Arnold Kling  

Richard Florida on Location in Silicon Valley

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He speaks on this video. He is a very powerful speaker.

One theme of the talk is the importance of really creative people to the economy. This may be a valid form of elitism, although I'd like to leaven his views with those in, say, Common Genius (which I have not yet read). But I am worried about the ease with which that sort of elitism slips into the elitism that says that government knows best. I'm not accusing Florida of that, but I think that a lot of his favorite clusters of people do slip into it.

Near the end of the talk, he discusses the potential for backlash against the elites. Usually, this issue is framed as one in which the lower classes will demand wealth at gunpoint. Actually, my guess would be that the lower classes resent elitist politics at least as much as they resent others' wealth.

The latest issue of The Atlantic has a book review of Austerity, which describes Britain after World War II. I get the sense from the review that the economic egalitarianism was not much appreciated by the folks who supposedly benefited, perhaps because of the political arrogance.

Anyway, be sure to watch the video. There are lots of interesting things in there, about the importance of mobility as well as other issues.

COMMENTS (9 to date)
The Sheep Nazi writes:

You might be interested in some of Paul Graham's essays, esp. How to be Silicon Valley and Why startups Condense in America. Also a good dose of Joel Kotkin is in order if you've been hanging around Florida for any length of time.

David Tufte writes:

The Michael Palin/Maggie Smith film "A Private Function" is a great way to get a taste of the nonsense that passed for policy in the post-WWII U.K.

dearieme writes:

My memory of Austerity was going into a sweet [candy] shop, asking for sweets, proferring the payment, and being refused. That was rationing in action, and is about the only episode I can remember from early childhood.

Andrew writes:

Richard Florida rediscovered what urban economists have been saying for a very long time: There are aglomeration economies. Big deal!

BGC writes:

This is hardly conclusive - but I generally find that when you start controlling for inputs (like IQ and personality of individuals, or amount of funding) it gets pretty difficult to find anything left-over that needs explaining - for example in terms of the special synergies of a location. Such factors may well be present, I think they probably are; but it seems surprisingly difficult to demonstrate extra 'added value' derived from clustering.

BGC writes:

I took commenter 'sheep nazi's advice and found this excellent essay which I find much more convincing that Florida.

Ajay writes:

I was not impressed. Florida strikes me a statistical salesman (I was going to call him an entrepreneur but then realized that's a misnomer), someone who has done some nominal digging around in the data and then tries to make grand statements out of all proportion to what he has found. The truth of the matter is that innovation is done either by a very small group of individual innovators, who are extremely knowledgeable and diligent about their chosen subject, or by people who are able to create groups of lesser innovators that nevertheless benefit from a culture of innovation that is inculcated within the group. Both the innovators and the groups are so rare that they're almost not worth talking about: some magic spark strikes and they arrive or are formed.

Rather, Florida is talking about experimentation, which is what passes for innovation outside that small group of innovators. There is a reasonable amount of experimentation going on at any given time in any given professional community and these people don't have much of an idea why a particular concept will fail or succeed. Twenty ideas or businesses are launched and sometimes one succeeds. The success is falsely lauded as innovative, the rest are ignored. Florida may be right that there is more experimentation going on in areas that are more culturally open but the magic of innovation is so rare that he, and other pontificators like him, cannot possibly grapple with something so quicksilver.

Pedant writes:

Some critiques of Richard Florida here.

Pedant writes:

Sorry about the multiple posts, I was getting timeout errors.

[Fixed. Sorry about the timeout errors. Sometimes that happens if a lot of people are trying to post around the same time or if a spammer is trying to post (we hope unsuccessfully).--Econlib Ed.]

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