Review – The Fifth Risk

Like Giridharadas’ Winners Take All, Michael Lewis latest book points its lens towards the government. However, as opposed to the vague monolithic concept of “government” that Giridharadas offers as solutions to our current solution, Michael Lewis argues that the functional and effective government that we need already exists, and merely needs to be left alone and kept out of politics so that they can actually do their jobs.

the_fifth_riskThe Fifth Risk, by Michael Lewis (Norton 2018)

Lewis dives deep into some of the most unfamiliar (yet costly) corners of the US Federal Budget, including the United States Departments of Agriculture ($151 billion annual budget!), Energy ($28B), and Commerce ($10B).

True to Lewis’ masterful skill at drawing meaning and incredible stories out of seemingly obscure topics, an ability that makes him peerless in popular non-fiction, he profiles career government bureaucrats with decades of experience and untold devotion to their jobs. Through these chapters, Lewis elucidates the pivotal positions held by these individuals, and their participation behind the scenes of some of most crucial innovations and consequential (and potentially looming) crises that have, and will continue to define the United States as a country.

Lewis’ reporting is focused mostly in the present day, seeking to stoke rage at the sheer apathy and incompetence of the Trump transition and ongoing administration, and the scores of non-qualified loyalists brought in to administer the aforementioned tens of billions of US taxpayer funds.

That said, the book is far from Lewis’ best work, as it lacks cohesion and a straightforward structure to guide its broader thesis. Those curious would be well-served by reading excerpts published in Vanity Fair, which capture the book’s verve but function much better as standalone pieces:

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