Review From User :
Was reading The Fifth Risk in the tube. A well-dressed man got in, noticed the American flag Jenga on the cover and immediately exclaimed "The Fifth Risk, what do you think" Before I had a chance to respond, he added in a polite American accent "I love the guy, I devour his books," perhaps to allow me to temper my answer.
I'm a Michael Lewis fan. I've read enough of him to think I know him. So I wasn't shy about my assessment.
"Tell you what," I answered. "You know how half his books are about some quirky discovery and the people who made it and the other half are a bunch of articles he wrote before Well, this is the second type. It's three chapters, one each about a very important function of the government that is totally underappreciated by the public and about how Trump is about to gut it. "
"And yeah, I buy it," I went on, "he's right, but it lacks balance. So all these 177 dangerous nuclear waste sites that Trump will let fester, who built them The government did! And how about our side's enlightened approach Fine, Trump wants to gut the USDA and did not bother to send anybody for the handover. But tell me what Obama was doing sending a 2008 Harvard graduate to effectively supervise its budget! Why does Michael Lewis not call out our side for fostering an army of Robert McNamaras If you ask me, we're no better than the other guys. Our meritocracy stuff, sending some Harvard kid in diapers into such a huge job is precisely the kind of sin we're paying for."
And then I went for the kill: "Our side treats government like training ground for the best and the brightest, theirs wants to gut it. We've lost the high moral ground as far as I'm concerned."
I proceeded to lament that my favorite part of the book so far had been when on election day, with Pennsylvania called, el Sisi - the Egyptian dictator, one of "our SOBs," who could be a perfect judge of how to get through to a man not much unlike him in mentality- got through to Trump by calling the switchboard of the Trump Tower, only for the President-elect to exclaim "I love the Bangles!"
"You know," my new American friend smiled, "my Zen master would say he was doing his best when he said that."
I even had advice for the poor fellow, who was starting to regret asking me: "I finish books, so I'll read the whole thing, but on balance skip this one!"
Turns out I was flat wrong.
This is a third type of Michael Lewis book. It's a 219 page anecdote that leads to a single punchline.
And so it was that Michael Lewis knocked me out in three rounds.
What are the consequences if the people given control over our government have no idea how it works?
“The election happened,” remembers Elizabeth Sherwood-Randall, then deputy secretary of the Department of Energy.
Expand text… “And then there was radio silence.” Across all departments, similar stories were playing out: Trump appointees were few and far between; those that did show up were shockingly uninformed about the functions of their new workplace. Some even threw away the briefing books that had been prepared for them.
Michael Lewis’s brilliant narrative takes us into the engine rooms of a government under attack by its own leaders. In Agriculture the funding of vital programs like food stamps and school lunches is being slashed. The Commerce Department may not have enough staff to conduct the 2020 Census properly. Over at Energy, where international nuclear risk is managed, it’s not clear there will be enough inspectors to track and locate black market uranium before terrorists do.
Willful ignorance plays a role in these looming disasters. If your ambition is to maximize short-term gains without regard to the long-term cost, you are better off not knowing those costs. If you want to preserve your personal immunity to the hard problems, it’s better never to really understand those problems. There is upside to ignorance, and downside to knowledge. Knowledge makes life messier. It makes it a bit more difficult for a person who wishes to shrink the world to a worldview.
If there are dangerous fools in this book, there are also heroes, unsung, of course. They are the linchpins of the system – those public servants whose knowledge, dedication, and proactivity keep the machinery running. Michael Lewis finds them, and he asks them what keeps them up at night. The Fifth Risk
by Michael Lewis