View Full Version : What's the deal with the title "Czar" in certain government jobs?
03-14-2004, 03:56 PM
I hear the title Education Czar and Drug Czar all the time (as well as the recently postponed Jobs Czar). It just sounds so.....odd.
Why is this title used instead of secretary or minister or something?
Also, how long has this title been used and/or when did it start with whom?
I did a quicky search in GC but didn't see anything after about five pages so forgive if this has already been asked.
03-14-2004, 04:03 PM
I don't know where it started, but it's an informal practice, and the word "czar" does not appear in any actual government title.
The "drug czar," for example, is really the Director of the Office of National Drug Control Policy.
If I had to guess, these "czar" positions seem to be for the heads of White House offices, as opposed to cabinet people and agency heads.
03-14-2004, 04:10 PM
It's an informal title for an appointed office in the White House, one of the executive agencies (e.g., the Office of Mangement and Budget), or a cabinet-level department. It's used as shorthand and to convey power. There is always a (longer) real title, but sometimes (as in freido's example) the real title doesn't convey the influence that this person is supposed to carry. Another example: The "Manufacturing Jobs Czar" is really the Commerce Department Assistant Secretary for Manufacturing. Normally, Commerce Department Assistant Secretaries are not influential positions.
The first time I heard it being used was in the 70's, but it could extend back earlier than that. samclem could probably answer the first use question.
03-14-2004, 04:14 PM
Maybe to emphasize the point that it's not a Bolshevik position?
03-14-2004, 04:35 PM
There are cites in the mid-1800's in the US using the term to show that a person had great power, but not the "drug czar" type of thing we use so much today.
That type of word formation first appears in the 1930's, i.e. "beer czar" used of a state official, 1942--'the war production czar' etc.
So it's still rather old, at least 75 years or so. And it IS a U.S. originated thing, as far as cites that I can find.
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