If I’m understanding Kevin Drum correctly, happy homosexuals are a leading indicator of a strong economy.

[I]ntolerant, xenophobic societies that are obsessed with tradition aren’t likely to embrace the change, chaos, and diversity associated with, say, Silicon Valley or Wall Street. On the contrary, they’re rather more likely to drive out smart, hardworking gays who have the wherewithal and guts to pack up and move. Their loss.

“Creative destruction” isn’t just a feature of successful capitalism, it’s also a feature of successful cultures. And cultures that are open enough and dynamic enough to engage in creative destruction of social mores in favor of better ones are more likely to do the same thing when it comes to business and industry. As with capitalism, of course, there’s always the risk of carrying things too far now and again, but the inevitable mistakes are trivial compared to the long-term rewards of being openminded about cultural change in the first place.

That’s why California is rich and Mississippi isn’t. It’s the people, stupid.

Of course, as recent discussions have pointed out, the perception of wealth distrubution by region is skewed by using income as the metric. Indeed, if we use home ownership as a measure of prosperity, we find that the South (67%) and Midwest (70%) are wealthier than the West (59%) and Northeast (62%). And, of course, “gay tolerance” is essentially a proxy for religiousity.

That said, I think there’s something to Kevin’s argument. Traditional societies do indeed tend to be, by definition, resistant to change. This is true domestically as well as internationally.

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James Joyner
About James Joyner
James Joyner is Professor and Department Head of Security Studies at Marine Corps University's Command and Staff College. He's a former Army officer and Desert Storm veteran. Views expressed here are his own. Follow James on Twitter @DrJJoyner.


  1. Matthew says:

    Um, how about California is rich and Mississippi isn’t because Mississippi isn’t America’s principle hub of trans-Pacific commerce? Kevin’s got it exactly backwards — being richer makes you more gay-friendly; it’s not being gay-friendly that makes you rich.

  2. Matthew says:

    Damn it, principal, not principle 🙂

  3. JohnC says:

    Uh, in what way does being richer make you more gay-friendly? I mean, if you don’t have any explanation for that mechanim, then your argument kind of falls apart, doesn’t it?

  4. Matthew says:

    Explanation posted here. There’s an established body of work to show that affluence makes people more tolerant about sexual mores (divorce, birth control, homosexuality), and zero work to support Kevin’s tolerance-makes-you-wealthy thesis, other than its extension in what James wrote in his post, which really says traditional societies prone to populism are resistant to economic dynamism. If a society is highly traditional, but not populist (in the sense of preserving old economic ways), then it can be a wealthy, but culturally closed society (witness Singapore).

  5. Biff says:

    If a society is highly traditional, but not populist (in the sense of preserving old economic ways), then it can be a wealthy, but culturally closed society (witness Singapore).

    Singapore is quite certainly not a “culturally closed society.” Western music, movies, clothing – they’re all extremely popular there. (By “Western” I include Western-influenced culture coming out of Hong Kong and Japan.)

  6. Bryan says:

    I think Drum’s thesis fails on account of history. California was “rich” before homosexuality ever became an issue – little thing called gold. And Mississippi has been poor for quite a while as well.

    I would ask what he makes of Texas and Louisiana. Texas – very big, very rich, but not exactly the most changable society, and Louisiana, very “open” but very poor?

  7. Anonymous says:

    Not just this issue, but in general, Drumm doesn’t arrive at conclusions based on data, he walks around with pre-set conclusions and when a tidbit of information might back up his opinion, he posts it while ignoring other data that contradicts his opinion. While this tendency can be said of a whole lot (most?) people, it has lead Drumm to put up a lot of contradictory posts.

    The only excuse would be if he puts up stuff for discussion whether he believes it or not, and he does say this every once in a while on a post, but by and large he leads a sheltered political existance. The bloggers who get my respect post items or comments from others that contradict their world view and then discuss it even handedly (Drumm’s sophmoric attacks on any Bush or republican supporter are well known. This site seems to have a good balance for discussion without name calling as does DenBeste)