The best economic policy advice I’ve read in some time is from this piece by Carolyn Zelikow at Market Urbanism critiquing the “Creative Class” notion popularized by Richard Florida:
There are economic growth strategies that work for low- and middle-skill workers. And there are many American cities that are doing just fine without a preponderance of Creative Class representation: Houston, Atlanta, Oklahoma City all come to mind. Florida never even addresses these places. James Fallows writes about a trio of counties in Mississippi that banded together to successfully train their workforce to attract high-end manufacturing plants. Joel Kotkin writes about growth corridors in the Midwest and South. This is the kind of unsexy economic development that our brightest minds really need to be focusing on – not solely creating better amenities for the young whites who populate coworking spaces and bike shares, much though I love them. These are luxury goods, and the affluent can access them without public assistance.
I think the “Creative Class” foolishness is what’s motivating Rahm Emanuel’s policies here in Chicago and it’s fatally flawed. More than half of the people will always fall below that standard. The upper limit on the percentage of people who would benefit from higher education has always been below 50%.
We’ve had three consecutive administrations in Washington that have used a higher education policy as their national economic policy. It’s high time we started following policies that focused on the majority of the people rather than the few.