It is relatively easy to count the Russian czars. There were twenty-six from Ivan IV to Nicholas II. That does not count the grand princes that ruled before them, but it still puts Russia in the lead among nations for total czar count.
America began its czar tradition in 1973 when John A. Love was made the first energy czar during the Arab oil crisis. He was quickly followed by William E. Simon who ran the Federal Energy Administration. In 1982, the government added a Drug Czar, Jerome Jaffe. He was followed by eleven more people including the current holder of the position, John. P Walters. These fellows have to be considered minor czars since they appear to exist in title only and are rarely mentioned in dispatches.
Two months ago, President Bush created the position of copyright czar, whose job it is to "report directly to the president and Congress regarding domestic international intellectual property enforcement programs." No one has been appointed to that position so it does not count as part of the US government headcount yet.
It appears that Congress wants the Administration to appoint a "car czar" now, someone to oversee the bailout of The Big Three. If the government puts tens of billions of dollars into the industry, it might as well have someone with no experience in the auto business to oversee the process. That would make it similar to the energy position which was never held by anyone who had run a large energy enterprise.
Unfortunately for Americans, there are a number of government positions where officials serve as czars in fact, but not in title. Matching the Russian total will be harder if the the administration does not give these people the proper designation.
Henry Paulson has certainly been the financial czar although Ben Bernanke has tried to unseat him more than once. It would be politically incorrect to call the Secretary of Defense the war czar. Probably better to give him back his old title of Secretary of War.
While the US still trails Russia the fact that the system died there in 1917 works in the American’s favor. It is just a matter of time now.
Douglas A. McIntyre