Tolerance and Prosperity

Fred Wilson has a post titled Tolerance and Prosperity on his AVC blog that directly addresses one of the concerns with Amendment One here in North Carolina – the impact it might have on the state's economy:

I thought of my friend Bob Young's blog post about North Carolina's Amendment One, which seeks to ban same sex marriages…

Bob's argument is as much an economic one as a social one. Bob says:

This proposed amendment to our state constitution is specifically telling them we don’t want their friends and fellow Americans to come here.   We need these talented, intelligent young Americans to come to North Carolina to help our technology industries succeed, but they have choices.   They can go to states with mottos like “Live Free or Die” instead of states that attempt to tell them how to live their lives, such as this Amendment One does.  And trust me, these bright young Americans can and will chose to join my competitors in Seattle, or San Jose, or New York. 

North Carolina has enjoyed a vibrant tech/startup economy and Bob's Red Hat and Lulu.com are two of its best known successes.

The ultimate impact of Amendment One's passage is yet to be known, and probably won't be known for years to come. It will take time for the courts to sort things out after the inevitable lawsuits are filed, for our communities to determine exactly how many of their members have moved to greener pastures, and for companies in our increasingly complex industries to assess the impact on their ability to recruit a talented workforce. 

Earlier in his post Fred referenced a discussion he and the partners at his firm had just had with economist Paul Romer, who referenced the impact William Penn's policy on religious liberty had on Pennsyvlania and the reaction of its neighboring colonies:

William Penn was a Quaker and when King Charles II gave him a large piece of his land holdings in America, Penn created the colony of Pennsylvania and grounded it in the notions of tolerance and religious freedom. Instead of limiting Pennsylvania to Quakers, they welcomed all comers. And the result was that Philadelphia became the fastest growing city in America with a vibrant economy and lifestyle.

The neighboring colonies, which were initially centered around a single religion, reacted to Pennsylvania's and Philadelphia's economic success by opening up their cultural norms and becoming more tolerant as well.

It has been pointed out that until the passage of Amendment One North Carolina was the exception in the Southeast. Now, in a reversal of William Penn's approach, North Carolina has decided to join the less tolerant crowd and in the process has given away a competitive advantage it had on its regional economic competition. That's not likely to lead to greater prosperity for North Carolinians, and that's just more salt in the wound that the amendment inflicts on its citizens.

Of course that's the opinion of one person who was among a significant minority of the voters yesterday (only 39% voted against the amendment). The voters of NC have spoken, and now all of us will have to live with the consequences, whatever those might be. 

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