I've been a voracious reader ever since I learned to read almost 50 years ago, so that adds up to at least several thousand books. Out of all of those, there were perhaps half a dozen which permanently changed my life, and this is one of them. (If you really care to know what the others were, then e-mail me and I'll tell you, LOL.) Sale begins with the simplest possible premise: that all human efforts should be measured and evaluated in terms of how they increase human happiness, comfort and convenience. That idea seems too obvious to require discussion, and yet Sale demonstrates that in almost every aspect of our culture, we have ignored that principle. He then describes what would have to be done in order to bring our homes, furniture, neighborhoods, etc. into conformance with the greatest comfort and happiness for human beings. It's one of the most fascinatingly thoughtful books I have ever read, and I hope it comes back into print soon.
This would be on the list of the 100 books that influenced me the most. What it is is a wideranging defense of anarchism, not just in the political sphere but in all human endeavors. The insight i've carried with me for the 20+ years since i read it is that quantity doesn't scale, there is a point where a teaspoon of water increasing to a cup is useful and necessary, but as it increases to a swimming pool and eventually to the Pacific ocean, something in the quality changes. It becomes not a life essential glass of water, but a life threatening monster. Changes in quantity are qualitative. Seems like such a simple idea, but it isn't, as the book shows. An easy but complete read, it talks about how many people you can remember by name, or by shape at a distance. To how technology distorts and maims people and our minds. I am sure that each chapter, and each insight has a number of books now written on the topic, but this is AFAIK the best one volume defense of this cluster of insights about how size really matters.
This book changed my life. I had always had a vague feeling that a city, a house, a chair could be too large, too small or just right, but I did not realize anyone had carefully quantified just what is the best size for these things until I read this book. It is because of this book that I moved to a town of 35,000 people, and have been delighted with that choice for the last 10 years
This is a wide-ranging but not closely argued defense of a utopian vision in which the primary value is right-sizedness. Kirkpatrick Sale argues that almost everything in modern America and the West generally is too big, and that our problems in everything - buildings, cities, agriculture, firms, schools, government - can be traced to size. He wants to live in a world where people literally know everyone affected by their actions and decisions.
It's a tempting argument from a classical liberal (libertarian) point of view. Most would agree that firms are the size they are because government and laws create an environment in which they thrive and florish. Reduce the size and scope of government and the size and scope of corporations will follow. Decentralization is an accepted principle. Few classical liberals will have many problems with the laws and ordinances enforced at the city level: laws against crimes against person and property, traffic ordinances, and the like. Other local issues can be managed in smaller cities: financing schools, managing parks, etc. Local government means people vote on things they understand and can monitor and with which they probably have some interaction. Local tradeoffs are personal: pave a road or build a new library, pay lower taxes or get more services. Either is just as likely to benefit the people paying for it. In contrast, federal tradeoffs are unknowable: build a bridge in Alaska, or a tunnel in Boston. Relatively few people are likely to benefit from those things, much less understand what they do or whether they are done economically or even well. Everyone thinks their own Congressmen is relatively clean and all the others are pork dealers. Sale seems to share this distrust and even dislike of large government.Read more ›