The Fifth Risk

The Fifth Risk

by Michael Lewis

Overview: 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.

Deanna Boe (10/12/19): This is a small book but boy does it pack a wallop of information about our government and the things we need to be concerned about! Michael Lewis has done an outstanding job of taking difficult topics and making them easy to understand, even for someone like myself. Obviously this has to do today with our politics and whether you love Trump or hate him, this is a book that explains the need for continuity between one administration and the next. I am not saying that one political party has to be like the other when in office, but simply there are matters that demand a carry-over for the sake of our country. Lewis points out areas that have been totally abandoned, over-looked, shoved aside since Trump has taken office, and we, the people, are the losers. These are fields that are not usually considered important and most of us know little about; for instance the cutting of vital programs in the Agriculture, Commerce, and Energy Departments. Do you know the Energy Department is where international nuclear risk is managed? Since this administration has taken office there has been too much “short term” actions taken without thought of the long term results. Unfortunately, we are all tied up with our opinions on Trump instead of being concerned about the real consequences that can happen in the years to come because of actions taken by this White House or any White House in the future.

Lewis points out there are five risks that our government faces today. 1. Nuclear weapons and climate change 2. North Korea 3. Iran/ nuclear weapons 3. Fragility of our electrical grid 5. Project management. Lewis shows us how each of these areas is of major concern in regards to our government, but it is the Fifth Risk that concerns him the most, in short the changing from one administration to another and how important it is for the incoming administration to study and take advice from the outgoing department experts. He pointed out how Clinton, Bush, and Obama’s various departments were ready, willing and able to pass on imperative information that was critical to the continuous and smooth running of the various departments which would only help the new associates be successful. This administration did not avail itself of any of this. One example was when the expert on our nuclear-weapons program was let go, and only when some Senators intervened one day before Trump was sworn in, was he re-instated. In short, many important departments of our government were simply raped of all vital knowledge just because a different political party had taken over. The successful running of these departments has nothing to do with politics; it has to do with the well-fair of our country and that is why we, the people of the United States, need to be concerned about what happened when Trump took over and the need to understand how imperative it is that nothing like this happens again.

It is difficult to write a review about this without showing bias against Trump, but that isn’t why this book is important. It shows how complicated the running of our government is and how vital it is for EACH new administration needs to avail itself of all the help it can get from the previous administration for the continuous achievements happening right then and there. Changes can be made as time goes along, new people instated, policies modified, but only after one fully understands exactly why and what each department is doing. Sadly new people were placed in control of these various departments that knew absolutely zero about what exactly that department was doing or why it was important! Some of it was downright scary!

Lewis’s book isn’t so much anti-Trump but simply a book trying to impart the necessity of having people running our government who know what they are doing! Sadly, it is not true today and who knows what damage has been done for our future.
Rating: *****

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