The Fifth Risk

New York Times Bestseller

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 - Michael Lewis Summary

Michael Monroe Lewis (born October 15, 1960) is an American non-fiction author and financial journalist. His bestselling books include Liar's Poker (1989), The New New Thing (1999), Moneyball: The Art of Winning an Unfair Game (2003), The Blind Side: Evolution of a Game (2006), Panic (2008), Home Game: An Accidental Guide to Fatherhood (2009), The Big Short: Inside the Doomsday Machine (2010), Boomerang: Travels in the New Third World (2011) Flash Boys (2014), and The Undoing Project. His most recent book is called The Fifth Risk. He has also been a contributing editor to Vanity Fair since 2009...


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The Fifth Risk - Michael Lewis Book Reviews (74)

Bossgolfer1

Another Winner5 star

Mr. Lewis does it again. One of my favorite authors. 55

trsilvius

A bit thin.2 star

I am a democrat, but blaming the right for this level of complexity is absurd. One or two managers out of 100,000 do not matter a bit. Please check on how long it took prior administrations took to build cabinets. In short, a very thin book with biased and thinner arguments. Remember, I am the resistance! 25

WeldonT3

another useless liberal rant1 star

when will intelligent people realize liberal governing elites care only about themselves? This is just another rant without an understanding that many many government posts are nothing but patronage. 15

BBALL coach 22

Promising setup, incomplete finish3 star

Full of interesting anecdotes and Lewis’ energetic style. And quite revealing as to Trump’s approach to transition (there wasn’t any) and some key appointees (figureheads at best). Many cabinet positions and departments were not addressed. And ones that were...maybe more on what might be the long term impact of the ignorance in DC. Entertaining and fast, but wanted more. 35

S in Austin

Worth Reading5 star

Another insightful book from Michael Lewis. He took what most of us would consider a boring subject and made it interesting. Americans should be happy with the government we have. Too many of us have succumbed to the propoganda of idealogues. 55

ManicMonkeyMojo

Yes, yes, Trump is evil…we get it.2 star

Yawn. Another boring Trump is so dumb, and the people who support him—ugh, so gross! Whereas, the eternally employed, never fired, bureaucrats who staff the behemoth that represents the modern state? Wow, they’re so great. And handsome/beautiful. And smart. Not once, not on any page of this book does the author take a step back and ask pertinent questions about the alleged horrors he imagines are assaulting the great, hulking edifice of the U.S. government. Why, for example, are there not enough appointees? (Answer: because the great bureaucratic behemoth purposely withholds necessary clearances, and those who make it past the post find themselves under constant harassment and bogus HR and Inspector General investigations.) Why do appointees discard briefing materials? (Answer: they’re written by the permanent bureaucracy, to benefit the bureaucracy and its nefarious outside lobbyist cabal.) Why are important programs being gutted? (Answer: because they aren’t important, are duplicated throughout the various departments of the U.S. Government, and waste untold billions of dollars on bureaucratic overhead.) Why aren’t the experts listened to by the barbarians at the gate? (Answer: because those experts got us into two 20 year wars that never seem to end, and bailed out the wretched Wall Street banksters who have hallowed out the country, but who never have to pay the price for their gambling.) All-in-all a boring, pedantic waste of time to make the author feel good about himself and his virtue. Yawn. 25

Colin Izer

Enlightening & Breathtaking4 star

The Fifth Risk, the new book by Michael Lewis (Liar’s Poker, Moneyball, The Big Short), is a tour de force. His main message is that our federal government does a lot of good things that we don’t understand or properly appreciate; and that we have a lot of smart, decent, mission driven people working in it. That’s 90% of his message. The other 10% pans the incoming Trump administration for being unwilling and unable to grasp this or manage it. Leaving his politics aside, his stories about people and functions within relatively obscure agencies like Agriculture, Energy and Oceanic/Atmospheric are enlightening and breathtaking. 45

kismet gardener

The Fifth Risk5 star

Surprising and revealing. Our government is actually a wonder - and I never knew. Seems the current Administration is happy to sit in the dark. 55

Cleanheart202

Best and lovely5 star

Best and lovely book ever 55


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