Didn’t we pay for this ratbag to come out here?

Unfortunately for the cool hipsters in the Greens Richard Florida’s big ideas turned out to be brown not green.

Among the most pervasive, and arguably pernicious, notions of the past decade has been that the “creative class” of the skilled, educated and hip would remake and revive American cities. The idea, packaged and peddled by consultant Richard Florida, had been that unlike spending public money to court Wall Street fat cats, corporate executives or other traditional elites, paying to appeal to the creative would truly trickle down, generating a widespread urban revival.

Urbanists, journalists, and academics—not to mention big-city developers— were easily persuaded that shelling out to court “the hip and cool” would benefit everyone else, too. And Florida himself has prospered through books, articles, lectures, and university positions that have helped promote his ideas and brand and grow his Creative Class Group’s impressive client list, which in addition to big corporations and developers has included cities as diverse as Detroit and El Paso, Cleveland and Seattle. 

It sounded to gay to be true at the time.

Florida himself, in his role as an editor at The Atlantic, admitted last month what his critics, including myself, have said for a decade: that the benefits of appealing to the creative class accrue largely to its members—and do little to make anyone else any better off. The rewards of the “creative class” strategy, he notes, “flow disproportionately to more highly-skilled knowledge, professional and creative workers,” since the wage increases that blue-collar and lower-skilled workers see “disappear when their higher housing costs are taken into account.” His reasonable and fairly brave, if belated, takeaway: “On close inspection, talent clustering provides little in the way of trickle-down benefits.”

One group certain to be flustered by this new perspective will be many of the cities who have signed up and spent hard cash over the years to follow Florida’s prescription of focusing on those things—encouraging the arts and entertainment, building bike paths, welcoming minorities and gays—that would attract young college-educated workers. In his thesis, the model cities of the future are precisely those, such as San Francisco and Seattle, that have become hubs of highly educated migrants, technology, and high-end business services.

Non Gay Industries Grow Cities.

To be sure, the leading “creative class” cities have much to recommend them, andsome of them, such as Portland and Boston, have registered impressive rises in their per capita income in recent years. But over the past decade, most “cool cities” have not been enjoying particularly strong employment or population growth; in the last decade, the populations of cities like Charlotte, Houston, Atlanta, and Nashville grew by 20 percent or more, at least four times as rapidly as New York, Los Angeles, San Francisco, or Chicago. This trend toward less dense, more affordable cities is as evident in the most recent census numbers than a decade.

One reason for this: the fastest job growth has taken place in regions—Houston, Dallas, Oklahoma City, Omaha—whose economies are based not on “creative” industries but on less fashionable pursuits such as oil and gas, agriculture and manufacturing. Energy mecca Houston, for example, last year enjoyed the largest GDP growth of any major American city, easily outpacing “creative” urbanist favorites like Chicago, New York, San Francisco, or Boston. The other two top GDP gainers were Dallas-Fort Worth and, surprisingly, Detroit, largely as a result of the auto industry’s comeback.

Can we please stop listening to hipsters and their political adherents who usually spread liberally through out their public utterances words like “world’s most liveable city”.


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  • ConwayCaptain

    What is needed is old fashioned COMMON SENSE.
    Stop trying to stuff 1 million extra paople into the narrowest part of NZ. Of those 1m at least 400K will have cars which will needed to be driven at least once a day.
    Stop ratcheting up the real estate prices thus making the cost of living too high. Soon people will want a “Auckland weighting” to their income. Just as London has a “London weighting”.
    It would be sensible for the Govt to start giving incentives to businesses to move out of Akl.
    If the POAL fiasco is not srted next we will see ships leaving Akl in droves to TGA and businesses expecially importer will move to the area and hinterland in the Waikato and BOP.

    • Vlad

      Australia has an immigration scheme for skilled/sponsored regional immigrants. The immigrant has to live & work in a designated area for a period. Maybe we should do that for ChCh, or have an anywhere-but-Auckland category.

  • BJ

    How about a new slogan – ‘Auckland, worlds most unlivable city’ – that might fix the problem.

    • sheppy

      Perhaps worlds most miserable city would be more apt once the shoebox apartments and enforced PT usage is established? I suspect the average ant colony would have more % space per being than the CBD will have once they’re done

  • Orange

    Good point. It’s why I get annoyed when people want to swap the port (which does work) with a hipster meeting zone to “make auckland more liveable.”