Liberal critic Christy Clark once congratulated the NDP for fostering 200 per cent growth in one Nanaimo company - a moving business. It was booming on the great trek to Alberta.More than once tears sprung to my eyes at the horror of it all. I imagined my own children being forced across the border by those NDP ogres. I shuddered at the thought of them developing that thick Alberta accent.Would I ever see them again? Would I even understand them, if they called?The interprovincial migration rate was one of the foundations for the catchphrase summation of the NDP years as "the dark decade of decline."
You might detect a hint of sarcasm. The entire piece is an excellent rebuke of the vote with your feet myth. Politicians are taking advantage of a primal fear. We must protect this house.
Talent retention comes from the same place as xenophobia. Native talent is better than foreign talent.
Difficult to swallow, foreign talent tends to be better than native talent. Geographic mobility equals success. An inert population is a sign of decline.
Which brings me to Mike Madison's (Pittsblog) essay about Pittsburgh demographics and diversity. The flip side to fetishizing the local is the outsider as hero. AnnaLee Saxenian's book "The New Argonauts" is an excellent example. Innovation, immigration, and globalization all come together in creating spectacular wealth and economic development. Promoting brain circulation is good policy.
How do we promote brain circulation? Embrace diversity and increase tolerance. A more diverse and tolerant community is a good goal. But I think Mike overstates the case when he says, "Pittsburgh's lack of diversity is actively hurting the region."
Intolerance isn't much of a barrier to migration. A more tolerant Cleveland won't suddenly be overwhelmed with immigrants. Hispanics didn't move to Hazleton, PA because the city came a-courtin. I wouldn't expect a more tolerant Pittsburgh to become a more diverse Pittsburgh.
The problem, as I see it, is risk aversion. The least risk averse tend to leave any region. Are they being replaced by risk takers from other regions? The demographic indicators Mike cites take the temperature of Pittsburgh's risk appetite. The region isn't very hungry.
The issue isn't a lack of tolerance or diversity. There isn't much Pittsburgh could do about that, anyway. However, Pittsburgh could do a lot to increase the appetite for risk. Mike has promoted policies that I think would work. Implementing these ideas is another story. That's the Catch 22. In order to get less risk averse, Pittsburgh has to get less risk averse. Letting go of your progeny is tough to do.