National Monuments

Watching the fireworks this 4th of July I couldn’t help but notice all of the monuments/government buildings and Washington Monument which is currently under construction.  National monuments cost a substantial amount to maintain and build (small relative to other government expenditures but large in comparison to the average American’s yearly income).  Given that the only real purpose is to honor past leaders, provide a nice structure to visit and look at, are national monuments necessary?  I would argue that the opportunity cost is quite high and cancels out any possible benefit that may be derived from a big statue of a guy who lived hundreds of years ago.  My argument is that they are a waste of money.  Thoughts?

3 Responses to “National Monuments”
  1. horantula says:

    It is true that monuments cost the American taxpayer. However, most of these monuments are generally considered aesthetically beautiful. As a result, they create positive externalities, enhancing the surrounding areas.

    Perhaps, not every, single national monument is really worth the time, effort, and money put into it. But most of the monuments tend to please those that look upon them and instill a sense of patriotism and appreciation for history. Therefore, it would be more fruitful for opponents of Big Government to focus on things such as agricultural subsidies and earmarks than on memorials that only add up to a minuscule fraction of the nation’s budget.

  2. Lankister says:

    I tend to agree with the economizing Individual that these monuments need not be constructed through taxpayer funds. Monuments are a public good in a similar capacity as a mall playground. The mall playground is funded through the businesses in the area that benefit from the attraction/public good. National monuments are a huge undertaking but between historical societies and cities trying to make a name for themselves are achievable through private means.

  3. horantula says:

    I did not mean to state that I think the private sector could provide the same monuments that the state does. I merely meant to state that there are positive benefits from the state-produced monuments and that, although perhaps an unnecessary use of taxpayer resources, I do enjoy the fact that most of the big ones (Washington, Jefferson, WWII, etc.) do exist. That said, I do not think it necessary for the government to set up any other monuments any time soon. We can leave that to private individuals.

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