Salon readers weigh in on interviews with Richard Florida and James Atlas.

Published April 22, 2005 6:10PM (EDT)

[Read "The Gay/Hipster Index," by Christopher Dreher.]

Richard Florida has put his finger exactly on the things that have been the source of America's economic and cultural power: its openness to new people and ideas, an openness that dates back to the American Revolution and really is part of the definition of what it means to be an American. He also accurately shows how they are threatened.

But he's wrong that no one in Washington is talking about how to address the fears of those who are being left behind by today's new economic waves of creativity.

Howard Dean is. Florida should read the speech Dean gave last week to the California Democratic Party. To quote him very briefly, just to give a sense,

"...there is a group of people who have the highest level of anxiety that I have ever seen in America. About one-quarter of Americans are worried. They are worried about the president sending more of their jobs overseas than ever before. They are worried about losing their health insurance ... These people are one check away from losing their mortgage ...

"But what they are worried about more than anything else is that they've already lost control of their life economically. The only thing they have left that they can't lose control of is their kids and their families. We need to talk to those folks. We need not to react to the backlash and the differences and opinions about gay rights and things like that, because that's the symptom."

Put side by side Florida and Dean dovetail uncannily because both men are several steps ahead of everyone else.

-- Larry Dudley

Richard Florida takes as an implicit assumption that we are interested in "what is best for America," and, amazingly, the interviewer never challenges him on this. Florida worries about the class divide in the U.S. but never considers global inequality. If one is concerned about global justice and equality, then one would want the winners of this competition for talent not to be the already rich U.S. cities, but places like Beijing, Hyderabad and Caracas.

-- Martin B.

It was kind of eerie reading this, in part because I am an American reading it from South Korea. My husband and I chose to leave jobs with highly competitive wages in the states and come here to teach English. We wanted a more relaxed lifestyle, to save money, to not need a car, to have a nice place to live and to not worry about healthcare. And while we only plan on being here for a few years, we aren't sure we will be going back to the States when we leave. One of the many interesting things about living in Korea is watching a society that is opening up while my own seems to be shutting down.

-- Wahrena Pfeister

[Read "The Haunted 50s," by David Bowman.]

Ah, so I see that the most self-involved generation in the history of the world is now writing books about their middle age, with James Atlas' "My Life in the Middle Ages" leading the charge! Lucky us! How I have so pined for more boomer books, and so worried that the number of books written about and by them had been decreasing in the face of the small boomlet (sorry) of books about "The Greatest Generation."

Now I can sit back, confident in the knowledge that my generation -- the "Wedge" generation, squeezed in between the boomers and Generation X -- can once again sit on the sidelines being ignored, doing our jobs, paying our taxes, having kids, getting sick, getting surgery, and living our lives without writing a lot of navel-gazing books about it. Whew! What a relief!

-- Douglas Moran

By Salon Staff

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