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Obama Administration Now has More Czars than the Romanov Dynasty:

Over some 300 years, Russia was ruled by a total of 18 czars of the Romanov dynasty. However, as David Rothkopf of Foreign Policy points out, the Obama administration has now appointed more czars than that in just three months:

It has finally happened. With yesterday's naming of Border Czar Alan Bersin, the Obama administration has by any reasonable reckoning passed the Romanov Dynasty in the production of czars. The Romanovs ruled Russia from 1613 with the ascension of Michael I through the abdication of Czar Nicholas II in 1917. During that time, they produced 18 czars. While it is harder to exactly count the number of Obama administration czars, with yesterday's appointment it seems fair to say it is now certainly in excess of 18.

In addition to Bersin, we have energy czar Carol Browner, urban czar Adolfo Carrion, Jr., infotech czar Vivek Kundra, faith-based czar Joshua DuBois, health reform czar Nancy-Ann DeParle, new TARP czar Herb Allison, stimulus accountability czar Earl Devaney, non-proliferation czar Gary Samore, terrorism czar John Brennan, regulatory czar Cass Sunstein, drug czar Gil Kerlikowske, and Guantanamo closure czar Daniel Fried. We also have a host of special envoys that fall into the czar category including AfPak special envoy Richard Holbrooke, Mideast peace envoy George Mitchell, special advisor for the Persian Gulf and Southwest Asia Dennis Ross, Sudan special envoy J. Scott Gration and climate special envoy Todd Stern. That's 18.

This is a very conservative estimate, however. I will allow you to pick whom you would like out of the remaining candidates. For example you could count de facto car czar Steve Rattner even though the administration went out of its way to say they weren't going to have a car czar... before he ultimately emerged as the car czar . . .

But you certainly might want to count people deemed by the media to be the "cyber security czar" or the "AIDs czar" or the "green jobs czar" even if there are reasons to quibble about the designation of one or two of them.

Government by czar didn't work especially well in Russia. Hopefully, it won't be quite so bad in this country. And, yes, of course I understand that Obama's czars unlike the Romanovs are ultimately accountable to democratically elected officials. I also don't expect Obama's czars to be organizing pogroms or exiling dissidents to Siberia anytime soon. On the other hand, democratic accountability for America's czars is increasingly tenuous in light of the fact that there are too many of them for most voters to even keep straight, much less understand and evaluate their performance in any depth. Here, as elsewhere, the rapidly growing size and complexity of government makes difficult for voters to monitor those who are supposed to be serving the public . Maybe Obama's army of czars will do a good job anyway. A few of the Romanovs did. But for every "Czar-Liberator," like Alexander II (who free Russia's millions of serfs), there were a lot more oppressors and incompetents.

For what it's worth, I also recognize that it was the Republican Reagan administration that appointed the first American "czar" when they named a "drug czar" in 1982. Reagan was wrong to do so. That, however, in no way justifies the Obama Administration's massive expansion of this dubious practice.

UPDATE: Some commenters seem to be missing the point of the post; it's possible I wasn't sufficiently clear. So let me reiterate: No, I am not saying that Obama's czars are brutal oppressors like most of the Romanov czars were. I thought that was clear in the original post, where I said that "I also don't expect Obama's czars to be organizing pogroms or exiling dissidents to Siberia anytime soon." But let me be even more precise about it here to eliminate any remaining confusion. Nor am I saying that Cass Sunstein is somehow closely analogous to Nicholas II. I am, however, saying that the proliferation of czars makes an already excessively large and complex government even more difficult for rationally ignorant voters to monitor. And I doubt that there is any gain in efficiency to offset this harmful effect.

Nick056:
Ilya, did you really mean to write the government monitors those "who are supposed to be serving its interests."

Was that intended ironically?

As far as your post, I dislike the practice of refering to people as czars. Not even Marc Antony could convince me that having a czar is a good idea. But isn't insinuating that there's some possible qualitative parity between Nicholas II and Cass Sunstein, because of the way in which we've chosen to misuse language, simply irresponsible of you?

To say that Sunstein is "ultimately accountable to democratic officials" is honestly a laughable way to express what separates him from Nicholas II. But you seemed vaguely serious.

Tell me, do you think John Yoo is a legal genius?
4.18.2009 1:58am
early bird (mail):
"democratic accountability for America's czars is increasingly tenuous in light of the fact that there are too many of them for most voters to even keep straight"

Aren't we already so hopelessly rationally ignorant of politics that we don't pay attention to policy matters anyway? Are you saying that the czar proliferation is going to make a bad situation worse? That seems a little farfetched to me. Last year there were all these people paying attention to policy, but now, with the proliferation of czars, those people are going to throw up their hands and say "It's just too much. I could keep up with the ins and outs of energy policy before, but now we've got Browner, I just can't follow it all." I'm not buying it.
4.18.2009 2:03am
Kolohe:
Government by czar didn't work especially well in Russia

I dunno, it worked well enough to last 370 years. That's longer than our (US) streak.

Don't get me wrong, it wasn't pleasant to be a peasant. Or Catherine the Great's horse.
4.18.2009 2:17am
Daniel Chapman (mail):
William Simon - Energy Czar under Nixon.
4.18.2009 2:44am
Ilya Somin:
But isn't insinuating that there's some possible qualitative parity between Nicholas II and Cass Sunstein, because of the way in which we've chosen to misuse language, simply irresponsible of you?

I think you are taking a joke far too seriously. Obviously, Cass Sunstein is much smarter than Nicholas II and differs from him in various other ways too. But the proliferation of US government czars is part of a more general trend of growth in the size and complexity of government that is very troubling for the reasons i indicate in the post.
4.18.2009 2:55am
Ilya Somin:
To say that Sunstein is "ultimately accountable to democratic officials" is honestly a laughable way to express what separates him from Nicholas II. But you seemed vaguely serious.

Accountability to elected officials is indeed fact a major difference between Obama's czars and the Romanovs.
4.18.2009 2:56am
Ilya Somin:
Aren't we already so hopelessly rationally ignorant of politics that we don't pay attention to policy matters anyway? Are you saying that the czar proliferation is going to make a bad situation worse? That seems a little farfetched to me.

It does indeed make a bad situation worse, because it makes government more complex and difficult to understand than before. That is part of the point of the post.
4.18.2009 2:57am
Cornellian (mail):
It's already pretty much impossible for any rationally uninformed person to figure out who does what in the federal government anyway. A few more czars here and there won't make any difference one way or the other.
4.18.2009 3:39am
Thoughtful (mail):
I was among those who felt the very idea of labeling a US government official a "czar" was a bad idea back when Nixon and Reagan were doing it, but is there something in the name beyond connotations that makes it worse than any other government position? Would calling all the "czars" "section chiefs" make the situation better? In other words, Ilya, are you complaining about the proliferation of "czars" under Obama, or merely the proliferation of government positions? If the latter, has he really increased government positions (as opposed to spending) far beyond Bush in just a matter of months?
4.18.2009 4:16am
David Welker (www):

And I doubt that there is any gain in efficiency to offset this harmful effect.


Your too theoretical. How do you know there isn't any gain in efficiency? Is this merely a gut feeling?
4.18.2009 4:22am
David Welker (www):

Are you saying that the czar proliferation is going to make a bad situation worse? That seems a little farfetched to me.


I have to agree. Government is already basically impossible for a single person who wants to have a life to monitor. (And I suspect that even if you were to devote all your waking hours to monitoring it, you still would be unable to do so.)

So, before the appointment of these individuals, you had an impossible for one person to monitor government. After the appointment of these individuals, you have an impossible for one person to monitor government. Same old, same old.

Luckily, in either case, we can depend on division of labor to monitor the activities of government.
4.18.2009 4:26am
Hadur:
When I will become President, I will only appoint "tsars", not "czars".
4.18.2009 5:15am
/:
Does it matter at all that "czar" has always brought to mind someone charged with a specific, wide-reaching result and is unaccountable to anyone but the Sovereign, or are we just feeling good about it because the right people are in charge?
4.18.2009 5:17am
davod (mail):
The larger problem is the Czars work directly to the president and does this make the outside the normal checks and balances.

Are they covered by executive privelege?

Are they accountable to the Congress?
4.18.2009 7:24am
karrde (mail) (www):
I think the next thing Obama will do is name a "Czar Czar" to handle all the Czars running around...
4.18.2009 7:57am
rosetta's stones:
Working conditions for these czars are deplorable. And their pay, in real terms, has fallen catastrophically from where it was just 90 years ago, when the long decline in czar standing first began.

The czars need to be organized, and allowed to bargain as a group. The quickest way would be to have a czar "card check". Does anybody know the Card Check Czar's email?
4.18.2009 8:15am
P G Nelson (mail):
The first czar that I can recall was appointed by President Nixon in 1974 to oversee the energy program of the time. It was John Sawhill, succeeded by Frank Zarb (Energy Zarb, just for fun).
4.18.2009 8:26am
Bob from Ohio (mail):
I think the original article by Rothkopf made its point in a very good way.

I also think some commentators are a tad too serious.

(Hadur and karrde, on the other hand,made nice comments.)
4.18.2009 8:36am
PersonFromPorlock:
But is it government by czar that's the problem, or the implicit government by ukase? The moderating effect of "czars" being accountable to elected officials needs elected officials who aren't quite so good at ducking all responsibility as ours are.

Put those two together and you have a pretty good recipe for arbitrary government.
4.18.2009 8:43am
MarkJ (mail):

Accountability to elected officials is indeed fact a major difference between Obama's czars and the Romanovs.



And, just because I'm curious, who might those "elected offials" be?

Isn't much of the purpose of appointing czars precisely to avoid as much accountability, as you define it, as possible? As I recall Senator Robert Byrd (D-WV), for all his real or imagined faults, certainly has issues with the concept of "czars":

http://www.politico.com/news/stories/0209/19339.html
4.18.2009 8:44am
geokstr:

MarkJ (mail):

Senator Robert Byrd (D-WV), for all his real or imagined faults, certainly has issues with the concept of "czars":

Yes but not with the concepts of "kleagles" and "Exalted Cyclops" though.
4.18.2009 8:59am
Affe (mail):
Can we start referring to executive branch budgetary forecasts as "Potemkin projections" ? I'd also like to see a "Rasputin" or two appointed, in areas where some kookiness and instability might work to our advantage. Maybe one in charge of North Korean policy, or the UN...
4.18.2009 9:03am
loki13 (mail):
1. The comment that notes they should be called tsars is correct, but when in Rome.

2. One problem with the original article is this- claiming there is a proliferation with the number of czars by counting the number of czars, and then adding in the individuals "functionally equivalent" to czars (special envoys, the non-czar car czar etc.) seems a little, uh, weaselly. Is the issue the appellation of czar, or the concentration of power? Was a comparison done with previous administrations and their "functionally equivalent" to czar status?

3. Finally, this post seems to completely miss the point from the whole larger picture. If you accept the modern administrative state (not that you have to- but that's a separate argument), doesn't it make sense that the executive (democratically accountable to the people) would want individuals (also individually accountable to him/her) responsible for major policy areas? What are agency heads and department heads other than czars, really? Is this a formalist argument (that the czar is an agency/department head without the requisite formalist vetting)? Or should we look at this more like Truman- since the buck stops with the President, it makes sense that the President would want individuals, accountable to him, that will report on the status of certain policy areas within the large administrative bureaucracy?

4. As a joke, the whole post falls flat Prof. Somin.
4.18.2009 9:09am
Richard Aubrey (mail):
Who do you have to un-elect to get rid of a czar? Seems the theoretical maximum is eight years. After which he'd have some other job in DC. But considering only the eight years, a lot of damage can be done.
4.18.2009 9:12am
T Gracchus (mail):
Cass Sunstein is sort of like Nicholas II -- give Cass a beard; he has the same abilities.
4.18.2009 9:32am
corneille1640 (mail):
I guess I'm rationally ignorant about what "czars" are in American governance. Namely, is their selection approved by Congress or are they t he equivalent of White House staff? I imagine it depends on the "czar."

For what it's worth, I agree with the commentators above who believe the term "czar" is infelicitous.
4.18.2009 10:09am
corneille1640 (mail):

Accountability to elected officials is indeed fact a major difference between Obama's czars and the Romanovs.




And, just because I'm curious, who might those "elected offials" be?

Is the "elected official" the president, in this case?
4.18.2009 10:10am
Arturito:
Since Czar is such a controversial title, and given that Obama, such an unassuming man, would in all likehood reject the title of Czar of all Czars, I humbly suggest changing the title to Ayatollah. Ayatollah Sustein has a nice ring to it. Ayatollah Obamah sounds even better and he could humbly claim to be just primus inter pares.
4.18.2009 10:13am
Dave N (mail):
I prefer "Commissar" but "Czar" fits headlines better.
4.18.2009 10:27am
El Commisar:
Commisar Soetero is not pleased.
4.18.2009 10:36am
Some Other Guy (mail):
I also don't expect Obama's czars to be organizing pogroms or exiling dissidents to Siberia anytime soon.

Famous last words.
4.18.2009 10:41am
Desiderius:
What's with the knee-jerk anti-Somin peanut gallery?

To those, like Prof. Somin and myself, who are fond of Cato and that which he stood for, a proliferation of Caesars cannot bode well for our Republic. Do those here making the usual efforts to whip Somin into the professorial party line disagree?
4.18.2009 10:43am
Some Other Guy (mail):
I guess I'm rationally ignorant about what "czars" are in American governance.

Basically, they're like Gauleitern or Reichsf├╝hrern. They're officials who are given unconstitutional powers.
4.18.2009 10:49am
Some Other Guy (mail):
I'd also like to see a "Rasputin" or two appointed, in areas where some kookiness and instability might work to our advantage.

Would you settle for a Raputina? Hillary's nutty enough for that.
4.18.2009 10:51am
johnbragg (mail):
I think it is interesting to note that Ayn Rand, who you would think knew a thing or two about Czars, in <i>Atlas Shrugged</i> names her chief economy-running bureaucrat Wesley Mouch a "Top Coordinator".

I think she would have said that flat-out calling someone with unchecked power over the economic life of every man, woman and child in the country a "czar" would have been too much of a giveaway.

I guess she wasn't always right.
4.18.2009 10:51am
ChrisIowa (mail):
Central Planning did so well in the original land of the czars.
4.18.2009 10:51am
Fedya (www):
Karrde:

The czar czar has already been done (albeit not by the Obama administration).

And darnit, I wanted to be first to make the joke! :-|
4.18.2009 10:53am
Ariel:
I have a practical objection and a constitutional objection to the czars, even if you choose to call them something else. The notion is that we have these silos, say the SEC, the Fed, and the FDIC (at a minimum) if we're talking about finance. We need a czar to coordinate their actions. In the business world, this guy would head a cross-functional team. He would have meetings with some people from each organization and try to push through whatever agenda he was charged with. My practical objection: it doesn't work. Somebody, in the business context, decided that marketing is a separate function from sales. While they need to speak to each other, you can't have a guy managing both, unless he is literally managing both - i.e., hierarchically above the two of them. That's not the function of the head of a cross-functional team, nor, as I understand it, of a czar. Assuming that's true, the czar will help some lower level people talk to each other, but really won't be able to accomplish much. That's my practical objection.

As to my constitutional objection, it's not clear to me that the President has the power to create new agencies (which I think the czars are, per the APA), where the agencies have the power to manage or influence other agencies. (This is not to say that the President can't create agencies, like the EPA.) If Congress created the FDIC, should the President be able to create a bailout czar which can coordinate its efforts? If so, where does that authority come from?
4.18.2009 11:05am
Javert:

Government by czar didn't work especially well in Russia. Hopefully, it won't be quite so bad in this country.
Same cause, same effect.

I also don't expect Obama's czars to be organizing pogroms or exiling dissidents to Siberia anytime soon.
Richard Wagoner? And it's not the degree of brutality that's essential. It's the fact that czars rule (and ruin) the lives of private citizens, and dictate the operations of private companies.

I think the next thing Obama will do is name a "Czar Czar" to handle all the Czars running around...
He's already named himself.
4.18.2009 11:11am
Porkov (mail):
I'm with Dave on this. There are many good reasons to use Commissar, but it's probably too late - the precedent for "czar" has already been set by heedless "pundits." Recent Russian history applies more to the direction we are taking than the Romanov dynasty does. There could only be one Tsar at a time, but many Commissars were under the sway of the Premier.
The pleasure of the Commisar (sic.) Soetero neither concerns nor interests me.
4.18.2009 11:20am
loki13 (mail):

I'm with Dave on this. There are many good reasons to use Commissar, but it's probably too late -


Don't turn around, uh-oh
Der Kommissar's in town, uh-oh
And if he talks to you
And you don't know why
You say your life
Is gonna make you die
4.18.2009 11:23am
Kirk:
Nor am I saying that Cass Sunstein is somehow closely analogous to Nicholas II.
Well, they do have very similar "Dear G*d, how did we get saddled with this person as czar" factors (v. numerous footnotes in Solzhenytsin's August 1914.)

Affe, re "Rasputin for the UN"--some people (though not me) think we already had that with Bolton.
4.18.2009 11:43am
anon1723175:
Ilya, I would expect you of all people to be in support of President Obama's appointment of "czars." I don't care if he hires one hundred -- one thousand -- whatever. The appointments process, via consent of the senate is broken. Indeed, it never worked. It's not a tool for accountability, but a tool for Senators to bargain for pork giveaways. The direct appointment, without consent, offers a way for the Executive to cut Senators, who are only accountable to the constituency of one state not the nation, out of the process.
4.18.2009 12:13pm
LWS (mail):

is there something in the name beyond connotations that makes it worse


As I see it, the fundamental problem is not that presidents appoint "czars". It's that they appoint czars because the American people seem to like them, and particularly, that the thing the American people seem to like most is the connotation of unlimited power.
4.18.2009 12:28pm
name:
So, the head of OIRA is now a "czar"? In what universe? He's just a guy who heads an office in the OMB.

Likewise, special envoys are czars now too? They sort of seem like regular old diplomats who report to the Secretary of State like everyone else, but just deal with specialized subject matters.

But I concede that it's true that if you some random dude on the internet decides to start calling a bunch of people czars instead of by their actual titles, we really do have a proliferation of czars.
4.18.2009 12:35pm
Mikey NTH (mail):
What happens when czars collide?

Not only does the administration have department heads with demands that need to be reconciled, the administration has these czars who are going to end up in conflict with one another and the cabinet heads of the departments, let alone all of the independent sraffs and instutional staff conflicting.

The infighting is going to be intense, and Byzantine isn't going to quite describe this.
4.18.2009 12:44pm
MartyA:
And, I'm sure that Obama has named many czars in pectore. Ayers is almost certainly the czar of the destruction of the middle class in America and Wright is almost certainly the czar of religious and racial purity. Daley, Rezko and certain key players from South Chicago probably also have portfolios.
4.18.2009 12:53pm
David M. Nieporent (www):
Aren't we already so hopelessly rationally ignorant of politics that we don't pay attention to policy matters anyway? Are you saying that the czar proliferation is going to make a bad situation worse? That seems a little farfetched to me.

It does indeed make a bad situation worse, because it makes government more complex and difficult to understand than before. That is part of the point of the post.
I guess I'm not sure the marginal increase in complexity is significant. But isn't the more relevant point here that the proliferation of czars reflects the complexity and inability to understand the government? Not just the inability of the rationally-ignorant public, but of government officials themselves? I mean, haven't we had people to oversee government agencies for 220 years now? Didn't we call them "Cabinet Secretaries"? What does it say when our nation's energy policy is so screwed up that we need both a Secretary of Energy and and an Energy Czar?
4.18.2009 1:32pm
mf24:

For what it's worth, I also recognize that it was the Republican Reagan administration that appointed the first American "czar" when they named a "drug czar"
No, Carter with his "Energy Czar" was first.
4.18.2009 1:32pm
Stormy Dragon (mail) (www):
I'm reminded of Episode 19 of Yes Minister, "The Bed of Nails". Declaring someone a Czar isn't to actually solve a complex problem, it's to pre-select a scapegoat who can later be blamed when bureaucratic gridlock prevents anything from being done about it.

The only people who should really be worried about the swelling ranks of government czars are the people getting picked to be those czars.
4.18.2009 1:38pm
JM Hanes:
"Here, as elsewhere, the rapidly growing size and complexity of government makes difficult for voters to monitor those who are supposed to be serving the public . "

That has been true for a long time. What's different here, is that the appointment of such czars to loosely defined domains circumvents Congressional oversight, as well as Senatorial inspection. It also makes for a nightmarish organizational chart. Does the Secretary of Energy devise energy policy or has he simply become a functionary in charge of day to day operations? One can get a far better sense of where Obama is headed by looking at his extra-departmental appointments and at the rungs below the cabinet level. Unfortunately, one can only look through that glass darkly.

Take Obama's appointment of Hillary Clinton as Secretary of State, for example. Not only was it blatantly symbolic politically, the President effectively removed one of his chief critics from the Senate and turned her into a mouthpiece for his Administration. Meanwhile, he appointed an ideological loyalist to the U.N., elevated her to Cabinet status, and seriously undercut both Clinton's international and departmental purview by installing Special Envoys as well -- none of whom answer to the Secretary or to Congress.

This is part of a wider problem that is even more opaque to voters by orders of magnitude. Call it your Shadow Government at work. Congress routinely passes laws and immediately hands over responsibility for detailing the ways and means, so to speak, and actual regulations, to governmental agencies. This is a form of bureaucratic legislation and is very nearly the norm.

The stance the EPA is taking on CO2 and other greenhouse gases, and the attendant consequences are emblematic. Once atmospheric C02 is officially designated as a hazard to human health and welfare, the EPA's rulemaking authority kicks in. The public has a legally created right to "comment" on the initial designation and on proposed rules, but has zero official sway. Despite the superficial link to global climate change which makes this particular initiative a politically palatable move, no specific, practical dangers to individual health have been established or even identified.

Nevertheless, the EPA can declare C02 a hazardous chemical by virtual fiat, thereby according itself the power to devise legally binding regulations. The capping of carbon emissions, for example, which could easily have devastating economic and bureaucratic consequences, might actually lack sufficient support to pass legislative muster in the people's Congress. Four years is a regulatory eternity. The power to replace a President is a risibly tenuous form of accountability in this regard, and might not, in fact, even serve as a corrective.
4.18.2009 2:20pm
wilky (mail):

What does it say when our nation's energy policy is so screwed up that we need both a Secretary of Energy and and an Energy Czar?


It means that the government has gotten so big that it believes they can play the shell game on us and nobody will complain.
4.18.2009 2:33pm
Rich Rostrom (mail):
The use of "czar" for "appointee with broad overall authority in an area" long predates Reagan, or even Carter.

Harold Ickes was dubbed the "Oil Czar" of the Roosevelt administration during World War II. Note this quote from TIME, December 6, 1943:
Last week Oil Czar Ickes stepped into the fracas, recommended immediate construction of two new pipelines (one to Billings and Laurel refineries in Montana, the other to connect with Stanolind's big line to Salt Lake).

Imperial Russia also had its temporary "czars" (though not by that name), and some of them got their jobs done. During a famine in the 1890s, the Czar appointed a Colonel Fon Vedrikh as "czar" of all railroads, to get grain shipments rolling from the southwest into the starving northeast. (Russia's rail system was organized to move grain to the Black Sea ports for export; many thousands of carloads of grain were stuck in yards due to traffic jams.) Fon Vedrikh introduced block signaling, fired a lot of recalcitrant managers, and got the grain moved out within a few weeks. He saved hundreds of thousands of lives.
4.18.2009 3:01pm
Borealis (mail):
The idea of a czar might make sense when you have only one or two of them. The role of a czar is to re-organize control of an issue that falls into the jurisdiction of multiple Departments so that a consistent policy is implicated.

The re-organization causes many problems, but might be worthwhile if the issue is important enough and the existing organization makes it difficult to implement a policy. The downside of a czar is all the disruption to all the other activities, and lack of coordination of czar's work with all the other policies it impacts.

Of course, it just might be that czars are named for the PR value more than for organizational improvement.
4.18.2009 3:02pm
corneille1640 (mail):

haven't we had people to oversee government agencies for 220 years now? Didn't we call them "Cabinet Secretaries"?

Quibble: at one time, they were called the "kitchen cabinet."
4.18.2009 3:03pm
Javert:

The role of a czar is to re-organize control of an issue that falls into the jurisdiction of multiple Departments so that a consistent policy is implicated.
No. The role of a czar is to initiate physical force against innocent businessmen and property owners. The government is not a board of directors or a group of management consultants (who deal with others by choice and trade). What distinguishes a government is its police power.
4.18.2009 3:43pm
wb (mail):
The proliferation of "czars" in this administration is the creation of a courtier-like government. In this sense Obama has proclaimed an Imperial Presidency far more pervasive than the likes of Dubya. Rather than having strong managers whom he holds accountable, he has created political doppelgangers for his cabinet so as to provoke the situation in which more rather than fewer issues rise to be decided by the President. This what you will of this politically, it is bad management practice by someone with little substantial management experience.
4.18.2009 4:04pm
JM Hanes:
Borealis:
The idea of a czar might make sense when you have only one or two of them. The role of a czar is to re-organize control of an issue that falls into the jurisdiction of multiple Departments so that a consistent policy is implicated."
That might be a rational role for a czar to play, but as you imply, when you have both multiple departments and multiple czars, you'd still need an uberczar, to mix the metaphors, for such a function.

The numeric comparison to historical czars strikes me as more ice breaker than salient comparison, but I must say, I agree with Dave N that "commissar" might actually be apt.
4.18.2009 4:06pm
trad and anon (mail):
What has this got to do with Russian emperors other than an accident of linguistic history? A "czar" is someone appointed by the President to take responsibility for some area of policy outside the normal Cabinet department structure. This tends not to work very well (attempts to use a "czar" to reform policy have generally been failures) but the similarity to Russian emperors is entirely lost on me.

Was this post just a third-rate attempt at humor?
4.18.2009 6:08pm

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