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 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 Details

TitleThe Fifth Risk
Author
LanguageEnglish
ReleaseOct 2nd, 2018
PublisherW. W. Norton Company
ISBN-139781324002642
Rating
GenreNonfiction, Politics, Business, Economics, History

The Fifth Risk Review

  • ⚣❣☙ Michaelle ❧❣⚣
    January 1, 1970
    Holy shit. I read the excerpt at The Guardian and everything that's gone wrong up 'til now (starting just before the election) makes total sense.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 Holy shit. I read the excerpt at The Guardian and everything that's gone wrong up 'til now (starting just before the election) makes total sense.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 the law, to vet the possible employees for government positions, and to provide the best candidates for the job (working with a team, according to their expectations/requirements)...only to be canned and have it all thrown out because someone (Kushner) was still salty Christie did his job prosecuting Kushner's dad for fraud? (Kushner, who also almost had us join with Saudi to boycott/sanction/embargo a country that hosts one of our own military bases because he was mad they wouldn't give him a business loan?) (Oh, I'm referring to Qatar, in case you're wondering; I hope that's covered in the book.)Damn, I can't wait to read the rest.
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  • Maru Kun
    January 1, 1970
    This looks very interesting based on this excerpt from The Guardian.The review from The New York Times suggests that this will be very interesting as well.
  • Daniel Simmons
    January 1, 1970
    For readers who are cynical about the operations of the U.S. government generally, and even more cynical about the (mis)operations of the current administration specifically, there's a lot in these pages to make even your worst fears about public sector project mismanagement seem tame in comparison to reality. Lewis outlines, in his typically snappy/funny/ironic/incisive style, just how devastating the consequences of government inattention and ineptitude can be. But Lewis's greater achievement For readers who are cynical about the operations of the U.S. government generally, and even more cynical about the (mis)operations of the current administration specifically, there's a lot in these pages to make even your worst fears about public sector project mismanagement seem tame in comparison to reality. Lewis outlines, in his typically snappy/funny/ironic/incisive style, just how devastating the consequences of government inattention and ineptitude can be. But Lewis's greater achievement in this book is to highlight and draw attention to the unsung heroes of public service whose efforts, mostly unnoticed (and, even when noticed, sometimes dismissed or ungratefully scorned), do so much to keep a majority of Americans fed, employed, and safe -- whether from terrorists or tornadoes.Lewis is such a fine and even-handed writer that he even made me feel, for a few brief pages at least, some actual sympathy for former New Jersey governor Chris Christie. Speaking of which, it's remarkable how, despite the frequent criticisms of Trump, Lewis manages to make his account feel so non-partisan. He lends an empathetic ear to citizens, policy makers, and civil servants from both/all sides of the aisle: "There was a rift in American life that was now coursing through American government. It wasn't between Democrats and Republicans. It was between the people who were in it for the mission, and the people who were in it for the money" (pp. 188-189). If the U.S. administration were interested in encouraging good people -- people who are in it for the mission -- to join government, they could do worse than starting with wide-scale distribution of this book as a primer.
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  • Darwin8u
    January 1, 1970
    "It's the places in our government where the cameras never roll that you have to worry about the most."- Michael Lewis, The Fifth RiskI'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 t "It's the places in our government where the cameras never roll that you have to worry about the most."- Michael Lewis, The Fifth RiskI'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 the Trump administration. He is interested, in this book, in the systematic and bureaucratic failures of the Trump administration and what risks this administration's lack of professionalism (this is beyond politics, thisis about competency of governance) might mean to our country and our people. Lewis does this using his usual approach (which is a bit similar to John McPhee's new nonfiction approach). He finds interesting people who become narrative heros and guides to an area and ties them together into a compelling story or narrative. The areas Lewis explores? Presidential Transitions (guide: Max Stier); I Department of Energy/Tail Risk (guides: Tarak Shah, John MacWilliams), II USDA/People Risk (guides: Ali Zaidi, Kevin Concannon, Cathie Woteki), III Department of Commerce/All the President's Data (Guides: Kathy Sullivan, DJ Patil, David Friedberg).This is a short book. It is relevant but still not top-shelf Lewis. I enjoyed it, but just wished it was bit longer and a bit deeper*. It * I get the irony. This books scared the shit out of me. It made me sad. Therefore, I wish it were longer.
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  • Kent Winward
    January 1, 1970
    This is the most disturbing account of the Trump presidency I have read. Lewis simply writes about how the current administration has dealt with vital parts of our government which we all benefit from each day. I've watched it happen in my legal practice with the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau and Lewis details the horror in the Department of Agriculture, the DOE, and data science. It is simply awful.
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  • Andrew
    January 1, 1970
    A dramatic telling of the undramatic parts of the US government's bureaucracy. It's a surprisingly inspiring book that makes you want to go join the civil service and improve your society.
  • Brad
    January 1, 1970
    Lewis is such a remarkable writer that I sometimes find myself envious of his ability to forge a compelling story where there doesn't seem to be anything. It's useful to contrast The Fifth Risk with Bob Woodward's Fear, which I inhaled last month. Woodward's book ferrets out things that happened — crescendos of malevolence and arias of incompetence — unbelievable though they sometimes seem.In contrast, Lewis' amazing little book — it arrived Tuesday night and I finished it early Thursday morning Lewis is such a remarkable writer that I sometimes find myself envious of his ability to forge a compelling story where there doesn't seem to be anything. It's useful to contrast The Fifth Risk with Bob Woodward's Fear, which I inhaled last month. Woodward's book ferrets out things that happened — crescendos of malevolence and arias of incompetence — unbelievable though they sometimes seem.In contrast, Lewis' amazing little book — it arrived Tuesday night and I finished it early Thursday morning — takes as it's starting point a series of startling non-events all involving the Trump administration. Since Trump didn't expect to win, he didn't take building a transition team seriously (and even thought that the money Chris Christie raised to fund a transition team was tantamount to stealing from Trump). Then Trump won, and stilldidn't see the need for a transition team.The Fifth Risk is the story of three critically important and misunderstood Federal departments — Energy, Agriculture and Commerce — that the Trump administration first ignored and then politicized upon taking power. Literally nobody showed up for weeks before and after the inauguration to learn what these departments do (short version: your eyes will widen and your jaw will drop at how much). No Trump administration officials arrived to take the meticulously prepared briefings, and when they did the meetings were short and political.Lewis decided to take the briefings himself.This book is the result of a months-long crash course in what the Federal Government does, how it does it, and why it matters. That might sound boring, but behavioral economics is boring to most people and in Lewis' last book, The Undoing Project, he made the story of behavioral economics so compelling it was like reading a thriller. He does the same thing with The Fifth Risk, and he does it by focusing on the people behind the government: from hackers to former astronauts, from tornado chasers to septuagenarian billionaires lying about their assets (no, it's not who you think), this is character-driven writing at its best.Here's one of my favorite passages from a profile in the book of John MacWilliams, who under Obama had become the first Chief Risk Officer in the history of the Department of Energy. MacWilliams is immensely wealthy and a lifelong conservative, but he champions government investment in R&D:"John MacWilliams had enjoyed success in the free market that the employees of the Heritage Foundation might only fantasize about, but he had a far less Panglossian view of its inner workings. 'Government has always played a major role in innovation,' he said. "'All the way back to the founding of the country. Early-stage innovation in most industries would not have been possible without government support in a variety of ways, and it's especially true in energy. So the notion that we are just going to privatize early-stage innovation is ridiculous. Other countries are outspending us in R&D, and we are going to pay a price.'" (64)This is an important corrective to the narrative — largely promulgated by Silicon Valley — that innovation led by VCs and startup entrepreneurs will save the world from its problems. What Lewis' book points out time and again is that most of the startups we celebrate were built on top of technology platforms (the internet, GPS, weather satellites, self-driving cars) that were first created or encouraged by the U.S. Federal Government.Anybody who is reading this list or has read the previous lists knows that I read a lot of books about the 2016 and its aftermath. I characterize most of those books as guilty pleasures, and I sometimes worry that by reading them I'm contributing to the problem of giving the president the attention he so craves. The Fifth Risk may be the most important of these books, because it explores in alarming detail the long-term impacts of the Trump administration's failure to engage with the work of running the government and its politicizing of the decisions that it does make.
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  • Mac
    January 1, 1970
    I'm enough of a Michael Lewis fan to have ordered The Fifth Risk months ago without knowing what it's about. At that time, I assumed the title was Lewis's typical, enigmatic key to the book's meaning (think Lewis titles like Moneyball, The Blind Side, and Flash Boys). Having now read the book, the title does deliver on its promise of encapsulating the book's intention. 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 I'm enough of a Michael Lewis fan to have ordered The Fifth Risk months ago without knowing what it's about. At that time, I assumed the title was Lewis's typical, enigmatic key to the book's meaning (think Lewis titles like Moneyball, The Blind Side, and Flash Boys). Having now read the book, the title does deliver on its promise of encapsulating the book's intention. 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 beginning of Liar's Poker), the book then slows to a leisurely crawl. As usual, Lewis has done lots of research and found idiosyncratic people to tell his story; those people are interesting, but not all that interesting. Here, unlike his other books, Lewis's characters, though informative, are not compelling, and their stories are not revelatory. What's also missing is Lewis's typical untangling of a complicated subject and reassembling it into a coherent narrative (think much of The Big Short and The Undoing Project). In contrast, The Fifth Risk focuses on the Trump administration's not filling many government positions and also ignoring the role of science in governmental decision making. Though Lewis documents his thesis well, it's not ground breaking news, and it's not particularly complicated. Another critique. The book is a compilation of Lewis's earlier writings. For instance, the final third of The Fifth Risk is a replay of Lewis's recent The Coming Storm, promoted misleadingly as "only in audiobook." I enjoyed the audiobook, and the information adds to Lewis's risk argument, but this section feels tacked on rather than an integral part of the narrative. In fact, the book's main sections --two magazine articles and an audiobook--feel glued together into a single binding rather than a unified piece of literature. Perhaps I'm guilty of expecting too much from Michael Lewis. Yes, the book is clearly written; it is informative as well. And it makes a careful partisan argument without being overly obnoxious in tone (if you overlook a few flippant remarks). But the book does not rise above the high bar I hold for Lewis's work. The Fifth Risk is more than pedestrian, but it fails to sparkle. It aroused not one Aha! moment in me, and that's very unusual.
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  • DT
    January 1, 1970
    This is a pretty great book and a fast read, but it is a repackaging of 2 articles that Michael Lewis already wrote about the transition period to the new administration at the Department of Energy: https://www.vanityfair.com/news/2017/... and the Department of Agriculture: https://www.vanityfair.com/news/2017/...TLDR: It didn't go very well, and these departments do very useful and important things.That covers about 2/3 of the book; the last part is a look inside the Department of Commerce, whi This is a pretty great book and a fast read, but it is a repackaging of 2 articles that Michael Lewis already wrote about the transition period to the new administration at the Department of Energy: https://www.vanityfair.com/news/2017/... and the Department of Agriculture: https://www.vanityfair.com/news/2017/...TLDR: It didn't go very well, and these departments do very useful and important things.That covers about 2/3 of the book; the last part is a look inside the Department of Commerce, which, as he notes, should really be the Department of Science and Technology. You get to spend a bunch of time learning about NOAA and how we should really be focused on making sure all the data the government collects is publicly available. You also learn that most weather services (like Accuweather) are just repacking the National Weather Service, and some of them (like Accuweather) actively work against the NWS giving you the weather for free so that you have to pay for it instead.It was also really nice to hear about all the great stuff government can do sometimes, and to recognize how much we take it for granted. Honestly, it kind of made we want to go into government service.
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  • John Bordeaux
    January 1, 1970
    Turns out “inside the Beltway” there toil actual humansDelighted to see public service get a hearing for once. Even if the author tends to treat civil servants like rare exotic beasts, he still manages to capture the sense of tension, fear, and loss across the federal government. I suppose the author reflects most Americans in having no clue what the government actually does for Americans. Revealing that is itself a small public service.
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  • Sherri
    January 1, 1970
    This books is maybe 10% or less critique of the Trump administration and 90% a deep dive into how some government agency actually function. It was interesting to read about how very talented people ended up in these agencies and worked to try to make the agencies better. If you have zero interest in that level of detail about the federal government, then this is not the book for you.
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  • Paul McKinlay
    January 1, 1970
    Amazing. In a very entertaining way, Michael Lewis gives insight to what the major federal agencies actually do and actually are responsible for, which was shocking on its own. Then later in how poorly, neglectfully, and sometimes not at all, the Trump admin has assumed taking them over. It’s pretty obvious how that administration is approaching managing the govt - and it’s scary as hell.
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  • Shane Benson
    January 1, 1970
    FascinatingThis book provided fascinating insight into little known Departments and areas of the Federal government that manage huge areas of risk that effect huge swathes of the population. It also demonstrated how ill prepared the current administration is for managing those risks.
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  • Nikki Golden
    January 1, 1970
    This is a must read.
  • Ken Hamner
    January 1, 1970
    Outstanding book and very disturbing. The brief discussion of the disorganized and odd transition after the election was one thing, but the discussions about the Department of Energy was far more disturbing. Well worth reading.
  • Steve Nolan
    January 1, 1970
    The prologue was the only new part for me - the first two chapters were magazine pieces and the last were "The Coming Storm" but the prologue alone was A+
  • Jackie
    January 1, 1970
    This book is by equal turns terrifying and fascinating.Ignore people who say this is a political hit job--Lewis details behavior that is OBJECTIVELY bad. If pointing to this administration's bad behavior and saying "bad," is a political hit job to someone, well, they need to work on their critical thinking skills. In his customary engaging prose, Lewis explores a few threads which were already of interest to me:- What amazing things governments are capable of/how there are certain projects that This book is by equal turns terrifying and fascinating.Ignore people who say this is a political hit job--Lewis details behavior that is OBJECTIVELY bad. If pointing to this administration's bad behavior and saying "bad," is a political hit job to someone, well, they need to work on their critical thinking skills. In his customary engaging prose, Lewis explores a few threads which were already of interest to me:- What amazing things governments are capable of/how there are certain projects that simply cannot be solved by a free market* (examples below)- How humans are terrible at preparing for unanticipated risks/risks they can't imagine- Why governmental transitions are important- What benefit there is to having a trained, professional civil service - How impressive those folks are who work in our federal government, and why they do it (let's not pretend to ourselves that it's been for the money or the accolades at any point in the past 5 decades)--because the mission is important and the potential impact to do good is enormousAnd then he uses real, relevant, and recent examples that make me want to scream and weep over what our demonization of the government, disregard for expertise, and intentional neglect of information is going to end up doing to us, today, tomorrow, and three decades from now. Once the kind of knowledge he's talking about is deleted, disseminated, or disappeared, it's not easy to get it back in one place to where we can make use of it again. Basically: Trump's administration hasn't bothered to figure out what the government can (or is meant to) do, and isn't interested in changing tack. In one case, the administration decided to straight up erase the "Rural Development" box from the Department of Agriculture's org chart... because why would Agriculture focus on that? As a result, important programs are being defunded or left to languish, putting us at risk in the short term (fundamentally making it more difficult for us to spot risk and address threats/challenges as they emerge) and in the longterm (by not making the sorts of investments that have led to our being at the top of almost every industry for the past half-century). They literally did not show up to work after he won, and, Lewis suggests, are intentionally not educating themselves on anything because one of the best ways to maximize your case for short-term profit is to ignore the potential long-term effects your moves might entail.Additionally, this administration has made it uniquely unappealing for qualified people to go work for the government, because 1) they are denigrated for their knowledge and 2) no one at the top is acting like the mission is important or that they want to do good (that's my thought, not Lewis's). 4 stars because it ends too quickly--there were surely many more examples that Lewis could use to make his case, but perhaps he felt limited by not wanting to be repetitive. I for one wouldn't mind knowing what else we are in danger of losing, and if he was able to ask his interviewees, what we might do to get it back. He does also ramble a bit from his initial premise of asking about the "top 5 Threats" that the old heads of the departments would tell the new admin to talk about, and then it trails off. But still fascinating and, for me at least, perspective-shifting stuff that was a pleasure to read.Things the government does to keep us safe that the private sector can't/won't: update our electrical grid; develop and roll out procedures widely enough to stop a virus in its tracks (remember worrying about bird flu? The government is the reason that was a "scare" and not an epidemic); invest the funds necessary to clean up our nuclear waste so it doesn't poison miles of natural resources; coordinate air traffic control for the whole country; research industry-changing technology that takes decades or more to develop (GPS, solar); provide reliable weather information for free (imagine if you had to pay money for a tornado warning--and get ready, because Trump nominated the head of AccuWeather, who wants to do just that, to take charge of the weather data he's been jonesing to firewall for years).*Unless, somehow, free markets could be adjusted so that profit maximization isn't the key marker of success--to me, this is the reason that our country is falling apart, from top to bottom: we've decided that (short-term) profit is more important than long-term investment, positive health outcomes, happiness, and just plain being good to people or anything, anything else.
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  • Nilesh
    January 1, 1970
    Michael Lewis explores the Trump transition, an important but less discussed topic, in his inimitable style, brings forth some great narratives but misses in taking the right lessons, likely because they would have contradicted his long-held beliefs.Before I discuss the contradictions and the reasons behind my rating, some words on the content. A lot of content of this short audiobook is available through the author's own articles in recent days in newspapers as well as the free audiobook "The C Michael Lewis explores the Trump transition, an important but less discussed topic, in his inimitable style, brings forth some great narratives but misses in taking the right lessons, likely because they would have contradicted his long-held beliefs.Before I discuss the contradictions and the reasons behind my rating, some words on the content. A lot of content of this short audiobook is available through the author's own articles in recent days in newspapers as well as the free audiobook "The Coming Storm". Only a third of the audiobook is new for those like me who have gone through the free stuff. For those completely new to the subject matter, the individual sections are fascinating, although short and somewhat disjointed.Mr Lewis is a long time believer of more control and regulatory oversight. He would want good people involved in policymaking to rein in the profit-seeking capitalists who often do a lot of harm through their excesses. The author again narrates the deeds of well-intentioned, highly talented, hardworking and selfless public servants whose efforts help thousands at near zero cost. This is shown in a stark contrast to the works of certain villainous profiteers who not only have undeserving wealth in the author's stories but also are fraudulent, stealing from the public domain and without much to offer to the society. Far too often, Mr Lewis' public servants appear same as Ayn Rand's capitalists in her stories. Ms Rand justified capitalism (processes, mechanism etc) through the deeds of heroes who were just too perfect. Ms Rand could never understand that without the perfect beings, the laissez-faire recommended by her would only result in misery for millions. Mr Lewis tends to make similar mistakes while arguing for more policy vigilance in many of his recent works, although in more engaging and far less extreme ways compared to many other fanatic promoters of various "ism"s.Not in this book though. In Trump and his cohorts, Mr Lewis talks about the deeply flawed, new regulatory masters who can inflict immense harm with their lack of preparedness and short-termism. Yet, Mr Lewis seems to yearn for the emergence of perfect public officials and bureaucrats to somehow cure all social evils. He expects all the society to facilitate this somehow while kicking out those not perfect.The reality is that if too much power is concentrated with the government, there will always be risks of wrong people coming to power and inflicting enormous harm simply through the power vested in them. A lot of economic and real-life problems are better solved by leaving them to the market forces. If some weather companies are making money without adding value or some traders are benefiting from algorithms too quick, the solution is often not in widening the regulatory remit.The author is right elsewhere: there are many issues that no one but public sector could address. They are in ensuring the support for the weak (of many kinds), reducing the externalities of the private sector activities, or focussing on those long-term critical projects that do not have any short-term benefits. This audiobook could have been different if the author had taken the opportunity to discuss the implications of wrong policymakers.
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  • Mr. Banks
    January 1, 1970
    The Fifth Risk is Michael Lewis' newest book about the lack of department leadership caused by the current administration, and about the the heroes of the government who are keeping the country running despite all the difficulties and risks.Takeaways:- The US government’s greatest risk is project management, which deals with long term problems by implementing faulty short term solutions, and the current administration is multiplying this risk. - By the time the leadership of an elected governmen The Fifth Risk is Michael Lewis' newest book about the lack of department leadership caused by the current administration, and about the the heroes of the government who are keeping the country running despite all the difficulties and risks.Takeaways:- The US government’s greatest risk is project management, which deals with long term problems by implementing faulty short term solutions, and the current administration is multiplying this risk. - By the time the leadership of an elected government understands their departments, they are replaced by a brand new leadership that must relearn the projects. - There has been a recent initiative to provide detailed memos for department heads to pass over to incoming administration leaders, but the current administration has ignored them. - The current administration ignores long term costs in order to display a false narrative of short term gains for egotistical reasons.- Government workers are unsung heroes who are much smarter and loyal than the lay person’s opinion of them. - There are multiple examples in the book about intelligent scientists and leaders in the government who have sacrificed excellent pay for the good of the people. - Governmental grants and funds managed by highly competent fund managers and scientists have been responsible for investing into high-risk beneficial common-good technologies that the private sector has ignored (e.g. internet, penicillin, etc.) - Restrictions to marketing and transparency of government social aid leads the public to believe in a false narrative that the government squanders most of its funding.- The current administration, with commercial motives, is undoing recent efforts that allowed beneficial open access to governmental data. - During the Obama administration, the Chief Data Scientist of the Department of Commerce increased the open access of governmental data across multiple departments. - The open access to data has already helped the government and other entities understand and predict the opioid crisis, early tornado warnings, and others. - The current administration has been rapidly taking down access to government data which, the author and other previous department heads, believe has commercial and idealogical motives.
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  • George
    January 1, 1970
    So I agree with the professional reviewers that suggest it feels a bit underdone, not quite there, but clearly on the right track in terms of his analysis and thinking. It's a short book, basically three pieces on a single theme.Basically, Michael Lewis has written a book about a) what government agencies actually do, and b) what happens when you give control of them to people who not only don't know what they do and how valuable that is, but are also either ideologically hostile to the concept So I agree with the professional reviewers that suggest it feels a bit underdone, not quite there, but clearly on the right track in terms of his analysis and thinking. It's a short book, basically three pieces on a single theme.Basically, Michael Lewis has written a book about a) what government agencies actually do, and b) what happens when you give control of them to people who not only don't know what they do and how valuable that is, but are also either ideologically hostile to the concept of government agencies, or have very specific economic incentives to attack them.To wit, he focuses on the Department of Energy, the Department of Agriculture, and the Commerce Department, which includes NOAA/NWS. Basically, in line with previous reporting, the Trump Administration has staffed these with political hires who are utterly unqualified to manage them, unaware of what they do, or are actively hostile to them for reasons of basic corruption. For example, the nominee to run NOAA is named Barry Myers, whose claim to fame is that his family owns Accuweather, which has on numerous occasions tried to limit the NWS to only providing breaking weather updates, and therefore only allowing for-profit firms (that all use NWS forecast data) to sell forecast info. In other words, the US taxpayer should not only pay for the collection of raw weather data, but they should also pay a rent to Barry Myers for that same data, remarketed. In most places this would be called outright corruption.In other places, Lewis simply discusses the disdain for data held by the Trump Administration nominees, who, instead of harnessing the brainpower of US scientists to process large amounts of data to improve policies and lives, has severed links, typically in service to corporate lobbyists who have an interest in controlling information or simply having citizens be unaware of certain issues, like climate change, etc.Basically, you're going from an Administration (Obama) that employed a lot of scientists in ways that were relevant to their specialties, to having those positions filled with lobbyists or lawyers with no specialized expertise.While its not surprising, its absolutely dangerous. And probabilities being what they are, we will see the cost of that sooner or later.
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  • Andy Grabia
    January 1, 1970
    “‘I’m routinely appalled by profoundly ignorant even highly educated people are when it comes to the structure and function of our government,’ she said. ‘The sense of identity as Citizen has been replaced by Consumer. The idea that government should serve the citizens like a waiter or concierge, rather than in a ‘collective good’ sense.’”“There was a rift in American life that was now coursing through American government. It wasn’t between Democrats and Republicans. It was between the people wh “‘I’m routinely appalled by profoundly ignorant even highly educated people are when it comes to the structure and function of our government,’ she said. ‘The sense of identity as Citizen has been replaced by Consumer. The idea that government should serve the citizens like a waiter or concierge, rather than in a ‘collective good’ sense.’”“There was a rift in American life that was now coursing through American government. It wasn’t between Democrats and Republicans. It was between the people who were in it for the mission, and the people who were in it for the money.”A really interesting book. You think it’s going to be about the Trump administration and it’s mismanagement of government—and it is—but really it’s about the larger issue of the value of government itself. In a few chapters, Lewis focuses on a few government departments—Energy, Agriculture, and Commerce—and highlights the critically important work they do on behalf of all American. It’s a real eye-opener even for those who already believe in the power of government to do good, and should be a wake-up call for those who don’t. My only reason for not giving the book five stars is that it doesn’t really feel like a complete book. It feels more like three long essays crammed together. The transitions are a bit jarring, as is the ending. It lacks a clear thesis at the beginning—there’s a couple paragraphs in the middle of the book that should have been placed at the front—and feels like it should be longer. Still, the writing is clear, and, as usual, Lewis can turn what appears on the surface as mundane into the most interesting thing in the world.
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  • Robbie Forkish
    January 1, 1970
    This is different from the many kiss & tell books about Trump and the White House. Michael Lewis focuses on how the Trump administration handled the transition to power, and how they have governed three huge departments: agriculture; energy; and commerce. Spoiler alert: it's scary bad. There's a combination of willful ignorance about what the function is of government, and ideological dismantling of functions that are far more essential and competent than right-wing sound bites might have le This is different from the many kiss & tell books about Trump and the White House. Michael Lewis focuses on how the Trump administration handled the transition to power, and how they have governed three huge departments: agriculture; energy; and commerce. Spoiler alert: it's scary bad. There's a combination of willful ignorance about what the function is of government, and ideological dismantling of functions that are far more essential and competent than right-wing sound bites might have led people to believe.One theme of the book is that many of these key government functions are staffed by people who are mission oriented rather then money or career driven. This was humbling to read, and somewhat inspiring--especially as contrasted to the political appointees they are supposed to work for.It's a relatively short book and easy read--and very informative.
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  • Anthony Hughes
    January 1, 1970
    Well written as usual and worth a read but a bit disjointed as some parts a critique of Trump administration and some parts about the working of govt departments. I get it we probably do forget how important the Agriculture, Energy and the Commerce Departments are and what they actually do...and there are some very sensitive parts of government (managing the nuclear arsenal) that need careful management and leadership. Then again there are a lot of government functions that run themselves withou Well written as usual and worth a read but a bit disjointed as some parts a critique of Trump administration and some parts about the working of govt departments. I get it we probably do forget how important the Agriculture, Energy and the Commerce Departments are and what they actually do...and there are some very sensitive parts of government (managing the nuclear arsenal) that need careful management and leadership. Then again there are a lot of government functions that run themselves without much controversy/fanfare too...
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  • Eitan Hershkovitz
    January 1, 1970
    Well written as usual by Michael Lewis. A book filled with information on government agencies that reads like a thriller novel. This book does such a great job explaining all the things the government does, to let us live the lives we want to live, that we don't even think twice about and, it emphasizes why the inaction by president Trump is hurting millions of Americans and putting many more American lives at risk for no other reason than "ThE BiG BaD GoVeRnMenT iS Bad AnD AnYtHiNg OBUMMER ToUc Well written as usual by Michael Lewis. A book filled with information on government agencies that reads like a thriller novel. This book does such a great job explaining all the things the government does, to let us live the lives we want to live, that we don't even think twice about and, it emphasizes why the inaction by president Trump is hurting millions of Americans and putting many more American lives at risk for no other reason than "ThE BiG BaD GoVeRnMenT iS Bad AnD AnYtHiNg OBUMMER ToUcHeD iS BaD!"
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  • Justin
    January 1, 1970
    Could really use more written on this topic, the things the government does that you’re not aware of and take for granted that also might kill you. My one criticism would be that I wished the book was twice as long to cover more. It’s really a topic that doesn’t get enough coverage in the press. I fear that when the day comes to catalogue the damage being done to our govt institutions it might be too late and much of the damage will be irreversible.
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  • Vasil Kolev
    January 1, 1970
    This is not a full book, mostly the start of one. It needs not only to expand the amount pieces of government involved, but also the time it encompases, as it basically stops at a few months into the Trump administration.Actually, a guidebook on government (even the American one) would be very useful and interesting, I wonder if someone has compiled one.
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  • Bill
    January 1, 1970
    Not bad, except that Michael Lewis touched on several ideas that he has presented in other books. Not much was spent on the current administration and more could have been spent on new ideas. This honestly could have been a shorter book, because there is a lot of content from his prior books.
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  • Mounir
    January 1, 1970
    Never loved a book this scaryI have read quite a few ( if not all ) of Michael Lewis books, loved and read over and over again Moneyball and the Big Short but this book is making me scared , angry and wanting to vote ASAP.
  • Mariya
    January 1, 1970
    3.5 stars
  • Sam Smith
    January 1, 1970
    Interesting view on the unsung heroes of the government and how this administration has caused damage to it.
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