Washington Monument Syndrome

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
Jump to navigation Jump to search

The Washington Monument syndrome, also known as the Mount Rushmore Syndrome,[1] or the firemen first principle,[2][3] is the process of government agencies in the United States cutting the most visible or appreciated services provided by the government when faced with budget cuts. It has been used in reference to cuts in popular services, such as national parks and libraries,[1] or to valued public employees, such as teachers and firefighters.[2] It is done to put pressure on the public and lawmakers to rescind budget cuts. The term can also refer to claims by lawmakers that a proposed budget cut would hinder "essential" government services (firefighters, police, education, etc.).

Although intended to highlight the government's value to voters, the Washington Monument Syndrome can also be aimed at lawmakers themselves. For instance, faced with budget cuts in the 1970s, Amtrak announced plans to cease train routes in the home districts of several members of Congress.[2]

The term was first used after George Hartzog, the seventh director of the National Park Service, closed popular national parks, including the Washington Monument and Grand Canyon National Park, for two days a week in 1969. In response to complaints, Congress eventually restored funding and Hartzog resigned.[4]

Architectural historian Nicole Sully has termed the shutdown of the "Pandacam" at the National Zoo and the fencing off of the National World War II Memorial during the United States federal government shutdown of 2013 to be examples of the "syndrome." Sully writes: "In reality, the closure of these monuments was likely to have been undertaken, firstly, for reasons of public liability, maintenance and security, and secondly, to ensure that the shutdown was made visible to the public – and it was for this latter reason that it was widely questioned by the public and the media."[5]


  1. ^ a b Ferrell, David (30 April 2008). "Library Book Liberation Front: Don't Tax Library Books". LA Weekly. Archived from the original on 10 May 2008. Retrieved 9 May 2008.
  2. ^ a b c Peters, Charles (March 1976). "The Firemen First Principle". Washington Monthly. Retrieved 18 February 2013.
  3. ^ Fallows, James (18 February 2013). "The Nightmare of Sequestration Hits Home". The Atlantic. Retrieved 18 February 2013.
  4. ^ Kennedy, Shirley Duglin (2009-04-01). "The Washington Monument Syndrome". Information Today. Retrieved 24 July 2013.[dead link]
  5. ^ Sully, Nicole (2015) '"Washington Monument Syndrome": The Monument as Political Hostage in the United States of America', in Paul Hogben and Judith O’Callaghan (eds) Architecture, Institutions and Change, Proceedings of the 32nd Conference of the Society of Architectural Historians, Australia & New Zealand, Sydney, July 2015, Sydney: SAHANZ, pp. 663–74. [1] ISBN 978-0-646-94298-8

Further reading[edit]