students need to succeed in today's volatile economy. While training a nation of workplace drones and mindless consumers might have been expedient in the age of large factories, it's counterproductive today and represents an immense waste of human abilities, especially if we're losing the influx of immigrant talent and ambition that has fueled our economy up to now. (Current educational reforms, e.g., No Student Left Behind, are a step backwards in their focus on rote memorization and standardized tests; the aim appears to be to create easily measurable results to make a political point.)
It's noteworthy that RF doesn't take sides politically: while he bewails the political climate that has led to the "flight of the creative class," he also deplores the increased polarization of the major parties, which has more to do with Washington power politics than with voters' actual beliefs. (He's right about that: it's a pity that the "purple America" map from the 2004 election reproduced so poorly in the book, because it makes the important point that we're not nearly as divided a nation as we're made out to be.) He faults the Republicans for being wedded to old-money industries such as oil, but faults the Democrats equally for buying into the nineteenth-century business model by catering to unions. And both parties have failed equally in recognizing what truly drives the U.S. economy (hint to some previous reviewers: it's not just money).
As for the commonly expressed criticism that RF is glorifying an effete, self-centered "creative class" while ignoring the unwashed masses, do the math: these people prospered economically not because they inherited money, but because they WORKED FOR IT. Regional success stories such as Silicon Valley and Seattle were built, not by trust-fund babies (or, for that matter, on Enron-style accounting), but by people who committed themselves passionately to a project, took financial risks, and worked long hours. His suggestions in the later sections of the book have to do, not with keeping the "creative class" exclusive, but with improving both the work environment and the educational system so that the rest of society can draw upon their own creativity to achieve the same personal and financial success.
Florida expands this thesis to a wider canvas in this second book: In the Global economy, as the world becomes more "flat," American cities won't just be competing against other American cities for talent. They will be they will be competing against cities in Australia, India, Ireland, Sweden, etc. In other words, a city like Pittsburgh won't just be looking to keep talented grads from Carnegie Mellon from migrating to Austin; those grads may decide they want to go to Dublin, Ireland to live and work.
Florida outlines how important immigration has been to our nation's economic development and how two major factors with regards to immigration are beginning to make some erosive headway. The first is outsourcing, which is moving up the skill scale from customer service to application development. While certainly a difficulty, Florida thinks that outsourcing is a manageable problem, and that the jobs we lose from outsourcing can be replaced with new jobs created by innovative companies.
However, the second "pincer of the claw" is the increasing difficulty that the United States experiences in attracting and retaining the talented, super-educated knowledge workers who will be the innovators. If the erosion of that class of workers continues, eventually we will not be creating the new jobs to replace the outsourced ones.
Rather than a doomsday now scenario, Florida admits that the United States still holds a Technological edge and probably will hold that dominance for a little while yet. However, he shows that there is no doubt that other countries have made at least some headway with patents in certain areas where America held sway uncontested.
It is the other T's that Florida focuses on in the latter half of the book. Where is the Talent going? And how can we create a more diverse, open society? Using studies and statistics, his research tracks where people are moving globally, and he examines how our immigration policies and our increasing class divisions may be contributing to our difficulties in retaining talented innovators and entrepeneurs.
Flight of the Creative Class has more focus than Rise of the Creative Class, and the benefit is a more compelling read. There are still some issues I think holdover from the first book. For instance, it is very hard to pin down exactly who is the Creative Class, and Florida seems to avoid any significant discussion of how unions will play out in this mix.
Contrary to many criticisms I have seen here on Amazon and elsewhere, Florida does look at factors such as housing affordability, and he is extremely sensitive to the inequalities the Creative Class itself can create.
My paperback edition includes the essay, "The World is Spiky," which is Florida's Atlantic Monthly article responding to the growing acceptance of Thomas Friedman's idea that "The World Is Flat." Florida argues that the while globalization is helping to economically develop some areas, the peaks and valleys created by the "spikyness," of that world map are making it more treacherous for those in the lows than it has ever been.