Monday, 15 November 2010

Items of interest

There were three articles I saw today that interested me. All gay-related, I thought I’d share them with you, gentle reader, as I hope they interest you too. The first, discussed in this post is “Bring Me sunshine” in this week’s Economist.

The article discussed Richard Florida, an economist apparently much in vogue with the Conservative Party. He is an economist from America with strong ideas about the future direction of economic growth, namely that the West shouldn’t pursue low-level menial work, much the preserve of Asia today, but the creative industries – these should be the core engine of growth for us. He helps set out a blueprint for governments’ role in the economy, a topic of much debate, but most interestingly for us today he describes the best possible future as one that is sustainable environmentally, ethnically and culturally diverse, and gay.

Such a future attracts what he terms “freethinkers”. Not musicians, artists or bohemians per se but anyone open to new ideas. Cities that are tolerant of immigrants and gays will succeed. Those not will fail. He uses as an example the post-industrial failed cities in mid-western America (and I see parallels with the post-coal depressed towns in Wales and the north of England): rigid, white, working class, straight. Top down decision making that could not respond to changing times. Anyone who grew up in Thatcher’s Britain will rightly see such analyses as superficial.

I think the idea social liberalism is the key to future prosperity. Although criticised as a positive stereotype Florida argues that cities like Strumpetville have always attracted hardworking and ambitious people and that gay people in particular not only select cities that meet their requirements for aesthetics and amenity, but – crucially – they expand the aesthetics and amenity of the area they are in. Florida has analysed a correlation between house prices and the concentration of gay and lesbian people in a given area. To sum it up – cities without gays or rock bands are going to lose the economic development race.

The criticism of Florida that resonates most is that he confuses cause and coincidence. For example, I think gays are likely to move to up and coming areas but not to depressed working class areas where they are (a) likely to be isolated from other gays and (b) have the crap kicked out of them. I am living proof of that – I’ve slept with a lot of people in my post-code but I know what streets I/we want to live on.

That being written, I am pleased the hear this government, with a tough job and not much love (as much as it deserves to be sure) is listening to someone who thinks the future is a blend of green, brown and pink. Google it!

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