Monday, February 07, 2005

FLOW and the Cultural Creatives

I've been reading an interesting political analysis concerningthe "Cultural Creatives" by Paul Ray, one of the authors of the book by that name. By means of market research ("13 years of survey research studies on over 100,000 Americans, plus over 100 focus groups and dozens of depth interviews"), Ray claimed to have discovered a large population (50 million) of "cultural creatives" who do not fit into traditional left/right political categories.

Major areas of agreement between FLOW and Ray's version of "Cultural Creative" political beliefs include:

  • The desire "to get beyond left/right"
  • A distaste for public schools
  • An interest in direct entrepreneurial action
  • A distaste for the anger/class warfare attitudes of the Left
  • A disillusionment with government solutions

Ray believes that these people are alienated by the traditional left, including its "Big Government" paradigm. At the same time, in a two-dimensional political chart that is rather different from the Nolan Chart, he opposes in one dimension Left ("Modernist New Deal Liberals") against Right ("Cultural Conservatives") with the other dimension defined by the "Cultural Creatives" at one pole and the "Profits Over Planet and People Business Conservatives" at the other pole.

Ray claims that the cultural creatives represents 36% of the population and 45% of the voters; that the Left is 12% of the population and 15% of the voters; the cultural conservatives are 19% of the population and 22% of the voters; and the business conservatives are 14% of the population and 19% of the voters (and 80% of the money). If he is correct in his percentages, it would appear as if large numbers of cultural creatives voted for Bush in the most recent election.

In his paper, "The New Political Compass," Ray is explicitly trying to develop a market research-based strategy by means of which his Cultural Creatives can have more political power:
(click on "The New Political Compass" for access to the pdf file)

Assuming that his market research is legitimate, there are several interesting implications for the FLOW project.

The first is that insofar as Ray, and people like him, regard "Cultural Creatives" and "Business Conservatives" as opposite poles of a spectrum, it would seem that our task is very difficult. In part, FLOW was started because John and I are Cultural Creatives who happen to believe that markets are the best way in which to
express our cultural creativity. But from Ray's perspective, we are strange beasts.

I, at least, would counter that in part Ray's perspective is characteristic of people who don't understand how markets work; although Ray explicitly rejects "Big Government" Leftism, he still does not understand how entrepreneurial Cultural Creatives will need exactly the same kinds of freedom that entrepreneurs of all sorts have always needed. From this perspective, our task would be to educate the young cohort of cultural creatives on how they can change the world by means of entrepreneurial activity - along with an increasingly sophisticated understanding of the kind of increasingly simplified government that will be necessary for them to engage successfully in such entrepreneurial activity.

The biggest areas of conflict between the political beliefs of Ray's "Cultural Creatives" and FLOW are on:

1. Different beliefs regarding ecology. While FLOW is eco-friendly, it does not accept the mainstream eco-hysteria.

2. Different beliefs regarding big business. There is nothing wrong with big business per se. Wal-mart, for instance, has probably done more for the poor, through lower prices, than all government programs from FDR onwards.

3. Different beliefs regarding globalization. Ray believes that globalization is harmful, despite abundant evidence that the world's poor benefit (e.g. Oxfam's position that global trade is the only way to eliminate hunger).

4. Commitment to national health care. We would look for more market-friendly approaches to health care.

With both 2 and 3, there is a principled libertarian/FLOW position that is very hostile to crony capitalism. The "Big Business" position which Ray finds so distasteful is in part due to the crony capitalism which libertarians have always criticized. Ray would not understand why/how limited government is the best solution to crony capitalism. According to Ray the Cultural Creatives are also very hostile to the corrupt, well-funded political process, but Ray at least doesn't see how limited government is also the solution to that one.


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