Book in the news: the death of US democracy?

The Fifth Risk By Michael LewisThe Fifth Risk: Undoing Democracy
By Michael Lewis
Allen Lane (£20)

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Michael Lewis is best known for writing about business and Wall Street. But this book “explores the hazards of entrusting a country to an administration that loathes government and is motivated by avarice”, says Sophie McBain in the New Statesman. Key government agencies have been put in the hands of appointees who are “usually inappropriate, underqualified and fundamentally uninterested in the job”. The consequences of this range from “apocalyptic possibilities, such as nuclear disaster” to longer-term worries such as “the defunding of scientific research”.

Lewis has made little effort “to disguise his partisan leanings”, says Josh Glancy in The Sunday Times. But meticulous research has allowed him to make a convincing case that “faith in government as a place where mostly well-meaning people [protect] us all from total chaos” has “eroded alarmingly in recent years”.

Could that be because successive administrations “have expanded government power to the point where it has become over-obtrusive”? asks George Mellon in The Wall Street Journal. Arguably, voters elected Trump to reverse this trend; he isn’t simply neglecting government agencies because he is “a dangerous boob”. He has been here for two years “and the government still functions”, so perhaps Lewis should calm down.