Interesting interview of Michael Lewis by Tim Adams in today’s Observer, talking about Lewis’s marvellous book, The Fifth Risk: Undoing Democracy about how the Trump Administration is dismantling or enfeebling vital bits of the administrative state. I particularly liked this segment:
Adams: Part of your story examines the consequences of the ideological cull of climate scientists from government. You have lived in close proximity to wildfires in California, there have been unprecedented hurricanes. Do you think there will come a point when people demand leaders who understand the importance of scientific knowledge?
Lewis: You would think so. It hasn’t happened yet. For people to suddenly start to value what good government does, I think there will have to be something that threatens a lot of people at once. The problem with a wildfire in California, or a hurricane in Florida, is that for most people it is happening to someone else. I think a pandemic might do it, something that could affect millions of people indiscriminately and from which you could not insulate yourself even if you were rich. I think that might do it.
Adams: That is quite an apocalyptic thought. You have always seemed by nature an optimist, are you feeling more nihilistic about what you call the drift of things?
Lewis: I’m a little more wary than I have been. What we are seeing is an attack on the idea of progress and the idea of science. In the Trump administration there seems to be a total lack of respect for expertise. It sounds like you have something of the same with Boris Johnson. For this kind of attack to work you need to have characters who don’t care at all about consequences.