Size Matters

This post doesn’t really have a conclusion and I’m not sure it has anything to do with urban design in Chattanooga specifically. It is about scale and how we live, however, so I suppose there is a tangential connection. Be forewarned, it's another downer...

I must admit that I’m a bit worn out on basketball. Every year when the men’s NCAA basketball tournament rolls around, we get to listen Dickie V and his peers talk about parity in the sport. Every time our bracket gets busted because a team from a mid-major conference upsets a traditional power, we talk about how the playing field has been leveled. Every time a five seed makes it to the final four we hear that in the modern era any team could win it all. That is now an accepted concept and one that we hear incessantly. The only problem is that it is complete and utter bull-honkus. If the playing field is level, and if any team can win it all, then surely it would have happened at least once since I’ve been seriously following the sport (1986). Read through this list of the last 27 champions and see if you can find the Cinderella:

Louisville (also playing in this year’s championship game)


Kansas (twice)

Michigan (also playing in this year’s championship game)


Duke (four times)

North Carolina (three times)



Kentucky (three times)


UConn (three times)

Michigan State


Syracuse (mad this year’s final four)

Florida (twice)

You will find that there is no Cinderella in that list. You will find that power teams from power conferences dominate the sport to the exclusion of others. So next year, when East Bumble State University gets to the sweet sixteen and folks roll out the tired story of parity- please feel free to call bull-honkus. This is not limited to college basketball, however. If you look at our society, you will find the same thing happening all around us.

Our financial system has been essentially hi-jacked by a few private institutions. They have even elevated themselves to the point where they are “Too Big To Fail”. That is capitalism Nirvana- becoming an entity that a system cannot operate without. (Kunstler does a decent job of writing about this from time to time).

Our society is driven on oil and gas. Virtually every activity we undertake on a daily basis has involved fossil fuels at some point- what we eat, what we drink, what we wear, where we live, how we move around, etc, etc, etc.

Our food supply is the hands of couple of large companies. My Facebook feed has blown up over the past couple of weeks with articles on the “Mansanto Protection Act”, seed security, and the (now proven) dangers of GMO’s. I feel awkward writing about this because I am frankly ignorant on the subject and it reeks of conspiracy theory. But if even a small percentage of the theories are true, it does not bode well for us.

Oh, so you’re an off-the-grid locavore who grows their own food, makes their own clothes and rides a one-speed everywhere? That’s fantastic and I applaud you, but there are 500,000 “typical Americans” for every one of you.

Americans are capitalists, and if you are a true capitalist, then the big companies are good things. They are the pinnacle of the capitalistic system- companies that have vanquished their competitors. Those corporations did things well enough and made enough money to beat their competition. They then use the money they made to be able to influence others to help them prevent competition and thereby make more money.

As promised, there is no moral to this story and I'm pretty sure I still believe in capitalism, these are just my observations. It seems to me, however, that the endeavors that impact human lives most  directly (I'm not talking basketball) are ones where there is the least amount of competition.  I think that's depressing.

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