America: The Land of the Czar?

Americans have traditionally respected private property and individual rights, rejecting elitism and excessive power. We reject unchecked power, generally associated with partisan elitist states and political institutions that take rights and property from the general population and distribute them to preferred party members and supporters in order to reinforce their power. We are also weary of governance by officials with extreme powers to regulate or supervise other bodies of power, like a Czar does; a term derived from the Greek title for “Emperor”. So, as President elect Barack Obama ushers in a new administration to the white house, it is important to reflect on our ability to reject the consolidation of power and respect representative leadership.

In 1982, a “Drug Czar” was established by a Senate Vote of 62-34, 11 years after Richard Nixon first used the phrase “War on Drugs.” Fun Fact: The Drug Czar shall ensure that no Federal funds appropriated to the Office of National Drug Control Policy shall be expended for any study or contract relating to the legalization (for a medical use or any other use) of a substance listed in schedule I of section 202 of the Controlled Substances Act (21 U.S.C. 812).

The Bush administration created the office of the Office of the Director of National Intelligence in 2004 (to be headed by CIA veteran John Brennan during Obama’s administration). Informally, this Director is referred to as the “Intelligence Czar”. Fun Fact: The “private” Office of the Director of National Intelligence oversees every intelligence gathering agency including the Army, Navy, Marines, Air Force, Department of Homeland Security, the National Security Agency, the FBI, the Drug Enforcement Administration, the Department of Energy, the CIA, the Coast Guard, the Department of State, the National Reconnaissance Office, the National Geospatial Agency, the Department of the Treasury, and the Defense Intelligence Agency.

A central bank was established in 1913 with the Federal Reserve. Whether you like them or not, this small group of politically connected private bankers controls our country’s monetary policy. Though the Chairman of the Federal Reserve is not referred to as a “Czar”, the Chairman is a chief executive responsible for “striking a balance between private interests of banks and the centralized responsibility of government”. Fun Fact: The “private” Federal Reserve Bank sets the Federal Funds Rate which controls our entire nations supply of money.

Currently, President elect Barack Obama is considering persons to fill the following offices:

Energy Czar
Climate Czar
Tech Czar
Health Czar
Cyberspace Czar

And just today, Nancy Pelosi announced that a Car Czar could be announced by the end of the week.

When the last Czar of Russia, Nicholas II, was imprisoned during the Revolution of 1917, the Czarist autocracy of Russia was replaced by the Soviet Union, a one-party republic. It was argued by communist party leaders that a single party was necessary to protect the country against the capitalist exploitation of a centralized democracy. Thus, rule by the force of one person was replaced by rule by the force of one party. And it didn’t work so well.

American’s have an historical disaffection with Communist Russia because we pride ourselves for our respect of freedom and democracy, a government of, for, and by the people. In 1776, the Declaration of Independence marked the sentiments of the American Revolution, which included a list of grievances against King George of England including those selected below:

He has combined with others to subject us to a jurisdiction foreign to our constitution, and unacknowledged by our laws; giving his Assent to their Acts of pretended Legislation: For imposing Taxes on us without our Consent:

For depriving us in many cases, of the benefits of Trial by Jury:

For transporting us beyond Seas to be tried for pretended offences

For abolishing the free System of English Laws in a neighbouring Province, establishing therein an Arbitrary government, and enlarging its Boundaries so as to render it at once an example and fit instrument for introducing the same absolute rule into these Colonies:

For taking away our Charters, abolishing our most valuable Laws, and altering fundamentally the Forms of our Governments:

For suspending our own Legislatures, and declaring themselves invested with power to legislate for us in all cases whatsoever.

In these times of economic troubles and foreign entanglements, both parties advocate the creation of positions of superior power to oversee different aspects of our society. To protect the people as the ultimate source of government power, it is argued that so long as we have compromise and bipartisanship between the two parties in power, government will protect us from the capitalist exploitation of our decentralized democracy. Thus, the power of the two parties is being transferred outside the system of checks and balance to private and unelected officials, so that we may protect the system of representative checks and balances we fought so hard to create. Quite ironic from a country that champions democracy. I wonder how well this will work out.