Richard Florida, who wrote “The Rise of the Creative Class” in 2002, has a new book coming out in April that deals with some of the issues we have been talking about here. I had the opportunity to read an advance copy. “The Flight of the Creative Class” talks about how a host of post-9/11 policy decisions have not only hurt the United States’ ability to attract foreign students and scientists, but our ability to retain our own. Florida identifies cuts in R&D and more stringent visa requirements as two culprits, and goes on to discuss the potential damage to our economy.
None of this is particularly earth shattering, of course. But his conclusion was new, at least to me. While it is easy to identify India and to an even greater extent China as threats to U.S. economic hegemony (these are the country’s that the CIA recently concluded would emerge as superpowers), Florida says that a more likely scenario is that lots of smaller powers will emerge and they will collectively challenge the United States. This makes a lot of sense to me. In the near term there is no one country that seems to have the total package necessary to displace the United States as the world’s top economy – Russia and India don’t have the infrastructure, China doesn’t speak English (which is a big deal for now) and is still several decades away, European and the other Asian countries are simply too small. Florida’s argument that it is shortsighted to think that the challenge will come from any one place gives the whole offshoring/R&D budget/innovation debate a little more urgency.
Oh, and in the end Florida says that he isn’t sure if the United States will be able to respond.