Thursday, February 07, 2013

Richard Florida And Brain Drain Boondoggles

Rhode Island is in trouble. Richard Florida is the Pied Piper of Creative Class gentrification. The governor of the struggling state defines the crisis:

“We are in intense competition with Connecticut, New York and Massachusetts,” said Chafee, a 59-year-old Republican- turned-independent, ticking off three nearby states where gays can wed. “We are all in the same economy. We have to have the same welcome mat at our door that our neighbors have.”

Every New England state except Rhode Island allows gay marriage, as do Iowa, Maryland, Washington and the District of Columbia. Gay-rights advocates in five others, including New Jersey and Delaware, are pushing similar legislation this year.

I don't know about you, but I've heard this broken record before. The same argument is advanced concerning taxes and right-to-work legislation. There is a war for talent going on and Rhode Island is the odd one out. The best and brightest will bolt to the states with a more welcoming environment:

“Top talent might not want to work in a state where they are not wanted,” said Justin Nelson, the president of the National Gay and Lesbian Chamber of Commerce. “You can see a brain drain.”

You can see a brain drain? That city without a new stadium or casino, you can see a brain drain. I support gay marriage, but not because I want to stop brain drain. If two (or three) consenting adults want to get hitched, then more power to them. It's a cultural debate, not an economic one.

Governor Lincoln Chafee sees an economic rationale, something he learned from Richard Florida:

The governor’s thinking is in line with research conducted by Richard Florida, author of the 2002 book “The Rise of the Creative Class,” who has written that there is a correlation between gay communities and innovation.

“Gay-friendly places, because they are gay-friendly, are open to smart people who might be gay or straight,” Florida said in an interview. “They are generally more open-minded. With restrictive laws, you are hanging out a sign saying ‘geeks and entrepreneurs not welcome here.’”

Emphasis added. With higher taxes and strong unions, you are hanging out a sign saying "business not welcome here." The rhetorical ploy is a means to an end. If serving up red herring successfully promotes gay marriage, then so be it. But don't expect a Creative Class influx. Migrants of all types aren't easily dissuaded. With economic opportunity as a carrot, restrictive laws won't matter. Greater tolerance and diversity isn't a lure. It's the result of inmigration. Richard Florida can't help Rhode Island.

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