Just to be clear, I don’t claim that Richard intended at any point to enter the culture wars, or to advocate for a political viewpoint. And as a theorist, I am not taking a position on the quality or conclusions of his empirical analysis. His argument combines empirical claims of certain observed regularities with theoretical claims of the plausibility of certain connections and causal relationships. I am addressing myself primarily to the theoretical claims.
Why do some places end up with higher concentrations of human capital than others? This is the real question my work poses and tries to answer. It seems to me that a very simple and plausible answer is a place’s openness to diversity. I refer to it technically in my work as a place’s having “low barriers to entry” for human capital.
There are many, many ways in which individuals and groups can vary, and thus there are many kinds of diversity. There are also many ways to react to each kind of variation; there is not just “open” or “closed.” So I am skeptical that geographic regions have a general property of “openness to diversity.” Rather, certain regions that you have in mind are “open” in certain kinds of ways to certain kinds of variations. Beyond that, in most relevant business contexts I do not see a plausible causal connection between such “openness” and local innovation.
Yes, for a region to do well the local culture must seem inviting and friendly to the high quality people in relevant industries. So Silicon Valley would not be as productive if the area were not as friendly to the culture of hackers, including supporting their typical work hours, habits of dress, and so on. But that is very different from saying that the region *caused* hackers to be innovative.