IF AMERICAN HISTORY is any guide, the movement to create yet another federal-level "czar"—this time for the auto industry—should send a clear signal to U.S. consumers: buy Japanese. Forget for a moment that it's perverse the way we fall in love with iron fists, at least linguistically, whenever a problem becomes too big to be solved through democracy. (And come on, the only reason we keep creating czars, rather than, say, sultans, is because words with the letter Z sound badass.) No, the real problem with our czar fetish is how ironically weak the gigs are.
Consider: in 2004, The Washington Times ran the accidentally hilarious headline INTELLIGENCE 'CZAR' NOT NEEDED, SAYS CIA CHIEF—perhaps because the head of the Central Intelligence Agency thought intel czar was his job. (Similarly, the drug czar and the head of the Drug Enforcement Administration? Different guys.) In 2005, Congress created a WMD czar, presumably to save us from nuclear obliteration—a problem so pressing that the job was never filled. President Bush created a "war czar" in 2007, and the first five people he offered it to turned him down. So to likely "car czar" Kenneth Feinberg: may the job pan out better for you than it did for Russia's last real czar, Nicholas II. All they did was kill that guy.