Myers' Tombstone:

The case of unqualified nepotism appointee Julie Myers, joined with Eric's British colonial references, has reminded me of something. The British colonial system ought to be critiqued for what we can learn of its failures, but we ought also to remember its successes. The British also dealt with the question of patronage positions, but they did it better than we do.

A piece of popular theater in the late 19th century was Gilbert and Sullivan's "HMS Pinafore." It made fun of the British empire, and particularly the Royal Navy. It was popular in America as well as elsewhere -- so much so that it was performed in Tombstone, Arizona not long before the shootout at the OK Corral. (Addendum to the cited article: in addition to being "a disreputable cowboy," Behan was also at times the sheriff.)

One of the characters most mocked is "the Ruler of the Queen's Navy," who is a patronage appointment who knows exactly nothing about the navy:

Of legal knowledge I acquired such a grip
That they took me into the partnership,
And that junior partnership I ween
Was the only ship that I ever had seen;
But that kind of ship so suited me
That now I am the Ruler of the Queen's Navy!
Yet the song, though it mocks, is also a tribute to the British system. The Ruler of the Queen's Navy began as an office boy, whose hard work at cleaning out a law firm earned him a minor position copying letters. His devotion to accuracy earned him another opportunity; and through hard work and study, he moved up to that junior partnership. Through more hard work, he became wealthy, and then became a member of Parliament, where his party loyalty brought him to the position of command over the Navy. It is a testament to a lifetime's hard work and devotion to duty.

What has this to do with a thirty-six year old, whose tiny amount of relevant experience was only gained as the result of another patronage position? The Ruler of the Queen's Navy was a man of experience and character in his own right, who was laughable only because he was placed in command of something he didn't happen to know much about. Yet he did have experience, and what was really an extraordinary career behind him.

Who is Julie Myers? Not, I hope, the next head of the Immigration and Customs service.

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