Richard Florida
by Richard Florida
Fri Mar 27th 2009 at 1:10pm UTC

The Economic Case for Diversity is Winning Over Some Conservatives

West Virginia politics blogger, Clem Guttata reports that, “The notorious Russell S. Sobel, author of the West Virginia Republicans’ (failed) blueprint for electoral success last cycle, Unleashing Capitalism,” has strong words of support for state legislation that would provide equal treatment for gays and lesbians.

So why should a conservative state pass legislation that p the notorious Russell S. Sobel, author of the West Virginia Republicans (failed) blueprint for electoral success last cycle, “Unleashing Capitalism”, saying: provides protected status for gays and lesbians?The answer is because diversity and acceptance — not just tolerance — are among the missing pieces of the state’s economic puzzle, according to Russell S. Sobel, an economics professor and the James Clark Coffman Distinguished Chair in Entrepreneurial Studies at West Virginia University.

It may be a small building block to success, but it’s still important, several interviewed said. That’s because entrepreneurship often starts with people who don’t always fit in with what is considered “mainstream” society and think about things in a different way than others might. Those different thoughts and approaches often lead to entrepreneurial ideas.

“The idea is real entrepreneurs are different people, strange, quirky. They think differently,” Sobel said.

He said Richard Florida’s studies on creative class theory, while more sociological than economical, has some credibility. Florida, who wrote the international bestseller “The Rise of the Creative Class,” teaches at the University of Toronto and has taught as a visiting professor at Harvard University and MIT.

Florida’s study said there is a link between the areas that creative people — such as architects, engineers, musicians and writers — live and work and the areas where gays and lesbians live and work.

Entrepreneurship tends to flourish in such areas, Sobel said.

“It makes 100 percent sense. More entrepreneurial climates are in more accepting, diverse areas,” he said.

Economists who study entrepreneurship also suggest there is a correlation between areas accepting gays and lesbians and business success, Sobel said.

“If we want the state to be entrepreneurial, we want a place that is accepting and diverse,” he said.


18 Responses to “The Economic Case for Diversity is Winning Over Some Conservatives”

  1. Wendy Says:

    Interesting shifts.

    I wonder what Sobel thinks of the legislation requiring companies receiving TARP and related funds to discriminate against immigrants in their employment policy.

    The big shift will be in embracing anyone with great ideas who wants to work a contribute to the US society and economy.

  2. Robert Says:

    The idea that tolerance towards gays and lesbians will give a country an advantage in the international marketplace has already been disproven by the massive offshoring of manufacturing and high tech jobs to countries like India and China where gays and lesbians are not welcome in mainstream culture. For example, IBM has just fired 5,000 of its American employees and offshored these jobs to India. It is very apparent that Florida is using this idea needing gay rights for economic developments to sell his books and his seminars.

    The problem is what happens when the gays show up but the massive economic progress everyone had counted on doesn’t??

  3. Robert Says:

    Another problem with Florida’s theories is how he seems to put an equal value on Artists, writers, musicians and Engineers, and scientists. The truth is that Artists, writers, and musicians are the beneficiaries of the economic growth spurred on by the Engineers and scientists that design and create new products and services that grow the economy.

    I have read articles that Florida wrote that advocated music as a major source of economic growth for America in the future now that manufacturing and high tech services are being shipped overseas which is ridiculous.

  4. KB Says:

    Robert, what you state has nothing to do with what the post is about. Gays and lesbians have nothing to do with offshoring. Offshoring will take place regardless of an area’s acceptance, or lack thereof.

    The point the post above is trying to make is that new ways of thinking, which often accompany entrepreneurship, and hence, new companies are more likely in an area that not only tolerates different lifestyles, beliefs (both religious and non-religious), and cultures, but wholeheartedly supports such differences. Regions that are intolerant and narrow minded, are less likely to have many who are thinking outside the box, and will be at a competitive disadvantage to those that embrace all of our differences.

  5. Robert Says:

    To: KB

    “Regions that are intolerant and narrow minded, are less likely to have many who are thinking outside the box, and will be at a competitive disadvantage to those that embrace all of our differences.”

    Well if regions in the same country that are more tolerant of homosexuals should have a competitive advantage over other regions in the same country then I would assume that countries that are more tolerant of homosexuals would be more competitive over countries that are less tolerant of homosexuals like China and India. However, this is not the case since China is the country with $2 trillion dollars in foreign exchange reserves that is basically the world’s manufacturing workshop and India that is becoming the new home for IBM. The idea that accepting gays provides an economic advantage is ridiculous.

  6. Robert Says:

    West Virginia is better off developing its national resource extraction industries and using its political influence to steer government money to the state rather than following Richard Florida’s advice.

    I don’t recall one city where Florida’s leadership has successfully turned a city from poverty to wealth. I recall that he tried in Pittsburgh but he eventually gave up.

  7. Mike L. Says:

    Perhaps we are defining “tolerance” too narrowly. If we include “tolerance” of pollution, sub-standard working conditions, job insecurity, etc., then we can see why China has a “tolerance” advantage, even if they are intolerant of political dissent and the Falun Gong.

  8. Michael Wells Says:

    The same thing happened with race. When EEO and affirmative action were first enacted, many companies reacted against them. But by the time the Reagan administration wanted to roll them back, corporate America said never mind. We’re getting a better employee pool and lots of good creative employees. Even when the government backed off, many companies kept their programs for competitive business reasons.

    A company that recruits and hires from 100% of the population has a bigger hiring pool than one that restricts itself to 90% or below by discriminating against minorities, gays, women or other groups.

  9. Robert Says:

    To Mike L

    America is bankrupt and will soon no longer have the world’s reserve currency. The American dollar is heading for a collapse in value very soon.

    The bottom line is that all the “so called” advantages that America supposedly had in terms of right of political dissent, legal acceptance of crackpot religious nuts like the Faulun Gong cult didn’t help America compete in the world marketplace against countries like China did it???
    The same case for acceptance of homosexuals.

    Florida’s ideas on this subject don’t hold any water.

  10. Swordsman Says:

    The hate is strong in this one…

  11. Robert Says:

    To Swordsman:

    Apparently you are one of these idiots who put ideology ahead of reality.

  12. Swordsman Says:

    Apparently you are one of these idiots who puts hate and belligerence ahead of deliberative discussion.

  13. Robert Says:

    TO Swordsman:

    What “deliberative” discussion are you talking about?? You haven’t said anything on this topic except “The hate is strong in this one…”

    The issue is weather tolerance of gays is essential to economic develoment or gives a significant economic advantage.
    Based on what I see there is no significant economic advantage from acceptance of gays in mainstream society.

    Other things like a culture that values education in science and technology and lower wage rates are more important. That the fact that IBM is shifting 5,000 jobs to India, a country that respects science and technology and has lower wage rates shows this.

  14. Swordsman Says:

    Now that I have your attention, let’s understand that Florida is talking about creating creative class jobs when he talks about accepting of gays. The correlation is quite strong. IBM might ship 5000 jobs to India, but are they creative class jobs? Or just call center jobs?

    You might want to re-think that.

  15. Robert Says:

    To: Swordsman

    They are software engineering jobs in information technology.

    According to the BusinessWeek Article:

    IBM Cuts Jobs as It Seeks Stimulus Money
    A plan to send more work abroad as the company angles for pieces of the high-speed rail and health-care handouts is stirring controversy

    By Moira Herbst

    “The cuts will affect mainly information technology and consulting work in such areas as customer relations management and supply chain management, says Lee Conrad, national coordinator of Alliance@IBM, a group that is seeking union representation at IBM and is allied with the Communications Workers of America Local 1701.”

    Which are considered “Core” Creative class jobs by Florida.

  16. Swordsman Says:

    Uh, huh. And this proves that Florida is wrong because…?

    Please cite where he stated that NO creative class jobs could ever go overseas or to developing nations.

  17. Robert Says:

    To: Swordsman

    Well, more than a few creative class jobs especially core creative engineering and science jobs are going overseas to developing nations. Especially for example since around 30% of the people responsible for creating high tech companies in Silicon Valley are from developing nations and many have gone back to start companies there. I have read other articles that state financial jobs are also beginning to be offshored on a large scale. The cost advantage of an accountant or financial analyst in a country like India outweighs any advantage over a city or state providing “equal treatment for gays and lesbians” like Florida recommends. Cost advantage and depth of the available skilled labor pool in an area are the key factors to having a competitive economy and this has nothing to do with these social factors that Florida likes to advocate. India is not tolerant of gays in mainstream society and is competing with a more tolerant America for creative class jobs and winning on a large scale. So where is this “advantage” that Florida talks about that is supposed to overwhelm everything else? I don’t see it in the real world.

  18. Swordsman Says:

    Please cite where Florida says “gays” are an “advantage” that is supposed to overwhelm everything else.

    He’s stated that places that are more tolerant seem to do better on average than places that are not.

    And he’s backed that up.

    What precisely is your problem here? Let it all out, Robert. Let’s face reality. Your problem here is not Florida, who you obviously have *at best* read a summary of his work.