What America can learn from Florida’s boom

From The Economist:

As the southernmost state in continental America, Florida is often pooh-poohed as peripheral. Headlines about crimes committed by Floridians, sometimes involving alligators, alcohol, or a combination of the two, have contributed to a wacky “Florida man” stereotype. Many associate Florida with retirement, rednecks and a world-famous rodent, Mickey Mouse.

In fact, Florida has become emblematic of much of America and central to all of it. The state is on the rise, as our special report this week explains. Between 2010 and 2020 its population grew at double the national rate. Florida has overtaken New York to become America’s third-most-populous state after California and Texas, with a dynamic and diverse demography, including fast-rising numbers of Hispanics. It is now the number-one destination for American and foreign movers. In the year to July 31st 2021, 260,000 more people arrived in Florida than left—equivalent to adding a city the size of Buffalo, New York.

Its economic and political heft is growing, too. Florida’s gdp has doubled since 2002. Were it a country, it would rank as the 15th-largest economy in the world, ahead of Mexico and Indonesia. Having recently gained a 30th electoral-college vote, it has more than a tenth of those required to win the presidency. The largest swing state, in the past 12 presidential elections Florida has voted all but twice for the winner. And as home to musicians, athletes and a recent former president, Florida is a cultural trendsetter, for better or worse, as well as ground zero for the fight over government restrictions related to covid-19.

Americans ignore this powerhouse at their peril—and should heed the lessons it holds. For a start, Florida points to the wider looming battle between generations. Its residents include millions of retired Americans who want to limit government spending, even while they use government programmes, such as Medicare, a health-care scheme for the elderly. Younger Floridians, meanwhile, want to see investment in their own future, and are finding cities like Miami increasingly unaffordable.

. . . .

Politically, Florida has come to embody the Republican Party and its rightward tilt. If the Florida-based Donald Trump decides not to run again in 2024, Mr DeSantis is the likeliest Republican nominee for president. The rising number of independents in Florida suggests that people are fed up with both parties. But Democrats look especially vulnerable. A decade ago they claimed 558,000 more registered voters than Republicans; today they trail Republicans by 43,000. Nationally, Democrats need to run more optimistic, centrist candidates who can appeal to independent voters like those in Florida. As it is, they are struggling to shake off the “socialist” label that Republicans have given them, turning off many voters, notably Hispanics.

Lastly, Florida offers a case study in economic policy. It charges no income tax, which enhances its appeal, as do the pro-business attitudes of the state’s leaders. The pandemic has prompted people and firms to reconsider where they want to be based, leading many to move out of high-tax, high-regulation states (such as New York and California) to Florida and Texas, which are pro-business and tax-light. Silicon Valley and Wall Street types are attracted to a place where politicians welcome them and never condemn their success.

Link to the rest at The Economist

PG suggests that, for many western Europeans, Florida is a place which is quite puzzling. Massachusetts is much easier for them to understand.

California and Texas also seem more than a bit bizarre as well.

The vast majority of Americans speak English as their first language, but, while English has certainly had an impact, the diverse set of Hispanic-origin cultures that sprang up in various parts of the country has, for PG, a more interesting influence.

California and Texas border on Mexico and each contains a lot of Mexicano in its culture.

You’ll also hear a lot of Spanish in some parts of Florida, but the Latino influence is different, more affected by the many islands of the Caribbean where Spanish was planted long before English was heard.

From The Tampa Bay Times:

“Literary” is probably not the first adjective that comes to mind when you think of Florida.

Time to reconsider. The Sunshine State has attracted dozens of notable writers, as a place to live and a place to write about, and it shouldn’t come as a surprise. Whether it’s hurricanes (deployed to great effect by such writers as Zora Neale Hurston, John D. MacDonald and Peter Matthiessen), alligators (Carl Hiaasen, Tim Dorsey, Karen Russell et al.) or bizarre criminals (Hiaasen, Dorsey, Jeff Lindsay, Randy Wayne White and many more), Florida offers plenty of material.

We have bustling cities and vast expanses of wilderness, pristine beaches and gaudy tourist traps, not to mention plenty of universities with writing programs. It’s no wonder that well-known authors can be found in almost every corner of the state — and that their work has depicted Florida as everything from paradise to hell on earth.

. . . .

To compile this map of literary Florida, I first chose to limit it to fiction writers, living and dead. Florida can claim plenty of great nonfiction writers, poets and playwrights as well, of course, but I was aiming for a manageable number. Here are my criteria for this selection of novelists and short story writers: They have lived in the state at some point and have used Florida as a setting for their fiction.

Since it’s a selection, I have also chosen to grandfather in one writer who doesn’t meet both criteria. Jack Kerouac is one of the most famous literary figures associated with St. Petersburg and Orlando, having lived for a time in both cities in the 1960s. But he never, as far as I know, wrote about Florida in his fiction.

However, a letter by Kerouac that recently came up for auction reveals that he planned to do so. Dated Sept. 27, 1968, a time when he was living in St. Petersburg, the typed one-page letter to New York literary agent Sterling Lord outlines Kerouac’s plans for his never-completed final book, the working title of which was Spotlight.

He begins, “Here’s what I’ll do with SPOTLIGHT. I’ll use my public appearances on TV and lectures as rungs in the ladder of the narrative. In betwixt, I can throw in more private matters, such as my two physical beatings in bars (‘Spotlight’ indeed), and other things, but the main tale will be. I’ll start with when I’m living on that back porch in Florida with my Maw in 1957, broke, arguing about what to buy for dessert because we have no money for meat, and suddenly Time Magazine comes in to interview me about the upcoming publication of ON THE ROAD.”

The letter goes on to describe a wild, globe-trotting plot for a book Kerouac never finished. He died in St. Petersburg in October of 1969 while still living with his “Maw,” Gabrielle, and his third wife, Stella.

. . . .


Brad Meltzer, 45, thrillers, Book of Lies

Cape Coral

Jeff Lindsay, 62, mysteries, Darkly Dreaming Dexter


Lisa Unger, 45, mysteries, Black Out


Kate DiCamillo, 51, children’s books, Because of Winn-Dixie

Cross Creek

Marjorie Kinnan Rawlings, 1896-1953, literary fiction, The Yearling


Zora Neale Hurston, 1891-1960, literary fiction, Their Eyes Were Watching God

. . . .


Hugh Howey, 40, science fiction, The End Is Nigh

Key West

Ann Beattie, 67, literary fiction, The New Yorker Stories

Judy Blume, 77, children’s and adult fiction, Starring Sally J. Freedman as Herself

Jimmy Buffett, 68, mysteries, Where Is Joe Merchant?

Meg Cabot, 48, YA novels, Abandon

Jim Harrison, 77, literary fiction, Julip

Ernest Hemingway, 1899-1961, literary fiction, To Have and Have Not

John Hersey, 1914-1993, literary fiction, Key West Tales

Thomas McGuane, 75, literary fiction, Ninety-two in the Shade

Thomas Sanchez, 71, literary fiction, Mile Zero

Joy Williams, 71, literary fiction, Breaking and Entering

Stuart Woods, 77, mysteries, Blood Orchid

. . . .


Suzanne Brockmann, 55, thrillers and romance, Nowhere to Run

Tony D’Souza, 41, literary fiction, Mule

Stuart Kaminsky, 1934-2009, mysteries, Midnight Pass

Stephen King, 67, horror, Duma Key

John D. MacDonald, 1916-86, mysteries, The Deep Blue Good-by

Link to the rest at The Tampa Bay Times

17 thoughts on “What America can learn from Florida’s boom”

  1. People of hispanic descent in Florida come from many places but as with most mass movements, different ethnicities tend to gravitate to certain regions. And certain regions are taking on the flavor of the colonies moving in.

    South Florida and Miami in particular became ground zero for cubans escaping from Castro since the 60’s. They’re into the third generation. They are being joined in this century by Venezuelans escaping Socialism. Common attitudes and background; early cubans and most of the Venezuelans come from the professional classes and are not fond of undocumenteds. Latter generation cubans vary but still lean with their forbears. Mexicans there are, of course, but a big driver is that Miami is the primary landing spot for mexican celebrities and their families, up to distant cousins. (There is a cottage industry of kidnappers that targets anybody related to names, regardless of their own ability to pay.) In the last decade the practice has expanded its scope beyond celebrities but that’s a different story. Or story fodder.


    Central Florida and especially Orlando is where you’ll find puertoricans, especially after the hurricane and quakes and more so after the pandemic and the “great resignation”. Puertorican professionals are in demand all over, being native born bilingual citizens, and can be found in every state but in recent times teachers, doctors, and first responders are all flowing steadily north; over half a million of all professions and trades, and counting, and they are colonizing Orlando. The overflow is moving mostly north to Jacksonville. No group is strongly dominant yet but Orlando is close by…

    North of Jacksonville and especially the panhandle is the native habitat of Florida man, technically Homo Sapiens Floridae, a little understood but colorful sub-species. 😀

    I”ve got relatives all over the state and I may yet land there myself eventually. Jacksonville is particularly nice, especially the outer regions. Reminds me of Indianapolis and Dallas. And the Cape and Starbase2 isn’t far. 😉

    • I do like Jax a lot, lived in Jax & metro area a couple times. The weather is great in the fall and spring, but unfortunately those seasons are about two weeks long 🙂 The summer is, of course, hot and muggy, and the winter can get cold (occasionally <20F, colder than San Francisco), which is good because it keeps the retirees out. The beaches are great, of course.

      I also lived in the Orlando area once, and the comparisons were fun. The city of Orlando is small, and the metro area consists of a lot of different cities, while Jacksonville is the whole county (except maybe the beaches). Jax is pretty conservative, with a strong Baptist flavor, and IIRC, financial business (such as insurance) dominate. When I was in Orlando, there were plenty of titty bars and topless restaurants out in the open, and tourism is the big thing (although there's a certain amount of tech around UCF). I'd say Jax is only a tourist attraction for the Gator bowl and golfers (PGA HQ is nearby, along with many excellent golf courses). But Orlando (Winter Park) has one of my favorite museums, the Morse Museum with its amazing Tiffany collection.

      Of course, Orlando has no beaches, but everywhere you go there's a lake (so streets never run straight), because if you dig six feet, you hit water 🙂

  2. How is Elmore Leonard not on this list? La Brava? (Edgar Award) Out of Sight? Rum Punch? Get Shorty? Sheesh…

        • Don’t be cruel.
          PG deserves better.
          Plenty of alternatives to Kalifornia still out there.

          The Carolinas, for one, are very nice, especially around the research triangle.

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