in conversation with Larry Wilmore
We welcome Michael Lewis back to our stage. His bestsellers include The Fifth Risk, The Undoing Project, Flash Boys, The Big Short, The Blind Side, Liar’s Poker, Moneyball, Boomerang, The New New Thing and Panic, among others. Michael Lewis previously appeared with Malcolm Gladwell at Live Talks Los Angeles discussing his book, Flash Boys: A Wall Street Revolt. Watch the video. We also hosted him for his book The Undoing Projectwhere he was interviewed by Mindy Kaling. Watch the video. He also interviewed Walter Isaacson for his book on Leonardo da Vinci. Watch the video.
Emmy Award winner Larry Wilmore has been a television producer, actor, comedian, and writer for more than 25 years. He can currently be heard as host of Larry Wilmore: Black on the Air on The Ringer Podcast Network. The show features Wilmore’s unique mix of humor and wit as he weighs in on the issues of the week and interviews guests in the worlds of politics, entertainment, culture, sports, and beyond. Wilmore is perhaps best known for his role as host of Comedy Central’s The Nightly Show with Larry Wilmore, which debuted in January 2015 and ran for nearly two years. Off-screen, Wilmore serves as co-creator and consulting producer on HBO’s Insecure, a half-hour comedy series starring Issa Rae that details the awkward experiences and racy tribulations of a modern-day African-American woman. Wilmore also helped to launch ABC’s Black-ish as an executive producer.
The Fifth Risk: Undoing Democracy
“Fascinating―and at times harrowing…. Lewis tells an important and timely story, one that all of us who pay for, care about, and want government to work should hear.”
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.