This blog is still alive, just in semi-hibernation. When I want to write something longer than a tweet about something other than math or sci-fi, here is where I'll write it.
Thursday, May 17, 2007
Serious question. Why 'Czar'?
Best wishes to Spain!
And a shout out to this guy, Gen. Douglas Lute, our new War Czar.
The question I have is not why we need a war czar, or even if this is the right guy for the job of war czar, but instead why has it been decided the word 'czar' is what we will call these gigs? Why does a nation proud of its democratic traditions think it's cool to bestow a job named after a hereditary ruler of a backward nation with nearly no successes on the world stage, other than defeating Napoleon largely by out waiting him and letting his troops freeze to death?
Quick, name the last successful czar. My friend Jodi (aka Zhenya), who teaches history and is keen on the Russians, says the last widely acknowledged success is Catherine the Great. There's a whole string of Nicholases and Alexanders after her that even Jodi can't tell apart. None of our czars, like the drug czars, energy czars, fixing up after Katrina czar, can point to much progress.
I don't expect governments (or private businesses, for that matter) to stop creating these bullshit bureaucratic positions with little real power but plenty of opportunity for blame, but can't we find a better name for them? Given our feelings about the Middle East right now, I doubt we'll have a post called the Sultan of BlahBlah or the Emir of WhateverDude. Czar is Russian for Caesar, and Kaiser is the German translation, but those names have too much historical baggage. (Like czar doesn't?) For similar reasons, I think calling these jobs king or emperor wouldn't be popular.
Here's an idea! Let's call the next one a Mikado! At least he could have some really cool entrance music written by Sir Arthur Sullivan. Of course, the job is more like The Lord High Executioner, whose first job is to cut off his own head.