Peter Jackson’s power play hasn’t been mentioned by any of the current candidates running for president. Yet the loss of U.S. jobs to overseas competitors is shaping up to be one of the defining issues of the 2004 campaign. And for good reason. Voters are seeing not just a decline in manufacturing jobs, but also the outsourcing of hundreds of thousands of white-collar brain jobs–everything from software coders to financial analysts for investment banks. These were supposed to be the “safe” jobs, for which high school guidance counselors steered the children of blue-collar workers into college to avoid their parents’ fate.
But the loss of some of these jobs is only the most obvious–and not even the most worrying–aspect of a much bigger problem. Other countries are now encroaching more directly and successfully on what has been, for almost two decades, the heartland of our economic success — the creative economy. Better than any other country in recent years, America has developed new technologies and ideas that spawn new industries and modernize old ones, from the Internet to big-box stores to innovative product designs. And these have proved the principal force behind the U.S. economy’s creation of more than 20 million jobs in the creative sector during the 1990s, even as it continued to shed manufacturing, agricultural, and other jobs.
Thus far the idea of creativity has come up in classes ranging from freshman composition, creative writing, and British Literature. Creativity isn’t just about poetry or character development; it’s also about mathematics, history, and physics. It has to do with how we use tech, paper, and the people around us to make things, good things. I don’t agree with all of Florida’s conclusions because they’re blanket, but the essence is there. People need room, space, to think.