The Future of Our Creative Capital

From Flight of the Creative Class (Richard Florida):

“Professor Florida,” she said, “I’m the child of immigrants who moved to Canada. I’m a Canadian. I live in a country where we welcome people from all countries and all societies. We accept immigrants . . . In Canada, we consider our society a mosaic, which allows you to come from anywhere in the world and be a part of our society.” She looked me directly in the eye and said, “How does it feel, Professor Florida, to live next door to a free, open and democratic country?”

and then this today from the Financial Times (Bill Gates, Microsoft):

Speaking before the Senate committee on health, education, labour and pensions, Mr Gates said that tighter US immigration policies – governed partly by concerns over terrorism – were “driving away the world’s best and brightest precisely when we need them most”.

“It makes no sense to tell well-trained, highly skilled individuals, many of whom are educated at our top colleges and universities, that the United States does not welcome or value them,” Mr Gates said. “America will find it infinitely more difficult to maintain its technological leadership if it shuts out the very people who are most able to help us compete.”

Mr Gates said that other countries were taking advantage of restrictive US policies by catering to highly skilled workers who would otherwise choose to study, live and work in the US.

“Our lost opportunities are their gains,” he said. “I personally witness the ill effects of these policies on an almost daily basis at Microsoft.”

Mr. Gates’ comments on immigration were part of a broader warning over the state of US competitiveness.

We hear this familiar anthem about U. S. global competitiveness from Friedman, Pink, Florida, and now Gates. If we care to listen to these folks, and if we place any value in their worldviews, then we as a nation have only three options:

  1. Increase opportunities to import creative talent.
  2. Improve the development of our homegrown creative talent.
  3. Design and implement some combination of the above two options.

It will require substantial creative reform and financial investment. But, in the long run, can we afford to continue to do otherwise?

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