Wednesday, September 22, 2010

The Rust Belt Is Dead II

I guess some publicity is better than none. The post I wrote late last night is referenced in the Wall Street Journal's Real Time Economics blog. If you clicked through hoping to find the "Burgh Diasporah", I'm sorry to disappoint. Nonetheless, I like how Conor Dougherty summed up the collection of links:

[Richard Florida’s post] is one among several that discuss the importance of regional economies, and the fading relevance of states as economic regions. This Brookings Institution paper looks at some of the policy implications of cluster development. ...

... The principal advantage of clusters is that they are geared toward a particular region’s geography and people. That makes it easier to overcome the red tape of culture and government, and more quickly turn basic research into companies and jobs.

This is the problem with thinking in terms of the Great Lakes or Midwest. The state is a failure as a unit of political economy. It's too big to work. Even the search for common threads binding industrial regions gone south demonstrates a misunderstanding of this new geography.

Drawing Richard Florida's ideas into this conversation is ironic since he is a proponent of megaregional thinking. His research is at odds with his prescriptions. The same goes for Brookings. John Austin and Bruce Katz are strange bedfellows for the Great Lakes Economic Initiative. Katz is using a geographic construct that is fundamentally at odds with what Austin is trying to do.

For those of us who like to noodle, the various policy narratives are confusing and incoherent. I see smart and well-intentioned people pulling in different directions. We have a bunch of analysts talking about economic geography who have no formal training in economic geography. They are making mistakes that undergrads are taught to avoid.

I wish the deep thinkers would take geography the discourse more seriously. There is an established literature that could help guide the policymakers and the theorists. Instead, we cling to clich├ęs and anachronisms. Noticing that there is spatial variation doesn't make you a geographer.

1 comment:

The Urbanophile said...

Congrats on the nice Tier 1 media mention.