The Best of Andy Rooney

We may have gone far enough with bigger. The time may be at hand to start thinking small.

I don't mean to start a religious argument, but it wouldn't do the world any harm at all if we called a halt to the expansion of everything. We don't need bigger buildings, bigger machines, bigger companies, bigger schools, or a bigger population.

In Genesis, the writer quotes God as having said, after he created everything, "Be fruitful and multiply, and replenish the earth ..." The Earth was a different kind of place then, and I doubt if God would make that pronouncement today. When Christ was born, there were only about 300 million people living on Earth. You have to guess that several millennia before that, there must have been fewer than a million.

In 1950, there were 2.5 billion people alive. Now, there are over twice that many people. There are more people alive today than ever have died in all of history. I think we probably have been as fruitful as God had in mind for us. Today, God might be saying, "Hey, folks. I said to go forth and multiply, but this is ridiculous."

What I'd like to see is fewer people and more vacant lots. It isn't only the population of Earth and of the United States that's plenty big enough. It's everything.

We're obsessed with bigness. I've been thinking of going for smaller in my own life. Maybe we could make our house smaller. We'd take a room off. Are there contractors who can make a house smaller?

I know there are contractors who will put on additions, so there must be contractors who can do subtractions. Anyone making their house smaller by subtracting a room should get a tax credit. There would be lots of advantages to smaller houses. They'd be cheaper to heat, easier to clean and nicer to furnish because you could throw out all the furniture that has turned to junk over the years.

Maybe we'll get a smaller car. It sure would make it easier getting it into the garage with all the stuff I've got stacked up on either side.

I'll write a letter to the college I attended. Its officials always are writing to me. They want to be best friends and, when I die, they want me to leave them any money I have left over. They're going to be disappointed, because I'm going to try to come out even when I die.

The college wants money because it needs a new dormitory. It needs a new dormitory because last year it raised enough money to build a new lecture hall. To fill the lecture hall it admitted more freshmen, and now it has no place to house them.

It never occurs to a college that it might be a good idea to retrench. The thought of admitting fewer students and making the college smaller is something never considered.

We might tear up some of our big superhighways, too. We have more roads in the United States than there are places to go on them. We've gone mad paving over our country.

The more big roads we have, the more places we go that we don't need to get to. If you could stop every car on a major highway, I think you'd find that in three-quarters of the cases, the trip was unnecessary and not even pleasant for the driver or passengers.

Of all the things that have become too big in the world, companies lead the list. Big companies have been swallowing up small companies until there aren't many small ones left. Now, big companies are swallowing other big companies and getting indigestion in the process.

Big companies don't make things as well as small companies. Farmers haven't improved themselves since they got so big, either. The good thing about a small farmer, as compared with a big one, is the small farmer can't get in trouble by borrowing $2 million.

I'm ready to say that there are few things in life, with the possible exception of an ice cream cone, that are better big than small.

(This classic Rooney column was originally published Sept. 27, 1986.)

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