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Hitch your wagon to Estonia?

America's magnet for creativity faces far-flung places on the rise

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Bright lights gravitate toward constellations of creativity. So where better than America - big-bang engine of modern invention - to launch one's shining self into the firmament? Somebody say Estonia?

In a kind of literary franchise extension, sociologist Richard Florida builds on his 2002 "Rise of the Creative Class" with his ominous new book, "The Flight of the Creative Class: The New Global Competition for Talent."

These days, the world's rank-and-file creative workers can find plenty of nurturing environments in which conditions equal or trump America's legendary offerings, Florida maintains. He calls the impending shift - not so much a mass migration as the cultivation of indigenous talent pools that attract a trickle of like minds - the greatest current threat to America's global competitiveness. It is a bigger worry than China (and, presumably, than the outsourcing of low-wage jobs).

He also tries gamely - if generally - to float solutions to this drain. The book's real value may be as an identifier of how the world will come to look unless America wakes up to new realities.

First, to quantify: Florida concerns himself with individuals employed as architects and entertainers, lawyers and healthcare workers, artists and financiers, and other "related fields." In the United States, this rather nebulous collective includes 40 million people comprising what he calls a $2 trillion sector "larger than the manufacturing and service sectors combined."

The broad definition is intentional. "One of the greatest fallacies of modern times is that creativity is limited to a small group of people with particular talents," he writes, calling his label "neither elitist nor exclusionary."


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