The Fifth Risk
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. "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...more
"..Lewis asks MacWilliams [ MacWilliams is John J. MacWilliams, a Fellow at the Center on Gl…moreParaphrasing from Joe Klein's NYT review of "Fifth Risk,"
"..Lewis asks MacWilliams [ MacWilliams is John J. MacWilliams, a Fellow at the Center on Global Energy Policy. Prior to joining CGEP, MacWilliams served as Associate Deputy Secretary of the U.S. Department of Energy after being appointed in August 2015. He also served as DOE's Chief Risk Officer. Link: https://energypolicy.columbia.edu/joh... ] to list the top five risks.
The first four are predictable:
Broken Arrows [missing or damaged nuclear weapons.]
Iran (that is, maintaining the agreement that prevents Iran from building a nuclear bomb).
Protecting the electric grid from cyberterrorism.
But the fifth, most important risk is a stunner: “program management.” Hence, the title of this book. ".. Link: https://www.nytimes.com/2018/10/08/bo...
[ Joe Klein continues, ]
Lewis defines it this way: “The risk a society runs when it falls into the habit of responding to long-term risks with short-term solutions. … ‘Program management’ is the existential threat that you never really even imagine as a risk. … It is the innovation that never occurs and the knowledge that is never created, because you have ceased to lay the groundwork for it. It is what you never learned that might have saved you.”(less)
The book details the functions of a few departments of the federal government in effort to highlight their complexity as well as unknown benefit to the country. While there is always partisan issues, there is still a transition between presidencies in order to make sure everything functions.
Underlying everything is the problem of spreading very specific, often expert or scientific knowledge, to the community at large. This is also further hampered by profit interests in the private sector as well as populist (for lack of a better term) political movements that focus on the now rather than the future.
These issues are contextualized with Trump. We can wonder if his interests are ignorant or purposefully destructive but the appointments of his administration are attempting to destroy the programs they are hired to run. Ironically while Trump mentions creating a national News source, gag-rules are being placed on scientists in these departments and the sharing of data is being stemmed. (less)
- Michael Lewis, The Fifth Risk
I've read several books about President Trump and his administration in the last couple years. They all depress me a bit. I feel like I'm reading some real-time version of Gibbons' 'Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire'. But none of the other Trump books scared me like this one did. Lewis isn't interested in the Fox/MSNBC politics or the Twitter-level anxiety of ...more
This is the opening sentence in the book summary and also the first sentence inside the book jacket. Lewis takes us inside a few Departments of our federal government, talking to those who work there in the past and present. Showing us what these Departments do what they are responsible for, programs and oversights. Have to admit I didn't know all the things they did, but then again I doubt many ...more
But not really.
Michael Lewis’ The Fifth Risk is the latest in a long line of Trumperature hurriedly bundled together and booted out the door to cater to the surprisingly large audience who can’t read enough Trump-bashing. Except Lewis’ effort is a bit more nuanced in its critique of the Trump administration, focusing instead on what its lackadaisical attitude to the country’s major institutions co ...more
Once again Michael Lewis, author of Moneyball and The Big Short, chooses as his protagonists a few ingenious manipulators of data, but this time he does so with a difference: the self-effacing statistical warriors he singles out for praise are bureaucrats of the United States federal government, a class generally overlooked and often despised. These bureaucrats, however, are people not only familiar with the resources of their agencies but also committed to using them to make lives better for th ...more
Our recent government shutdown, the yugest, most tremendous, and longest shutdown in history, served, if nothing else, to demonstrate just how nice it is to have someone helping our aircraft land, and someone picking up the trash in our national parks. We need qualified people taking care of our nuclear waste, and protecting us against the next pandemic. As a famous Canadian singer ...more
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 so ...more
After the two major political parties nominate a presidential candidate, the candidates form transition teams. These teams are required by law to formulate transitions into government that will be as smooth as possible. The transition teams ar ...more
This book explains why there is no hope for reconciliation between decent human beings and Trumpanzees. ...more
In contrast, Lewis' amazing little book — it arrived Tuesday night and I finished it early Thursday morning ...more
To which Trump replied, Fuck the law. I don’t give a fuck about the law. I want my fucking money.
We are meant to serve our elected masters, however odious they might be.
Despite The Fifth Risk: Undoing Democracy being a relatively short book, it tackles a lot of concerns one can have about administration and how this is mishandled by the ...more
One of the most dangerous things said by a politician in recent memory was Reagan’s quip that went something like this: the most scary sentence is “I’m from the government and I’m here to help.” What Lewis has gone here is snow exactly how the government helps us even when we are ignorant of its doings. The story that will forever stay with me from this book is the rural town celebrating a local farmer who just got a big loan that he thinks he earned and that was underwritten by the bank and say ...more
Also, if that small bit is any indication, the writing is really engaging. I mean, how in the hell did Michael Lewis manage to make me feel even the slightest bit sorry for what Chris Christie endured trying to head up the transition team? Sure, it was a bit self-serving (the next-best thing to being President), but still...he worked hard to work within ...more
In a nutshell, the book asks the question: "What are the consequences if the people given control over our government have no idea how it works?" Not surprisingly, the consequences are, potentially, disastrous.
But the whole point is that too many Americans don't know or appreciate this, and their ignorance (I'm distinguishing actual ignorance from stupidity - I'm giving the benefit of the doubt here - that folks have NO IDEA how important many routine government f ...more
Do you think you know what the US Department of Agriculture does? Or the Department of Energy? How about the EPA?
Michael Lewis spends a big part of his book, The Fifth Risk, enlightening the reader about what these and other US government agencies actually do.
He also provides a fascinating behind-the-scenes peek into the Trump's administration transition process and its first months in office.
Reading what went on during that period was scary, even terrifying at times. This is not only because it ...more
But that's about all The Fifth Risk delivers for me. Though it opens with a dramatic insight into the story to come (think the b ...more
What I mean by this, is that reading from the other side of the Atlantic this book, to paraphrase football (soccer) commentators, was a game of two halves.
There was the central message of the Trump administration's preparedness for transition from the outgoing Obama management teams to the new Republican crew. The other half was the work that Federal Government ...more
It is oft mentioned that Michael Lewis could turn his hand to any topic and make it interesting and I believe that to be true. He has a talent for seeking out the unsung heroes any any situation and in so doing navigating his readers around often complex topics - high frequency trading, baseball statistics, macroeconomics and now the workings of the US federal government.
The Fifth Risk is both terrifying and fascinating and as a non-US reader I found it explained a lot about the current ...more
It’s a pretty straightforward metaphor when related to the Trump Administration. Trump’s lack of any viable strategy or tran ...more
Fans of Michael Lewis know that he likes to tell the stories of unsung heroes, especially the ones who break thr ...more