Back around 1970, I was doing radio near Cape Cod. Just east of New Bedford, a new mall opened -- a big one, judging by its sign: "72 Stores, All Indoors." Seventy-two stores! What more could one ask for? What would you need that was not carried by six dozen shops?
Not big enough, I see. They became larger and larger. The Mall of America, in Bloomington, Minnesota (near Minneapolis/St. Paul) has 520 stores, over 12,000 parking spaces --not counting those for the 12,000 employees-- can fit seven Yankee Stadiums inside (258 Statue of Liberty laying down, or 32 Boeing 747's parked). How big is big enough? Is big enough measured only by the maximum loading of the steel we can raise? The number of stores we think will buy into, and stay with, the place? And after a disaster of any possible origin, does the building withstand and do the customers continue?
Cruise ships are becoming larger and larger. 45,000-ton displacement, 1200-passenger comfortable ships are now the small fry of the industry. One popular ship, in the size becoming common (110,000 tons) holds 3,000 passengers and a crew of 1150; that's 4150 people onboard. The Queen Mary 2 may not hold quite as many people (3870), but it's probably the biggest at 151,400 tons. At least for now. What happens to the cruise industry if one of these goes down? It's hardly possible, given the way they are designed and built, but it sure is possible; you've heard of rogue waves and what can happen if a very large one hits a ship broadside. Highly unlikely, but the Titanic's sinking was also highly unlikely; a number of conditions just happened to add up the wrong way that night.
In 1957, musical satirist and radio comedian Stan Freberg did a skit on his show, which he called "Incident At Las Cruces." It was about two or three casinos in an imaginary gambling city in, perhaps, Nevada. Each tried to outdo the other in the size and drama of its stage show. Finally, to top all the others, one casino announced that it would detonate an H-bomb on its stage. That was the end of the casino, of all casinos, of Las Cruces. Greed and its manifestation in "bigger will earn us more" ended up with nothing.
I'm not afraid of growth. Let us have fast, steep roller coasters; but not so fast and steep that one comes crashing down because it had to be faster and steeper for no good reason than the cash register. A megachurch certainly looks impressive, especially if you are the pastor preaching to the crowd; but it can end up being little more than someone doing stand-up with no personal touch to these thousands.
We don't yearn for big cities, you know. We yearn for the small towns, the mom and pop stores.