Too Many Czars
Mickey Kaus quips, “We need a Czar Czar, to crack the whip on all the czars. … P.S.: Also a federal czar policy. Right now, czar decisions are made on an ad hoc, case-by-case basis, with no attempt at czar harmonization.”
I have to agree that we’ve gone czar crazy. We’re, in theory anyway, a representative republic with strong institutions, with separation of powers and checks and balances. Why, then, are we suddenly so enamored of unelected autocrats?
The idea that we should give Hank Paulson or his successor carte blanche to spend the GNP of a decent sized country is just bizarre to me. But he’s at least a cabinet secretary ostensibly fireable by the president and answerable to legislative oversight. But what the hell’s a “car czar”? And who is the government going to hire to run the entire auto industry who’s even remotely competent to take on such a task? And why do we need both an Energy secretary and an energy czar? A HUD secretary and an urban-affairs czar? An HHS secretary and a health czar? An economic czar? It’s just madness.
The only good news is that the whole thing’s basically a joke.
“There’ve been so many czars over last 50 years, and they’ve all been failures,” said Paul Light, an expert on government at New York University. “Nobody takes them seriously anymore.” He pointed to officials placed in charge of homeland security and drug policy.
The problem is that “czars” are meant to be all-powerful people who can rise above the problems that plague the federal agencies, he said, but in the end, they can’t. “We only create them because departments don’t work or don’t talk to each other,” Mr. Light said, adding that creation of a White House post doesn’t usually change that. “It’s a symbolic gesture of the priority assigned to an issue, and I emphasize the word symbolic. When in doubt, create a czar.”
In other words, these czars have responsibility without authority, a rather unenviable position.
via Glenn Reynolds