Yes, Secretary

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Much has been made of the fact that FEMA Director Michael D. Brown has no discernable qualifications for his position other than having been the former roommmate of previous FEMA Director Joe M. Allbaugh, who's principal qualification was as campaign manager for Bush-Cheney 2000. But of course, this is only notable in a system where there's an expectation that Secretary/Minister level positions will be filled by people with some qualifications as opposed to politicians, as in the British system (ever see Yes, Minister.) The problem--and what appears to have happened here--is a system where political appointees are expected to be competent but where the Administration decides instead to appoint political hacks.

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1 Comments

Right, but there's qualifications and qualifications. The advantage of a Shadow Cabinet system is that the politicians who come into power have spent their careers training to run the existing administrative bureaucracy. The advantage of the permanent civil service is institutional memory. And the advantage of having Cabinet positions with a distinct pecking order filled by politicians rather than appointees is the politicians are incentivised to do a good job by the prospect of moving up the pecking order.

I'm not sure political appointees were ever expected to be competent: think of Harding and Grant. The American problem is that there is no generally accepted way of establishing who's in and (more importantly) who's out of the potential pool of Cabinet Secretaries.

(There are exceptions to everything, of course. Mrs Thatcher appointed David Young to the House of Lords so she could bring him into the Cabinet, and in theory any Prime Minister could do the same and produce a Cabinet entirely of political appointees, but in practice it's very rare).

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