Obama: Chief Executive of the Creative Class?


Have Richard Florida’s ideas about the economy and the ‘creative class’ come to maturity with the election of President Elect Barack Obama? It was, after all, the young and the diverse who propelled his candidacy. I spent a day with the heads of several local Chambers of Commerce recently and they all touted the soft-infrastructure and the ability to attract the creative class as the key to economic health for their cities. What’s Obama got to do with it?

Joel Kotkin on New Geography states:

Obama’s triumph reflects a decisive shift in the economic center of gravity away from military contractors, manufacturers, agribusiness, pharmaceuticals, suburban real estate developers, energy companies, old-line remnants on Wall Street and other traditional backers of the GOP. In their place, we can see the rise of a different set of players, predominately drawn from the so-called “creative class” of Silicon Valley, Hollywood and the younger, go-go set in the financial world.

Former George Mason professor Richard Florida who used the term creative class to describe people with both business acumen and a liberal cultural agenda. These are the new bohemians. They want arts, bike trails, and freedom from stodgy corporate hierarchies.

Many of the small but powerful corporations who supported Obama believe that creativity can save the U.S. economy. Google employees alone contributed over $400,000 to Obama’s campaign.

And boy do we need change. In Kotkin’s words:

“traditional business leadership… present a spectacle of utter disarray… commercial banks effectively nationalized… traditional manufacturers, notably automakers, also yearn to suck on the federal teat… traditional energy companies, long the whipping boys of Congressional Democrats, will be fully occupied trying to survive the onslaught of anti-carbon regulations now all but inevitable.”

According to Kotkin, the biggest difference between the creative class and the traditional business community will be seen in environmental policy. He sees a bleak future for manufacturers of tangible products, big consumers of carbon (agribusiness), and suburban staples like single-family homes and malls.

What do you think? Is it all spin and hype, or the coming of a real shift in America’s fundamental economics?

Image Credit: Squash713, Flickr