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One problem with maintenance is that it generally doesn’t pay well — to either stockholders or individuals. When that citizen with frozen mud against his garage quipped that I wasn’t being paid enough, he was correct — at least for that task. Innovation, particularly that which leads to efficiency and conservation, is certainly worthy of reward, but maintenance has been shortchanged. President Theodore Roosevelt, icon of conservative Republicans (despite a flirtation with the progressives of his day), said, “Every man holds his property subject to the general right of the community to regulate its use to whatever degree the public welfare may require it.”
Today, the public welfare demands that we all do maintenance — that we save rather than waste, repair and improve rather than endlessly expand. Our reward may be the survival of democracy and capitalism. The Great Frontier, measured by physical growth, is past. Unless we relocate to a virgin planet, we need to find profit (and perhaps glamour) in upkeep, and gratification in the livelihood of ditches.
Peter M. Leschak, of Side Lake, Minn., is the author of “Ghosts of the Fireground,” “Letters from Side Lake” and other books.
The Opinion section is produced by the Editorial Department to foster discussion about key issues. The Editorial Board represents the institutional voice of the Star Tribune and operates independently of the newsroom.