In Great Britain
they have a Parliament. People get elected to Parliament and the
majority of them get together and form a government. The head man
is called the Prime Minister and he appoints a few of his buddies
to lead various departments and they are known as his cabinet. They
think they run the country.
They are wrong.
is actually run by a small group of senior civil servants that continue
in their jobs for decades, doing a little of what the Conservative
Party wants and a little of what the Labour Party wants and always
what they themselves want. Radical change is not considered to be
a good thing so the advice these senior civil servants tend to give
is "moderation in all things." While annoying on many levels the
system does seem to work.
In the United
States, specifically in Washington, D.C., we have a President, a
Congress and a Supreme Court. The President proposes budgets, signs
bills into law and releases Executive Orders. The two houses of
Congress hold committee hearings, propose laws and vote on their
passage. The Supreme Court decides whether or not that laws passed
by the Congress and the President are "constitutional." The President,
the Congress and the Supreme Court think they run the country.
They are wrong.
The United States
is run by 24 year olds. Men and women just out of college. Willing
to work for less than minimum wage. Willing to share a run-down
house in a lousy neighborhood with 5 other people. Willing to exist
on Domino's Pizzas and happy-hour bar food. Willing, in other words,
to spend another four to eight years living like a college student
so that they can experience something they haven't seen, heard or
The power of
these 24 year olds is huge. They research and write laws. They find
precedents and do the first, second and sometime final drafts of
major court opinions. They are the buffers between our elected officials
and their constituents. Policy may be set by press secretaries and
communications directors, but it's implemented by 24 year olds.
Most of them
are decent people. Most grow into their jobs and acquire a certain
patina of knowledge and wisdom. Most turn out to laugh at the jokes
you think are funny. A select few get really good at their jobs
and actually make the life of a photojournalist easy and productive.
Those select few are usually snapped up quickly by PR companies
and never see the inside of a government building again.
Because of the
recent elections it's that time again. A whole new crop of 24 year
olds. Even though it looks like George W. Bush is re-inventing the
Ford administration there's going to be a lot of fresh faced college
kids coming to town to work as foot soldiers in Washington. They're
going to try and come up with some "fresh" ideas, most of which
have been tried before, and then wonder about those crazy photographers
and their complaints ("What do you mean you've changed where the
President stands during a state arrival ceremony? It's 10:00 o'clock
in the morning and he'll be BACK-LIT!")
All we can do
is hope for the best and say "Free pizza and beer whenever you want!"
The opinions expressed are barely my own much less my employer's
so don't blame Time Magazine, Time Inc. or Time-Warner for anything
written here. I would strongly urge everyone to sign up for AOL,
use lots of their premium services and, what the heck, pre pay their
bill for the next three years or so. It might not do much for you
but if I could get 1,000,000 people to do that I think I'd be in
for a pretty hefty bonus at the end of 2001.