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The Fifth Risk: Book summary and reviews of The Fifth Risk by Michael Lewis

The Fifth Risk

by Michael Lewis

The Fifth Risk by Michael Lewis X
The Fifth Risk by Michael Lewis
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Book Summary

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.

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Reviews

Media Reviews

"Lewis (The Big Short) exposes a less sensational but significant danger posed by the Trump administration's approach to governance. This is an illuminating primer on some of the government projects most crucial to the well-being of the populace, and its relevance to readers won't end with the Trump era." - Publishers Weekly

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Author Information

Michael Lewis Author Biography

Michael Lewis was born October 15, 1960 in New Orleans, LA. He graduated from Princeton with a BA in Art History, and in 1985 received his master's degree from the London School of Economics. Salomon Brothers hired him as a bond salesman shortly after. He moved to New York for training and witnessed firsthand the cutthroat, scruple-free culture that was Wall Street in the 1980s. Several months later, armed only with what he'd learned in training, Lewis returned to London and spent the next three years dispensing investment advice to Salomon's well-heeled clientele. He earned hundreds of thousands of dollars and survived a 1987 hostile takeover attempt at the firm. Nonetheless, he grew disillusioned with his job and left Salomon to write an account of his experiences in the industry. ...

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