MiB: America is “Uncoached”

Our bonus Memorial Day weekend podcast features Michael Lewis, author of MoneyballThe Big Short, and many other beloved bestsellers. The second season of his podcast Against the Rules, was released, and this season focuses on Coaches.

He describes the narrative process via podcasting as allowing him to exercise a very different set of muscles than writing. He works with an ensemble to help tell different stories in a different way. Season 1 was about Referees — in sports and life; Season 2 is about coaches (also in sports and life).

He draws the parallel between efforts in sports and government. His most recent book, The Fifth Risk: Undoing Democracy, looks at a shocking question” What happens when the leaders of various government departments don’t show up to begin their jobs – ever?

Former New Jersey Governor Chris Christie was head of the Trump Transition team and, created a set of tools to allow the new President-elect to successfully take over management of the 9.1 million-person federal government. It is required by The Presidential Transition Act of 1963 (updated in 2015). It is the legislation that establishes the formal mechanism to orderly transfer powers after a Presidential election.

Alas, in 2017, it was not meant to be. Once he won office, President Trump fired the entire Christie-assembled transition team. The result is that there 1000s of appointed government positions remain unfilled — including key positions in the National Institute of Health, and the Center for Disease Control. Lewis wrote in the The Fifth Risk that the transition team failure created a huge risk of avoidable future failure. He describes the transition as a unique failing in presidential history, a refusal to discharge legal obligations in an intelligent, coherent way. The government’s disastrous response to Covid-19 is the manifestation of that transition error.  Hence, Lewis calls America as it presently governed “uncoached.”

He describes what he calls the “existential danger” about mis-pricing in sports, finance, politics, and life. President Trump a “risk distorting machine,” one that is hard for the pundits and statisticians to assess.

His favorite books are here; A transcript of our conversation is available here.

You can stream and download our full conversation, including the podcast extras, on iTunes, SpotifyOvercastGoogleBloomberg, and Stitcher. All of our earlier podcasts on your favorite pod hosts can be found here.


My prior conversations with author Michael Lewis can be found here: April 2019, and December 2016



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