I Challenge Richard Florida
By Arnold Kling
to a bet on the future of New York City. In a must-read article in the latest issue of The Atlantic, Florida says that New York will come out of the recession in good shape. I propose a $50 wager on that, with terms somewhat along these lines.
1. Come up with a measure of a metro area’s education level in the 25-45 age range for major U.S cities. (He makes the interesting point that the distribution of education has become highly unequal across metro areas in recent years. So he might have a good measure already.)
2. Calculate New York City’s rank as of the latest data available (2008? 2007?). Say they rank 8th today.
3. In February of 2015, redo the calculation based on the latest data then available.
4. I win if New York’s rank has dropped (say, to 9th from 8th). He wins otherwise.For me, this is more of an emotional bet than an economic one. Florida and I both share the premise that Wall Street will not come back. Florida’s economic case is that the New York economy may actually be less dependent on financial services than Columbus Ohio or Hartford, Connecticut. It mostly rests on his view that cities attract “the creative class,” the creative class produces innovation, and innovation produces wealth. So he is optimistic about New York.
Having grown up in a suburb of St. Louis, I have an attitude about that. I hate the Mets. I find the heavy-handed sensory overload of New York tiring and ultimately unpleasant, in the same way that I find Las Vegas or Disney World unpleasant. Although I can actually enjoy New York in short stretches, and I cannot say the same for Vegas or Disney.
But I think that a lot of my attitude is that, notwithstanding Virginia Postrel’s Substance of Style case for aesthetics, I don’t think that the arts are all that important. To me, creative innovation that matters is somebody in a lab at MIT coming up with a more efficient battery or solar cell. It is somebody at Stanford coming up with a way to make computers smarter or cancer more preventable. I just can’t get excited about some frou-frou fashion designers and the magazines that feature their creations.