August 14, 2009

Czars Are Un-American (That's Why We Use a Russian Word to Describe Them)

Justin Katz

It doesn't take a stethoscope to hear the reckless "what could it hurt" beat behind the creation of a "pay czar":

Q: So what happens Thursday?

A: Thursday is the last day the companies can submit proposed pay packages for the 25 highest earners at each one. At least one company, General Motors, said Tuesday it already had submitted its plan.

Q: What's next?

A: [Special Master for TARP Executive Compensation Kenneth] Feinberg has 60 days to review the proposals, then accept or reject them. He is expected to meet and negotiate with the companies during this period. He also will approve broader compensation formulas that will apply to the 75 next-highest-paid workers at each company.

Seven hundred of the wealthiest, most powerful corporate types in the United States, and the infrastructure that has heretofore granted their proclaimedly outsized remuneration, now have incentive to exert influence on a single person. It doesn't take a dyed-in-the-wool libertarian to see where this is going.

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Tsar is the the Russian/Slavic form, not Czar.

Posted by: Robert Balliot at August 14, 2009 2:19 PM

Doesn't the "authentic" form involve Cyrillic characters whose sounds don't have a direct representation in English? "Tsar" may be the proper version according to presently established rules of translation, but that doesn't make it any more Russian than "czar".

Posted by: Andrew at August 14, 2009 2:51 PM

Feinberg negotiated the 9/11 victim families compensation and kept the 3000+ cases out of the court system. According to the account in Brill's book After, he did so by offering in the ballpark of what airline disaster attorneys might get, net of their fees and a present value and probability of success knockdown factor.

The corporate top dogs are not victims or their families, but its not certain in my mind that he won't give them some still rich inducements to stay. Hopefully he'll be selective with our tax dollars in those inducements - at least some of those folks must be deserving of being shown the door.

As to the larger issue of should we have czars - we're so far down the rabbit hole on this one......

Posted by: chuckR at August 14, 2009 4:20 PM

Czars/Tsars have been out of favor since Nicholas. I can't say that the "Drug Czars", "Education Czars" or "Energy Czars" have improved their standing. Not to mention all of the petty "Czars" appointed here and there. For a while, "Czars" in Washington were more common than princes in Italy.

I think only subsidiary bureaucrats take them seriously, the rest of us sort of yawn.

Posted by: Warrington Faust at August 14, 2009 7:02 PM
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