Travel writer and former Portlander Frank Bures has published an essay attacking that half-forgotten economic development shibboleth, the "creative class." The term was shorthand for theories of the pop economist Richard Florida, whose books espoused the importance of the MacBook-in-the-coffee shop set to society's greater well-being.
"Today," Bures writes, "Creative Class doctrine has become so deeply engrained in the culture that few question it."
Why, withÂout any solid eviÂdence, did a whole genÂerÂaÂtion of polÂicy makÂers swalÂlow the creÂative Kool-Aid so enthuÂsiÂasÂtiÂcally? One reaÂson is that when Floridaâs first book came out, few experts bothÂered debunkÂing it, because it didnât seem worth debunkÂing. âIn the acaÂdÂeÂmic and urban planÂning world,â says [Florida critic Jamie] Peck, âpeoÂple are slightly embarÂrassed about the Florida stuff.â Most econÂoÂmists and pubÂlic polÂicy scholÂars just didnât take it seriously.
Bures' essay amusingly relates some experiences he and his wife had after moving from Portland to another "creative" city, Madison, Wisconsin:
For a time, my wife had a soulÂless job with a boss who sat behind her, starÂing at the back of her head. I found work in a dusty tomb of a bookÂstore, doing data entry with coworkÂers who comÂplained about their neuÂroÂlogÂiÂcal disÂorÂders, or who told me about the magÂiÂcal creaÂtures they saw on their way home, and who kept webÂsites depictÂing themÂselves as minotaurs.Iâm not sure what exactly I expected, but within a year or two it was clear that someÂthing wasnât right. If MadiÂson was such a CreÂative Class hotbed overÂflowÂing with indeÂpenÂdent, post-industrial workÂers like myself, we should have fit in. Yet our presÂence didnât seem to matÂter to anyÂone, creÂatively or othÂerÂwise. And anyÂway, Madisonâs econÂomy was humÂming along with unemÂployÂment around four perÂcent, while back in fun, creÂative PortÂland, it was more than twice that, at eight and a half perÂcent. This was not how the world accordÂing to Florida was supÂposed to work.