Jan. 8, 2019 by Daniel Farber

The Thin Gray Line

Originally published on Legal Planet.

"Bureaucrat" is just another name for public servant. It has been said that a thin blue line of police protects us from the worst elements of society. But it is a thin gray line of underpaid, overworked, anonymous bureaucrats who protect society against more insidious risks – risks ranging from nuclear contamination to climate change to unsafe food. Due to Trump's government shutdown, many of these people are currently not being paid. Yet without the professionals who spend their careers as public servants, the government would be unable to perform its essential task of protecting us all against major risks.

That is the theme of Michael Lewis's book, The Fifth Risk. He tells the stories of some of the people who work ceaselessly to protect us, applying expert knowledge to deal with invisible threats. And Lewis also shows how those efforts are being undermined by an administration staffed with ideologues who don't have that expertise and don't care to listen to those who do.

For instance, Lewis tells the story of Catherine Woteki, a scientist at the Agriculture Department. In the 1960s, the University of Virginia didn't admit women, so she went to the "women's auxiliary" …

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Jan. 8, 2019

The Thin Gray Line