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Health

The decline of New York? (again)

Gene ExpressionBy Razib KhanFebruary 15, 2009 9:37 AM

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Arnold Kling is skeptical that New York City will ever be as important as it was over the past decade because of the prominence of finance. He is responding to Richard Florida's new piece in The Atlantic, How the Crash Will Reshape America. Kling declares:

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.

Kling would perhaps get less grief if he qualified that aesthetics is not that important for economic productivity. Florida likes to use biological analogies, so I think it would be fair to characterize the technical creatives as the primary producers of the economy. Their innovation results in concrete gains in economic productivity, which naturally leads to a higher level of consumption. This consumption works its way up through the economic food chain, supporting a larger and more diverse array of heterotrophs. It seems plausible that the future trajectory of New York City is going to be conditional upon exogenous factors. The city is no longer the master of its own universe. In other words, what gets invented in Silicon Valley, Austin and Route 128, production generators, will determine the viability of consumption capitals.

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