Friday, May 6, 2011

Tennessee, Gays, and Innovation

   On their facebook page, the Tennessee Equality Project linked to an article about Tennessee Governor Haslam announcing a $50 million dollar Innovation Strategy for the State. This strategy would include four things: Innovation Coordination, Commercialization, Entrepreneurship, and Co-Investment Funds.  As the TN Equality Project accurately points out, it is interesting that the Governor is pushing this type of Innovative strategy for the State, yet attempting to eliminate one of the major drivers of innovation.

    Richard Florida, an economist and social scientist at the University of Toronto, has developed a theory known as the theory of the "Creative Class". As one who has studied his works, I immediately thought of this theory and how it directly flies in the face of both Governor Haslam's initiative as well as the Bill currently in the Tennessee Legislature that would not allow municipalities and local governments to enact employment discrimination laws.  In this theory, Florida argues that throwing money at people and telling them to innovate is not enough, instead a city or region must have the "Three T's" : Talent, Tolerance, and Technology - in order to succeed.

    The middle one - tolerance - is what is the most important "T" in this discussion. Why is tolerance so important and how does it relate to Tennessee. Tolerance is important because in order to have creativity and innovation you must have diversity of opinion, lifestyles, sexualities, and cultures. This is why you 'see homogeneous cultures really producing any sort of WOW achievement in todays knowledge driven economy.  It is through our interaction with a diverse group of people that we are able to learn effectively from each others experiences and use that knowledge to innovate.

    This is why Governor Haslam's initiative and his support of the bill currently in the Tennessee Legislature is rather contradictory. Cities recognize that one way to show that they are a tolerant community is to codify anti-discrimination laws into their city codes. This allows LGBT people to move to the city and participate in the economy without having the fear of economic backlash (aka. firing or discrimination). Without this assurance, LGBT people are less likely to move into an area, and hence are less likely to contribute to the diversity that is essential for innovation. Instead they will move to cities that DO have protections for them, and will contribute to that cities economic growth.

      Thats one thing that Republicans in Tennessee do not see because they are to concerned with pandering to their social conservative base. Employment discrimination laws do not hinder business; they actually assist businesses by allowing their employees to recognize their full potential rather than be hindered by a natural trait - whether it be race, sexuality, gender, etc. Only if the Republicans in the State recognize this, do I see Tennessee being a leader in innovation; for as of right now, all I see is them ignoring reality and playing politics with the economy.

1 comment:

  1. It is like giving Africans everything they need without actually teaching them how to get what they need.


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