tv In Depth Michael Lewis CSPAN December 24, 2017 8:02am-11:03am EST
>> booktv is on twitter and facebook, and we want to hear from are you. tweet us, twitter.com/booktv, or post a comment on our facebook page, facebook.com/booktv. >> c-span, where history unfolds daily. in 1979, c-span was created as a public service by america's cable television companies and is brought to you today by your cable or satellite provider. >> and now booktv's monthly "in depth" program with best selling author michael lewis. mr. lewis has written many books including liars' poker, moneyball, the big short and most recently, the undoing project: a friendship that changed our minds. >> host: michael lewis, you are the author of more than a dozen
best selling books. what makes a good story, in your minding? what do you look for? >> guest: so there's no formula. i don't actually think that. the question you just asked me i've never really asked myself exactly. what leads me to want to write a book, because they're a pain in the neck to do. you really have to have a level of passion about it. that -- it's finding, usually what it is if i look back on it, it's finding a person, an interesting person in an interesting situation that will allow me to explore some interesting ideas, and that's it. and what almost always happens is that i've got lots of little projects bubbling along, magazine pieces or things i'm investigating, and something becomes so interesting, it consumes me, and i get to the point in my head where i think, wow, this is such a good story, i have an obligation to tell it. and that's the point it's a book. i feel like i have to do it, it really should be done because
this story should be told. but in terms of, like, if you asked me to go to a class of journalism school students and give them a formula for how to write a good story, i wouldn't know how to begin. >> host: when did you decide you were going to be an author? because you were making money on wall street working for solomon brothers. >> guest: yes. my career path, there should be something on the bottom to have the tv screen that says do not try this at home, because i don't think you can graft the model on to a literary career. i was an art history major in college, and what i first wanted to do, i thought, was be an art historian. i kind of stumbled out of college without any particular direction and landed, by accident, on wall street. i got that job that became the first book, liars' poker, really very accidentally without a great deal of intention. by then -- what happened was while i was working on my princeton thesis, which was effectively a book, maybe a 50,000-word book, i became
engrossed with the writing of it. i'd never written for school newspapers, i'd never conceived of myself as a writer. i was a reader because i just liked to read, but i didn't have anybody telling me, oh, you're a born writer. just the reverse. when i finished my princeton thesis and i handed it in to my professor and he came back with a grade, i had gotten at that point very vain about how it was written. i looked anywhere for him to have said, wow, this is nicely written. he hadn't said it. so in the course of this exchange i said, what'd you think of the writing? he said, put it this way, never try to make a living at it. [laughter] but i tried, i mean, when i got out of college, i thought, i want to write books. so i started kind of willy-nilly submitting things to magazines, and it was a haphazard process, and things started to get published, and one thing led to another. the advice i would give someone,
the practical thing that happened to me that was useful for my career was doing something other than write. it was hugely useful given my subsequent career, was -- because it gave me material you wouldn't get in a normal journalistic life. to be on the inside of something like that. so that, that put kind of, attached engines to my ambition, to have that as an experience to write about. >> host: and we have a lot to talk about, but i want to ask you what you're currently working on, what are your upcoming projects. >> guest: well, at any given time if you would come to my office, you would see a row on a bench of folders of i might want to do this. and so there are dozens of things there which in various states of neglect. the thing that's gotten me kind of jazzed right now, i mean, it's going to sound boring, but
i'm writing about the federal government. when trump was elected, i watched the transition with appalled fascination. there were bits and pieces in the newspaper about how potentially the obama administration -- and administrations are, by law, required to prepare for the transition. we have this very period enterprise called the federal government, but a political boss level of 4,000 who roll in, often not knowing very much, and have to quickly cram and figure out what's going on in these places like the treasury department and the department of energy or the department of agriculture, and sometimes the people who roll in know a lot about it, and sometimes they know nothing. in any case, from the point of view of the outgoing administration preparing for this is to educate the people who come in about how one of these enterprises work. and the obama administration had gone to -- because they were so grateful to the bush administration for how they had prepared for the transition in '08 during a time of crisis, obama had directed his government to pay attention to
this in a big way. and they had prepared across the government maybe the best course ever created in how the federal government works from agency to agency. of briefing books and people, smart people waiting to teach. and the trump administration largely just didn't show up for it. i mean, in some departments really didn't show up for it. and i thought, well, that was a missed opportunity. it's crazy. even if they disapprove of everything obama stood for, you could still learn an awful lot from the outgoing people about how this enterprise works. and the truth is, the overlap is much bigger than they would have you believe. so i went to go get the briefings. i started calling up career civil servants and former obama people and saying, look, can you give me the talk with the briefing book that you were going to give whoever was supposed to show up from the trump administration so i can figure out what they -- how it
works? because i don't know. and what they might not know that might kill us. and i picked almost arbitrarily. i started with the energy department because that's always been mysterious to me. i wondered what the hell they did in there. turns out, like a lot of departments, it's kind of misnamed. the neglect of that department was very frightening, and i wrote about it in "vanity fair" a couple of months ago. and the second one which i picked as a kind of test case. i said to myself, the energy department, nuclear weapons is really -- it is, seems alarming that a new administration would come in and be so haphazard about the nuclear stockpile. let's pick a department that seems so sleepy, nothing could go wrong. so i picked the department of agriculture. i don't really know what goes on in there. and spent several months going and getting those briefings, and it was riveting to me, the kinds of people that were there, the things they had to say, the range of activities this place did. so i wrote about that.
i'm going to move around the government and keep doing it. and exactly where it leads, i don't know. but as i suggested in my answer to your first question, i grope. i kind of feel an excitement about the material, and i feel an excitement about this material. >> host: and if you take your book about moneyball, for example, it became a really interesting story about people and personalities and america's pastime. how do you weave all of that together? >> guest: well, first, how because it start? -- how does it start? i don't look and say, oh, there's a book here. it starts like with this thing i'm doing now, very small, with an observation. i was watching my local baseball team, the oakland as, when money was really starting to happen in baseball. free agent salaries were starting to go through the roof. and i looked and said, that's odd. it used to be all the people on the field were close to each other, and now we have a left
fielder who's getting paid $150,000, and a right fielder who's paid $6 million. and i wondered just how ticked off when the right fielder dropped the ball. [laughter] i thought maybe there was class resentment going on. so i watched the money on the field for a while and then realized, no, no, no, the story's not only that, it's how much money the team has. if the team has -- my team is a poor team. it has a fourth the payroll of the new york yankees, and yet it's winning as many games as the new york yankees. how does that happen? in an efficient market, the team with the most money would buy the best players and is win all the games. how come that's not happening? so it starts with a question. i go see the management to ask them about it. their answer is so riveting, it takes about a month to figure out this isn't a magazine piece or a little article, that this is a book. into this stew is tossed the really interesting character of
billy beane played by brad pitt in the movie who i realize at some point can be the engine for the narrative. and then it's a question of, like, how you put it together in a way that the reader will keep turning pages. i, at the bottom, that in an odd way is the easy part once i start writing, it's figuring out what the story is about. and in that case, what i thought the story was about was not baseball. i mean, baseball was going to be what we were going to be reading about. but underneath it, the fact the market of any people in any labor market could be so inefficient, much less for baseball players, i thought, well, that's incredible. you have these -- forget the baseball players -- these corporate employees who are doing what they do on the job with millions of people watching them do their job.
statistics attached. it wasn't that people weren't counting things, there were statistics attached to a lot of what they did on the field. if those people can be so misvalued, you can build a juggernaut of a baseball team out of undervalued parts, who can't? that was at the bottom of it. once i had that energy, that's an important story, that transcends the immediate subject matter, it's just a matter of, like, laying out the things that interest me and trying to figure out how they line up. >> guest: of course, they were explaining to me that strategies and players are misvalued because people are using their
intuition as opposed to better statistical analysis, which we're doing. and i at one point said to billy beane, what do players think of that? your team is kind of odd when you start to look at it, they don't look like most teams. you've got a leadoff hitter who's slow, a first baseman who's never played first base. all the stuff you've been asking me about, he says, we don't tell them because it just confuses them. but i thought this is the start of a conversation or with the players. they're in the middle of a science ebbs peopler. you could talk to the -- science experiment. you could talk to the lab rats. i was at that point thinking i had a long magazine piece. the penny hadn't drop for me. so i went to go systematically get to know the players, and i really just moved down the clubhouse, the lockers. the first time i was in there after a game, it was a night game in the oakland coliseum u and i was waiting more my -- for
my player who had agreed to meet me after the game, and i was looking around, and the players were all nakedded. it was first time i'd seen the oakland as naked, and it was an unpleasant sight. there was a lot of body fat where it shouldn't be, misshapen parts, and i had the thought if you line those naked bodies up against the wall and asked anyone what they did for a living, no one would guess they were professional athletes. booktv interviewers maybe, but not professional athletes. and i ran -- [laughter] what i realized was how they didn't look right, i mentioned in the next day to billy beane's second in command, and he said that's, you know, that's a funny thing you say that, because we talk about that. he said when a player looks wrong is when, that's one of reasons the market misvalues them. if we see a player and he looks like a famous baseball -- he
looks like someone who's played before or the idea of an athlete, the market will get that he's a good player because they see him and they say, oh, that's a player. but if he's short or fat or has two club feet, they say something's off about him, and the market's put off. and he said we're essentially in the business of finding people who have defects, and the more obvious and glaring the defect, the better it is in a way because the defect will distract the baseball experts from seeing the real value of what that person's doing on a baseball field. and that's when i thoughting, oh, my god -- thought, oh, my god, how they look in baseball is having an effect on how they're valued? how could that be? and that's when i started thinking, oh, this is a story about markets and how screwed up they can get when they're valuing people. and it was about not just baseball players. women in the workplace. look like a woman, and you're
thought to be less valuable. it applies to a lot of things. it's about the way wester or yo type when we -- we stereo type when we look at people and how that effects the value and how that becomes self-reinforcing. so then i had, i thought, this is a universal subject. and then it was really just a question of how on earth, you know, how i lay it out. but at that point i had a book. and billy beane would say, if you had him sitting here, i tricked him into writing a book about him, and he's right. at that point i'm saying this is a little magazine, piece for "the new york times" magazine, and he was fine with that. and when i rolled after six weeks and said, you know, this might be a book, you could see his, you know, his expression change. he did not want a book written about him, but it was too late. he'd spent so much time with me, he kind of thought i can't quite get out of in this now. out of this now. and so finish but that's how it happened. >> for those in the eastern or
central time zones, three hours, the first sunday of the month, and our guest is michael lewis. we'll get to your calls. this is from 2011, let's watch. >> the journey for me started when i stopped playing, and a gentleman through a pamphlet to me. i read that, and that was my eureka moment. i sort of went back and find out bill james stuff i could read, read all those, and and it just made sense for me. and once i had access to that, once i had sort of seen that, it was really no turning back for myself. but as far as the, you know, the last ten years it really starts for me, i think, when michael lewis walked in our office. we were just trying to survive as a business, trying to find a way to compete in a very challenging situation. and i don't think we ever sort of envisioned that the
organization itself would, you know, be put out front in something like this with sports analytics. so it's a bit surreal. >> host: your reaction. [laughter] >> guest: well, i told you. he didn't -- i'll tell you, it gets even funnier because he got, he kind of got tricked into the book getting written about him. not that it was a bad thing. and even when the book was done, you know, i understand that they were -- what they were doing was different. i couldn't just spend my time with them. i had to go see other baseball organizations and see what they were doing so i had a point of comparison even though much of that material, virtually all of that material ended up on the cutting room floor. i was down with the texas rangers, saw the seattle mariners and talked to various people affiliated with the organizations and realized, yeah, this is really different. billy beane saw me doing this and thought, well, maybe it's not just about us. he's writing about baseball.
and i tend not to clue in my subjects too much about what i'm doing, i don't want them the become too self-conscious. so he gets the book and reads it, basically it was too late for him to change anything, and he calls me and he's just horribly upset but won't -- he's not shouting at me exactly, but he's kind of shouting at me. [laughter] and i said is i was thinking, and if i felt sneaky about it i thought it's not totally in his interests for me to write this book because they're doing things that other people aren't doing, and they're gaining a market advantage, and if i expose it to the world, the other teams will start doing it, and he'll lose his edge. and i thought that's what he was upset about. i said, what are you upset about? he says you have me saying -- i can't say the word on tv, an expletive -- you have me cursing all the time. and i said, what? you do curse all the time. and he says, you don't understand, my mother's going to be really upset.
my mother's going to read this book, and she's going to be upset. i said, your mother? i said, you know, i thought -- i was relieved. i thought if that's all you're worried about, i thought you were worried, i said to him, that i've exposed your secrets to the other major league baseball teams, and they're going to steal them, and you're no longer going to win baseball games with less money. and there's this long pause, and he says you don't really think anybody in baseball's going to read your book? [laughter] he said nobody's going to read your book. [laughter] people do can read the book, and he kind of goes -- the thing goes crazy, and his life just i blew up. p and to his credit, he could so easily have said michael lewis does not know what he's talking about. we gave him a few interviews, yes, but he got it all wrong. he could so easily have just thrown me under the bus, and he didn't do it. he fought back on my behalf. so then flash forward. oh, a few months and a movie
studio wants to boy the book to -- buy the book to turn it into a movie. this was 2004, 2003, and nothing had ever been made into a movie. they send you some money for an option for a thing, and it's great. free money, but they never make the movie. they say they're going to make it, and they never make it. so billy calls me and says, you're not going to believe who called me. some movie studio, he's laughing like this is preposterous. and id sax -- i said, what'd you say? i don't want a movie. i said, you're thinking about it all the wrong way. they just give you money. they never make anything. they just buy all this stuff, they give you money, and you can take the money and put it in a drawer, and they'll never make it. i listed all the thing from liars' poker and to magazine pieces, and he's listening, and
he goes, wow, if i just sign it, they'll give me the money? he signs it, sends it back in. and every 18 months for six years? he would get another check. and he'd call me and say, this is fantastic. they just send you money, and they never make the movie. then one day he calls me, he says, you bastard. [laughter] he said brad pitt just called, he's on the way to my house, and my wife is putting on makeup, and the babysitter's wearing a dress. you said this wasn't going to happen. [laughter] i was as shocked as anybody this thing, you know, in these relationships i have with my subjects like billy beane, i really am the chicken at the ham and eggs breakfast, and he's the pig that the subject is, you know, i'm interested, they're committed, and i can kind of move on with my life. but a book is and a movie exploding in a person's life the way that it did with billy
beane, it's amazing the grace with which he's handled it because it is not all pleasant. even if it is being pleasant being stroked which way, this way, it's odd and distorting. and he's handled it very, very well. >> another book that became a movie, blind side. is it true your wife said you would be an idiot if you didn't write the book? >> >> guest: yes. i mean, that's -- so that, you know, you may have already gathered in order to write a story, i need to tell myself a story about why i'm writing the story. that i have an obligation to it. i'm the only one who can tell this story because i have some privileged position and relationship to it. and the blind side -- and it helps the if, it helps if it connects up to things you've done before. you never want to do the same thing, but if at least rhymes with something you've done before, you can say, yeah, i can see why i would be the one who would write a book like that. so it wasn't totally preposterous that i write a book
about baseball and about how markets work because liars' park poker was about -- liars' poker was about markets. this was a thematic connection. but the blind side, i mean, the accident involved there -- since we have three hours, i can tell you these stories at length. but you shut me up if i'm going on too long. >> host: we can go longer. [laughter] >> guest: the -- it's been a long time since anybody's listened to me at this length. but anyway -- >> host: we have two hours and 35 minutes. [laughter] >> guest: so i had decided that i wanted to write a piece that was a quixotic exercise about the teacher who had most influenced me in my life who happened to have been my high school baseball coach, a great man named billy fitzgerald. and i wanted to persuade "the new york times" magazine to put billy fitzgerald on its cover
and talk and just get at how someone gets into the head of a kid so powerfully and with such permanence that the things he said to me then i hear now when i, especially when i'm in trouble, when i'm in a pip. and i need -- pinch. >> host: we should point out that led to the book coach? >> guest: that's right. the little book coach. so i was thinking about that as a story. and i thought, well, you know, i shouldn't just go with my experience. i ought to go see how other people as adults who played for billy fitzgerald feel about him. and i was in memphis anyway, and i thought, you know, sean too by lives here. had not seen him since high school. we had been in the same class from kindergarten through 12th grade. he said the only academic awards you and i got, i remember turning -- the only awards we got were the award for being there for 13 years.
and so i call him, and he picks me up at the airport. and it's kind of funny, the first thing he says to me when i get in the car, he says, so who writes your books? [laughter] i said, i write my books. he said you don't write books. i know your name's on them and you promote them, but who actually writes them? i said, no, sean, i sit down and write my books. he goes, you were the dumb ass like me in the back of english class, there's no way you write books. took me forever to persuade him i was not just a frontman for a book-selling operation. so he takes me to his house, and he's made -- he was a poor boy growing up, and he's made a huge success of himself, and it's this mansion on the outskirts of memphis, tennessee, and introduces me to his family. and in his living room is a 6-5,
with me and want to talk about analytics and how you intellectualize their sport. and i became friends with a guy in the front office at the san francisco 49ers' football team. and he and i started talking about what's the, what are the interesting questions about money in the sport? and he said, well, the interesting question is not how much money you have, because everybody basically has the same payroll. it's more how the money's distributed across the field. and i said do you have any data on what's happened to that since free is the ahappened -- free agency happened. a market emerged, what does the market say is the valuable position? and he brought out this data, and it was riveting because what we all would expect, the quarterback is the highest paid player on the field, but it used to be a running back. a more high profile player was the second highest paid. and what happened was this guy called the left tackle who guards the quarterback's blind
side became the second highest paid mare in the nfl. and no one knew their names, but they were thought to be a very peculiar physical type. they're basically elephants who are ballerinas. they were huge, they had especially big hands because they could grab with defenders coming in, especially long arms, they were incredibly agile and quick. so i had that, i was kind of learning about that. one day sean calls me up and say, you'll never believe what just happened. he says nick saban, then the coach of the lsu tigers, had come through the school and seen michael oher on a basketball court and said to the sean, that's a future nfl left tackle. without even seeing him on a football field. at that point, michael had been in uniform on the football team, they had him on the bench because when he was a sophomore because they thought he was a defensive player, and he didn't really want to hit anybody, seemed disoriented on the field.
well, at this point i'm starting to turn to my wife and say -- she had heard, my wife, tabitha, had heard some of the story, and much of the story is quite moving. i mean, leann shows michael oher his bed, and he stares at it and says, you know, i've never had a bed. you know, in my life. this is a new thing for me. >> host: and that's in the movie. >> guest: that's in the movie. these sorts of things were happening. but i thought, that's not my kind of story. and, plus, it's kind of nasty to get somebody you went to high school and make him a character in the book. sean came out to visit because he was the color commentator of the memphis grizzlies at the time just for fun. he stayed with us, he went to dinner. he started telling tabitha the story, and i had said it's not my book, it's the book some other kind of person would
write. and we got in the car, and she said you're an idiot if you you don't make in the next book. the inherent drama in the story will carry it. and i realized at some point that there was a way to organize it, that i could harmonize with my own writing past. and it was that the -- if you ask the question how does michael oher go from being a homeless illiterate foraging street kid who's likely to be dead or in jail in years, he's in a very bad neighborhood in memphis, his rejected future when he's 15 -- projected future when he's 15 is not pretty, how does he go from one of least valuable, invisible people his age would have been the most valued where all of a sudden he's a future nfl left tackle which, in fact, he became?
>> host: and all in two years. >> guest: well, you're not a left tackle -- >> host: by time he's 17. >> guest: yes, how does that happen. well, one of the things is the forces in nfl football that led the particular things he could do to become very, very, very valuable. and another of the things is a mother. so i'm going to write a story around this kid, with this kid kind of in the center but ant these forces. and what got me jazzed about it is i thought it was related to the moneyball story. i thought -- we think when we think of inner city, poor america we think, oh, well, the athletes get out, right? because they do get out some. their talents are so conspicuous, they get spotted as basketball players or football players. and truth is that even something as conspicuous as a future nfl
left tackle would have been missed but for the accident of the twohey family. and some other people, but nevertheless, it took some accidents. if that kid can be missed, who can't be? what talents are in there? you know, what future concert pianist is not being trained? what -- it's such a waste. so that's what motivated, finally motivated me to write the story. but if my wife had not said to me that you can do this, i don't think i'd have tried. now, i've gotten -- gone on in my writing career, i've gotten less concerned about whether i can explain about why i'm the one who should write this. but back then i kind of just anxious about whether i was the one when could do this. >> host: and your wife, tabitha soren, our audience may know who she is. >> guest: i'm sure they do. most people know who she is more quickly than they know who i am.
so she was the face of mtv for a stretch when i met her, she was on air at mtv. she's now a photographer, an art photographer. you can go to her web site and see her photographs. she's really, really, really good. and i've watched her have a second act, which is hard to do. when she was on tv, it's funny. i don't know if you're this way, but she didn't ever really have the ambition to be on tv. she'd started her life behind the camera as a kind of producer. she was interested in being behind the camera, and thal meant one day didn't show up. and really the guy that ran the place said you go do it, and the person who didn't show up was gone, and she just took the job. that's how she ended up on tv, but i think her heart is on the other side of things. >> host: how did you meet? >> guest: that's a funny story. i was kohing for the new -- covering for the new republic in a peculiar way the 1996 presidential campaign.
and it was dole versus clinton, if it was basically dull, and the main candidates were not saying anything interesting. but i noticed that there was a really interesting story that was kind of on the side of the campaign that was all the people who were running for people who were never going to win. most of them whose names you'll never know. it's amazing how many people think they're running for president. there's probably someone in your neighborhood who secretly thinks they're running for president. all these minor character, candidates -- pat buchanan is a pretty well known one, alan keyes, who had this passionate following who were never going to win, and i thought i can use them to tell a political travel story about america. so i was on road just constantly, and the primary ends, and there's a little bit of an intermission, and i'm looking for material. i think i'm going to start or
writing about some of these trends, and one of them was adrift in youth politics. and mtv had something called the choose or lose bus. i think they actually owned it, but a they were affiliated with it. registering young people -- around the country, this bus, registering young people to vote. so i called and i said can i get on the bus just to see what you're doing? and the publicist, unbeknownst to me at mtv, went to tabitha who was going to be at other end of the bus where i was going, seattle -- we were going from portland to seattle, she went and said michael lewis called and demanded an interview with you, which i had not done. i kind of knew who she was but not really. and then they came to me and said would you like to interview tabitha soren. [laughter] why not? so we met, and her attitude she
was or pissed can. i'll have dinner with him, he's not allowed to tag along at the event, i've seen him, and i don't want it done to me, and so i will -- i'll have dinner with him and then tell him he can't come to any more than that. is so she flew in and we had dinner, and i was allowed to come along the next day. and the next. [laughter] so that was 1996. we were married in the fall of '97, and we have now three kids who are floating around the world. >> host: a lot more to talk about with our guest michael lewis here on c-span2 reese booktv "in depth." george from new york city, go ahead, please. >> caller: yes, hi. in your book -- [inaudible] you write about richard tyler, and you said that he wasn't at
least when he came upon -- [inaudible] anybody's idea of a future nobel prize. how did you get the year before he actually got the nobel prize that he would get it? >> guest: well, should i give some background here? it's about my most recent book published last december. >> host: why the title, the undoing project? >> guest: so the book is about this collaboration between one who himself won the nobel prize in economics which was quite a trick because he wasn't an economist. but work they did in psychology has so infected economics that prize couldn't ignore him. there's a general answer to your question, and that was when i thought about what these two guys had done, what they'd done was attack the idea of rational man in various ways.
they showed the way a mind, the human mind even in a calm state was susceptible to making cognitive error, to making a certain kind of mistake. and that these mistakes were meaningful ask would lead to things like medical diagnoses and bad investments in the markets and bad decisions about which baseball player to employ if you were a baseball general manager. so i thought they were undoing, essentially, a false and conceited view of man. but the phrase itself came off of amos died in 1996, but i had access to his papers. and in his file drawer, he had a folder that was labeled the undoing project. and this was particularly poignant because these two guys, amos and danny, had a collaboration that was more than just an intellectual collaboration, it was a love affair. there was no sex, but sex was almost beside the point. it was like a passionate love
affair. and the undoing project was what amos called the project that he and danny were working on when they busted up. and they busted up because danny thought amos wasn't interested in the ideas. and the project was -- they were, at that moment, trying to up tangle the rules of the human imagination, and the mere idea that the imagination of rules and it's -- obeys rules and is not just a free-floating, undefinable thing is a breathtakingly interesting idea, and they were attacking it in an interesting way. danny had come with the original idea. he thought amos wasn't interested in his ideas, but amos secretly was scribbling away in this folder that he called the undoing project. it's tragic there was this miscommunication. now to the question -- he asked me a question. >> host: sure. >> guest: so the bridge between amos and danny into economics is
richard sailer, an economist who sees these psychological insights these people have had about huh people, how the mind works along with economics. and he won the know knell rise -- nobel prize a month ago. he's going to the get it in december, i guess, for his work. it wasn't that hard to guess that richard was likely one day to win the nobel prize. there are a dozen people whose names every year are bandied about, and he was one of them. and the thing that was so interesting about him personally and why he makes this little -- he's important in intellectual history, but he was a guy who wasn't good at school. i mean, you think of people who are professional economists, you think they're all straight a students in high school and good at math and all that. he wasn't. he had a very interesting finish he came at his own profession in an odd way, and there was a point in his career where he was completely willing to give up
economics. he thought he didn't belong in the profession. and in part because he thought it was absurd. in a funny way, he was predisposed to exploiting these psychological insights. >> host: so in the book, page 206, amos says it's amazing how dull books are given how much that's many them must be invented. >> guest: yes. so one of the insights that drop out of their work is, you know, we're pattern-seeking creatures. we will see patterns even when they, they don't really -- there's no real pattern. and amos gave a talk to a group of historians early in the '70s or while they were early in their collaboration. he was showing the way people will, after an event, weave a narrative that makes it seem like it was inevitable, this
event. trump being elected president. and historians will come along and show why that was bound to happen. when they could never have predicted it happening. that ors in fact, what they're -- that, in fact, what they're doing after the fact is imposing a false sense of certainty on how the world moves, that they're making -- they're making life seem much, events seem much more inevitable than they actually are and that this almost is woven into the profession of historian. and that, in fact, the truth of life is their reality, as amos put it, it's not a fixed point, it's a cloud of possibilities. and there are many alternative realities that might have happened. and there was nothing, life is not as deterministic as all that. he put it much better, much better put in the book because i use his words rather than mine. but the person who watched him
give this talk to historians in 1975 said the historians went white. i mean, they were ashen-faced when they walked out because they were aware, he was showing them their work, and they were aware that they were susceptible to the same sorts of mental errors, imposing a false sense of, like, a kind of cleaning up the past in order to make it a neat story that we all do as we move through life. >> host: if someone were to write a book about michael lewis, which author would you want to write the story? >> guest: is it, does it have to be -- is it a living author? >> host: no. >> guest: you know, it would be a very dull book. this is the truth about, just generally, about writers' lives. it's probably like an inverse relationship between how interesting the life is and how interesting the work is. when you start to see a writer having a colorful, interesting life, the work is probably not going to be that good. if he becomes a character, and
i'm not really, so there's not much material. so i, you know, on the one hand i'm tempted to say i'd wish it on some writer i hate, because it'd be punishment. but someone who would kind of get me, george plimpton. someone like that. he'd be fun. who approaches the act of writing as entertainment, as -- for himself. there's an aspect of fun to the to what he's doing. it certainly wouldn't with be some ponderous intellectual. that would be a big mistake. it would be some really high-level, confident journalist as a type, that's what i would pick. but this is, i mean, this isn't going to happen. i promise you. [laughter] >> host: we'll go to michael next in newark, new jersey.
thank you for waiting, mike. >> caller: oh, to problem. hey, michael, i'm a huge fan. i just want to know if you've ever considered writing about, like, public education or i think if you spent a year in a public school in the an inner city, i think there'd be a lot of stories there. thanks. >> guest: i'm thinking about writing about the department of education right now, and that might lead me there. but, so the short answer's, no. i mean, and it's partly because i don't pick my subjects that way. i don't think, oh, here's a sphere, here's an area i must enter, health care or public education. i mean, it really is more accidental. something curious -- if i read something in the newspaper, if something really curious that happened inside some school and it might lead me to a person in the school, and that might lead to a book, but that hasn't happened. it's not that i'm not interested
though. my middle child is in a giant public school. i work, you know, when i'm home, i'm derelict of duty right now. this fall i was meant to be a front desk volunteer at the public school, and this is the most entertaining and high stress job. i've been asked 4,000 questions, and i don't know the answer to any of them when people come in. there's clearly, like, material in that world. it's such a vital place. but i just hadn't, you know, i haven't, i haven't stumbled upon the way in. >> host: chris from humble, texas. you're next, good afternoon. >> caller: good afternoon. i am, ily right outside houston -- i live right outside houston. i'm a long suffering astros' fan, and i'm a very happy camper today and probably for the next month or so. and i loved moneyball. i just want to tell you, it was an awesome book. it changed not only my thinking
about baseball, but business in general. so very well done. here's my question. i'm not a in depth, huge baseball fan, but i understand that the houston astros' management has taken ab approach that has been -- an approach that has been described as tanking the team in order to improve its prospects for a future run at a championship. to me, that sounds a little odd and kind of not right, and i'd hike to get michael lewis' comments on that. thank you very much. >> host: chris, thank you, and congratulations on the astros. >> guest: so there's a moral dimension and a strategic dimension to that question, right? strategically, the -- sam hinge key at the philadelphia 76ers advertise this and ended up losing his job because the management couldn't stomach what he told them he was going to do, accumulate high draft picks by not intentionally losing, but not really trying to win.
because you, the worse you do, the higher up you are roughly in the draft. you have access to elite talent year after year if you lose year after year. and you can build. i mean, i think the 76ers are showing it, you can tank your way to a really good team. baseball, it's a little trickier. i haven't actually thought about this, i just want to let you know, i'm not the world's authority about this. i saw a headline about in the other day, astros tank their way to the world series. and i was aware back when they were losing those gamings year after year -- games year after year that they were probable thinking we're going to get the first pick of the draft for several years running, and that's going to make a big difference. i'm sure strategically -- but it's harder with baseball because it's harder to identify the best talent, the best amateur talent. the best amateur talent in basketball is a little more
obvious, and just because you get the first pick in the draft doesn't mean you're going to draft the right person with it, and there's many, many, many examples of first picks in the draft who themselves have tanked either because they've gotten hurt or because they just weren't as good as everybody thought they were. so as a strategy, you know, it's a little trickier in baseball, and i don't think that's just what they did. i mean, it was a combination of stuff they did. and it is a sophisticated, that houston astros' front office is a sophisticated intellectual operation. i mean, this -- that happened in baseball a couple years ago that passed without that much commentary. at least, not as much as i thought. jeff lunau had come from the cardinals, and someone had the cardinals hacked into astros' computers. the fbi got involved, i lost track of the story, but i thought isn't it an amazing
thing that we actually have management information, intellectual property in a baseball front office that's worth hacking that if you go back 20 years, you know, there's nothing you could have hacked that would have been worth having. so they are, they're doing things there that, clearly, other people in baseball find interesting, and if they had just lost, they wouldn't -- that wouldn't have been a strategy. now morally how do i feel about teams like the 76ers? maybe not trying so hard. not the players on the court, but the management that assembles talent with a view to the forty year from now -- fourth year from now rather than this season. you know, it's a little distasteful, but it doesn't bother me that much, and it's kind of a deal with the fan base. like, will the fan base put up with it. will the customers put up with it for long enough to build the team. and if you really, if it's
really the main strategic option for becoming an nba champion, kind of hard to blame 'em. think if i'd owned the testimony philadelphia 76ers and sam had walked in and said we're going to tank for three years and then we've got a shot at winning the championship, but if we don't do that, promise we're never going to win, i hope i would have had the guts not to fire him at the end of it. >> host: liars' poker came out in 1999. i think you're talking about your dad -- well, you're laughing. who was making the money selling the stocks to you and your -- >> guest: god, that's not in liars' poker. i may have mentioned this at some point. there's a funny moment when my father was trying to teach me about the stock market. i was, i don't know what i was, 12, 13 years old. he came home because my father was very interested in the stock market with a little black book, leather book, where you listed
your investments and kept track of them. and he explained to me what a stock was and that he'd bought me 20 shares in a company called chart house. i think he picked it because he thought it was a good company, but he also thought it was something i could relate to. like, they owned some restaurants in new orleans, and i could follow it. and in the ledger it says, say it's $10 a share. 20 shares, $10 a share, down below paid $230. i said, well, 10 times 20, that's -- why did we pay 230? he says, well, the other 30 is the commission to the broker. i said what's the broker? he says, oh, he's the one who you call and tell him you want to buy, he's the one that places the order. and i said something like i mean all you do, all he does is take your phone call and then call somebody and say buy that, and for that he's charging that? and my father said, yeah, and i said is, where does he live? i want to go egg his house.
i was so outraged. [laughter] so i think my first brush with wall street i had some of the same instincts i preserve to this day which is they're charging too much for their services. >> host: well, along those lines you say in the book, page 2ing 7 of lie -- 287, as my new year's resolution, i'd stopped selling people things i didn't think they should buy, for lent i'd given up my new year's resolution. [laughter] >> guest: you're taking me back to my youth. it was one of the threads that runs through the financial books, liar's poker, flash boys, how screwed up the sniffs are in -- the incentives are in the financial world. a stockbroker back in the day, and still to this day, has an incident to have you trade and, in fact, you're much better off not trading that much. it's an incentive to give bad advice. now, in what -- i mean, if doctors had the incentive -- well, they do sometimes -- to
prescribe medicine you shouldn't take or give you an operation you shouldn't take, theres have a code of ethics and try to stop themselves, but even doctors are susceptible to do things they probably shouldn't do. and when you're dealing not with someone else's heart, but just their wallet, it's each easier to give in to the bad incentives. and the bad incentives i had and i felt them immediately when i sat down and was, you know, i was i guess my job was bond salesman at solomon brothers, but, in fact, my job was just to sell whatever they had, and it wasn't just bonds. it was to sell the stuff we made the most money on, and you got the most i kudos and phone calls from guys at the top of the firm and promises of bonuses if you sold the stuff no one else could sell. and that stuff isn't good tough is -- good stuff, you know? [laughter] the more money the firm made off the tough you sold, probably the worse it was for the person you were selling it to.
you fool yourself, oh, this isn't that bad, oh people don't -- other people don't see the value in it, blah, blah, blah, but the first six month into the job i can remember the pit in my stomach. i was 24 years old, staring at the ceiling at night -- i was living in london -- not being able to sleep because i felt bothered by the situation i was in. i got over it. everybody i was -- i wasn't talking to widows and orphans. my customers were professional money managers, people running hundreds of millions if not billions of or dollars and they should have known better than to listen to me, and i was aware there was this very gray, and i think, you know, it still is. >> host: were you making money? >> guest: was the firm making money? >> host: you personally. >> guest: yeah. seems like pennies compared to what they get paid now, but to me it was a fortune. the first year, when i was 24, i think it was all in about
$90,000. the second year it was $250 or so. and there were caps on what they'd pay you. they had a device for making sure we didn't get too uppity and ask for too much money. your second year out there's the most you could get paid. i was told it would be double the next year and double the next year, you know, that i could make that kind of money. and $250,000 when i was, what was i, 25 or 26, it seemed like -- i mean, it was a fortune. so, yeah, i was making, i was making money. the firm, however, this is how your mind gets screw up when you're in that world with, i had something, i knew how much money the stuff i was doing roughly was making for the firm, and it was tens of millions of dollars. and so is i can -- so i can remember feeling kind of cheated when they were paying me what they were paying me, and that's when i thought, i've got to get out of here. [laughter] my mind is going the wrong way
here. because what they were paying me was trivial. but it was a fun relationship. i mean, i -- in many ways that world, the financial world when i was in it, it was a lot more fun place to be. it was outrageous in other way, but the fact that i could be there on that trading floor sitting at the -- it felt like the center, it was the center of the financial universe. my job was at the center of the center and be writing magazine articles while i'm there that are about what i'm seeing, albeit under a pseudonym, but known to my superiors that were highly cynical -- >> host: and what was the pseudonym? >> guest: diana bleaker, my mother's maiden name is diana bleaker minnesota row, and i -- monroe, and i wrote under diana bleaker. and they would be all over the solomon brothers trading floor. most people didn't know it was me, but the management knew it was me, and they kind of just let it happen.
.. i left the $250,000 i was getting paid for $40,000 book contract and is the best deal i ever made. but i explain to the bosses who were my bosses, that i was going to quake to go be a writer and write the spoke about wall street, you would think they were supposed to be red alert, get out of here, disclosure agreement. will write a book about us. instead, it was telling me a crazy person who said don't do this. you're going to get rich here. don't ruin your future by going in trying to be a writer. there were so genuinely concerned about my mental health. not about some book. they return to that and if you
try to do that now come your goldman sachs right now and you rolled out the door after two and a half years to write about. you wouldn't get home. >> host: so what did john godfrey right of the boat -- think of the book? >> guest: he didn't like it. his good friend lynn sullivan, who died recently, adding that within that reaction. it has been, but every prodded him anyway. i was getting calls from friends. and so many many friends there was just like kenny constantly afford what is going on. the upper management was vastly irritated with me. i cause them no trouble. the rank-and-file mostly thought this was really fussy and it didn't bother them at all. because most of the people at
that point had become so cynical about the management that they didn't feel any particular corporate loyalty. so it wasn't regarded at the act of betrayal that might otherwise have been. the place had lost the corporate identity attack, the attachment of the greater good. there was much less of that than you might expect. so a good friend himself, i mean, he would call in later years. i had lunch with him. he would call me from time to time. he said he bought the books and people came to his office he would sign a copy for them and give them a copy. he told me at one point he was my biggest customer. in the end there was some reconciliation and i grew very fond of him. but he did not like the book. >> the title might be pretty
obvious, but how did you come up with "liar's poker"? >> is the game they played. dante stakes at the firm and i thought it captured the level of mendacity, that mendacity as a game ending with gambling and it just gave you that feel. it didn't just pop into my head. i still have a folder called my title folder. i do it with every book when i'm working on a title that pops in my head, and so there will be dozens and dozens of possible titles and make a look at that and i can remember what i did. i took like six of the titles. they were all bad including trade for a naiad no idea.
>> hi, michael lewis, you are my absolute favorite author. i lived in san rafael across from you and this shows you the power of c-span, letting me get in touch with you. i have been watching lately the news with all the climate change disasters. the hurricanes from the south east in houston and puerto rico and the devastating fires that we've had here in the bay area he and it brought back to me a very vivid story about the insurance industry and how they
don't pay claims, even though you have a solid contract with them and they brought back memories of a very big story that i know about between the insurance industry and the government and so forth and i wondered, how does a person get a story to you? how does a person get a chance to at least tell you the idea of a story or some team that actually happened over a period of 20 years indicate you to think about it or get you to suggest someone that might be able to bring those issues out into the open for the public. >> host: thanks for the call.
>> guest: you know, it's funny. lots of people know my next book. it may be the most common thing that people do to say you need to write a book about acts. the problem with not his but they really should be doing if they feel strongly, but i don't have any particular feeling about it at all shocked and peered by then you write a book about it and it ended up being true. i did write a story about it. mostly for whatever reason we need to discover my own stories and they don't come like a
website. i stay off of social media. i try to hide my phone number, but i do read letters people write when they say you should write a story about x. the best ways to send a letter to my publisher, but i wouldn't encourage him to do it. it would be a likelihood that they will change my life because of the story you want me to file the next question is i can understand that feeling. i'm sitting in the middle of the media. there just to chronicle her some journalistic enterprise might be a good place. every now and then someone will come to me saying you need to
write a story about xml thing i don't need to write that story, but i'd do need a writer. i don't know if anybody's ever written that. this is a long way of saying i'm frustrated if what you hope to get out of me is about a subject you want to write about. flash forward --/boys is about a genuine sense, the most meaningful genuine attempt in my lifetime to reform wall street from within by a group of people, who are now americans, who saw just how distorted and unfair because it's a big stock market had abdicated their responsibilities to provide a
fair place for little guys in big guys to come here instead of creating an exchange to prevent traders are taking advantage of everybody else. when i first heard this story, i was working on the big shortage. kenny moses is one of the big. he rolled into our office and we been hunting trip problems, explained what was going on. the next book you're not going to believe it. you will not leave this guy. he spent several years essentially with a team of people can engage in this forensic investigation of how the stock market actually worked and this is your story. and i said let's get back to "the big short." i wrote "the big short", who had
worked at goldman sachs for stealing proprietary high-frequency stock market ratings and he helped to write a book in a taken for flash drives and the fbi was on him right away and i got interested. i thought isn't it interesting the back end of the financial crisis, the only one who gets a arrested from goldman sachs and then there's this bit in the news accounts which said the high-frequency trading code, the reason they had to be arrested without bail is that fell into the wrong hands for some hyperbolic and i thought gold
fax is the right hand. are you preserving and i remember getting moses saying the guy who would explain among other things in a column up inside you is this guy? and i win, which i should have done in the first place from the skies have been investigating the stock market. i thought why didn't i listen in the first place? flash forward to that conversation. >> let's get back to your phone calls. jim, west palm beach california. you are next. >> hi, michael. big fan, red "liar's poker," "the big short." here is my question.
i wonder if you could give us your comment on the current state of market and the federal reserve, the world's central banks, and the low interest rate environment, which is sort of an enabler government with huge deficits hot in this low interest rates are really hurting favors and then we have and we have a margin that ms put our our stock market into record territory by a lot of different metrics, but it seems like no one cares until the yield curve spurs. anyway, i appreciate your thoughts on this. >> so, i suspect my thoughts on this urn is interesting is your
thought. i would just say broadly you look at the markets now, we are still living in a world of financial crisis with central banks still trying to talk their way out of what they felt they had to go to in response to the financial crisis, which was the liquidity into the market. they have hundreds of billions of dollars of mortgage-backed securities. in the lower interest rates to zero are basically zero coming back the other way. the stock market, i never thought about my opinions or anyone else in why the stock market crew today elizabeth donald trump was elected
president. in one of the unfortunate side effects of monetary policy that was required financial crisis is in favor and it's probably one of the unfortunate side effects that people if there is not a normal return, people go looking for risks that maybe they shouldn't take. >> them to go ahead and respond. this is from last year on cnbc. >> is set in a book that's when i knew the markets were raised. you can't say.
>> let's walk through. >> believe it or not because he you said it. i may walk you through. >> you believe it or not? >> i believe the markets are rigged. i also believe you're part of the regime. if you want to do it, let's do it. >> and should be eliminated from the vocabulary. computerized trading and computerized scalping. people can until the end of trading. people use computers to scout. they do not scout watershed around miami. >> august of last year, cnbc. >> it was before that did the book came out in 2014. i had to think about that because it was right when the book came out. that was a great moment. the main character/boys who was reluctant to go after the guy
who runs the exchange, created >> a better alternative trading systems. >> it's the greatest acronym. it's set up on the other side of the lincoln tunnel and that goes for optical fiber through the link and tunnel and make it their first in there something wrong in the market, when he finds out it's happening with small orders and are able to detect race others in new jersey for the stock exchange further away, but on the order. >> what type of time frame? >> milliseconds. microseconds. talking about it's very hard to
conceive of the units of time that a meaningful following the stock market. we are talking about the speed of light, right? the speed of light from the other side of the lincoln tunnel to the other side of new jersey is pretty fast. i don't know if they are still it, the right to position your trading machine next to the serveware, they were fighting to get their computer exchange so they can get a faster view of the market than everybody else. so everybody is antsy in the market at the same time. they will cobble together a faster picture anyway, that exchange on television on cnbc
that the same things about it. lost his job after it was reported on air. the new york attorney general got in touch and said you can't misrepresent your business. and what they were actually doing. so, the exchange, you know, i was there, but not fair. i was in a remote location in a little box and i was suppose to be participating in this conversation and it ended up being a fight between the two of them. the guy was informed that this was going to happen. neither bride nor i knew he was going to be there until we showed up. i think what they thought was going to happen is brad would be humiliated. instead, he humiliated the guy.
the great moment i remember from this staff as they ran up the time, goldman sachs equity department. and they had seen how rock the market had gotten and attacked the decision in building this new exchange because they didn't want to be associated with what was going to happen if anybody ever found out. they join the forces. they said why not show where old with this cnbc producer i don't know if it's true or not, the most-watched episode on cnbc but she said congratulations you're the tallest midget. but nevertheless, these guys said the trading moment stopped.
i don't know if they still do, that they owned a stake in that exchange. they did not own a did not own a stake llamas exchange because he wanted to know with any particular interest and they are very happy to. so now going on, the old golden part or, standing there watching it and he turns to the heart of the stock market and he says a $50 million stake in not company? he says the little guy, we don't know, everybody watching it bought out one day when the story was told 50 years from
now, people will go back and say that was a big moment in the history of wall street. i think right now there is a world to come back the political campaign work. regulators are being bought and sold every day by the financial industry is trying to preserve the ranks be an extract edge. i think they're going to win. they're profitable exchange now. i think they are going to win and that was an important moment because the regulatory apparatus has proven itself unable. you just can't control wall street because at some level the regulator is being paid one 50th of what the person they are regulating is being paid are the incentives are all screwed
up in the regulators want to work for them. but, the form can happen with entrepreneurship. people come in and blow the whistle and say investors come you don't want to be ripped off, it doesn't have to be this way. let's organize. come to us. and then, i think if he shows that's possible, it will happen in the other market. >> that was april 24 at team. i think these are probably two of your shortest books coach, lessons in the game of life and home gave an accidental guides to fatherhood. >> yes. the question? >> why did you write them? >> different in any case pitted the home game is essentially a journal, structured journal of the first six months after each of my three children were born
and what prompted it was i was doing after my first child was born, i was having a situation. i didn't understand why you feel instantly attached to this creature, why i didn't feel but a new father was supposed to feel that i would talk to my wife about this and she said either go to therapy or write it down kind of thing, and i started to write it down but i confess to my friend, the journalist the kinds of things i was thinking and feeling and he would say i don't have the nerve to say about what i'm thinking of doing the same thing. maybe you should get in trouble to sell this stuff off. i just started to publish journal in the online magazine slate. and eventually it became not.
and i tell you when people come up to me, when people come out to me and one of those enormous conversations about the stuff i've written, those are the two books they want to talk about. it is the very dads who said they died i thought i was going insane and i read it, or imams who, they'd say i thought my husband was the biggest. you gave me great relief to know there's one even bigger. >> host: did you feel differently after each one of your kids? guest on such an involved and in love dad that all of that seems like a distant memory and if i hadn't written it down i would lie to you and say it was great right from the beginning. it was not great right from the beginning. it was horrible. so, i really, really glad i preserved it. the first six or eight months i found that every time.
but it wasn't just that. it wasn't just that it was bad. it was how it was bad. it was the positive things i wasn't experiencing as well as the negative things i was experiencing. it was just different. sometimes this is where the writing comes from, when you feel like what you are thinking and feeling is different from what everyone is saying it. there is an opportunity in the air. i smell literary opportunity. i also confess there's been a think my wife thought this. if i turn this experience into literary material is more likely to spend time with the kids because at least they are but a rare material. subsequently what happened is one's -- what i found as a father is the act of taking care
of when love comes from, the love of the child, you're not exactly wired for it. i wasn't wired for the same way my wife is wired for it, but taking care of something teaches you, creates the feeling of love, so when the taking care of, you get to a different place, but it takes a little while. i want to start talking but it's a completely different thing. once you start interacting like that and i'm all over there. i'm very involved. and i think the father is jessica joya did not first. >> host: your wife keeps you in chat? in what way? >> the answer to that question is generally yes. but specifically with regard to children, he probably kept me in check in the very beginning that
we are both very involved parents. not exactly a division of labor anymore. i'm on c-span for three hours. i should be parenting right now. >> host: we have another hour and half. i told you it would go fast. go ahead, bob. >> caller: michael, i'm very impressed with your body of work. i have a series of questions. one of the things you first brought up is humans and their marketplace value. but then, piggybacking on the trading issue, this thing but as a concept of the robinson attacks, which should be essentially a sales tax, is that treating in an interesting concept in terms of what would
that be able to do in terms of some kind of a check and balance with the trading modifications of cop transactions. >> guest: so, tax high frequency trading. people have suggested that. as much pleasure as they would give me because they irritated me to no end, the high frequency trading industry, the public presentation, you never know the consequences of what i worry about. but there are better ways to attack the problem. everyone of these wall street books i've written to take and do not allow exchanges to send them orders. get rid of that. do not allow exchanges to sell
privileged access to information they can say yeah, everybody can buy it, but not everybody can spend a million dollars a year in technology needed to assemble is vaster picture of the stock market. if you stop anything, which you can get as the benefits of high frequency trading without so much of the pollution. in fact. the point is there's been great games to stockmarket investors like everybody else technology and wall street will call back some of these games in the way they should not. >> rupert in rancho, cucamonga. go ahead.
>> caller: [inaudible] but what i wanted was the sad the story that you're basically a storyteller and what more can we do to be such a great storyteller. >> this is an interesting question. it's a welfare of motives. some people write for money. if you want don't want to come, i'm leaving. some people i think probably all
those motives that i can't deny it would be harder to do it if nobody paid any attention to it or it would be harder to do it it was actually political interest in the story i was telling. but i think all of that is the fact of the pleasure, the feeling of it is the pleasure. when i am sitting there, i listen to the track of music over and over it drowns out everything in its affiliate not kelly wright. we have people in the room in which demand and laughing at my own jokes. in any case it's giving me pleasure. that is how i got in the first place when i was working on writing magazine articles no one was ever going to read.
the sense of time just went away. i just really like doing that. post a job in office? a place where you write? s. go yes, i read in berkeley, california with a redwood cabin. i walked down to the cabin in a workfare. i have little kids still, so i get up in the morning, driving tendrils of walker to school and then i go right. but novelists often have a story where they have to write 500 words every day or they have a rule that they make them selves read a certain amount every day. i write only one out of three days a year on average. a lot of my time is figured out what i want to write about and learn about. on the nonfiction writer. even novelists have to do some research. i do an awful lot of work to figure out, to find the part of
real life i want to carve out into a story and figure out how to carve it >> caller: want to tell my young son who really enjoys his job and investment bank, but it's bogus numbers in a couple weeks time and everything that he feels about the job. >> is he afraid it's not going to be as high as they want. this >> if he actually likes the job apart from whatever the bonus is always really making themselves miserable, a whole class of
people who do it mostly for the money and that is a shame. so he's already ahead of the game. he actually likes his job. if he wants to put it in a company could send him a list of the average pay for coal miners or list of other jobs that are very unpleasant, we get paid a lot less than he would get paid. i think if i had a child who somehow wound up in a wall street firm, highly unlikely, but it could happen and that child said to me i'm only going to get $150,000 instead of 4 million or whatever it is, i would say here was a ticket into the woods. go around the wood and think about what your priorities in life. you're doing so much better than everybody if you let us make you miserable, you would anything
make you miserable. i would tell them it's not acceptable to let a wall street firm have that kind of power over happiness. >> host: before we take a break here one more call from bethel, missouri. go ahead. >> i'll be real quick about a two-parter. michael, i was wondering regard the film adaptation "moneyball" if you thought the portrayal of art howe was accurate and has nothing to do with philip seymour hoffman. also, when you're researching at the university of mississippi, did you come in contact with patrick willis who of course as you know later went on to the san francisco 49ers and will probably be in the pro football hall of fame. patrick willis had a tough out drinking.
had a good day. >> the character played by philip seymour hoffman, may he rest in peace, that was the resentment felt about the general manager taking over a lot of what the manager used to do entry in the manager is essentially a middle manager dictated by the front office. that was handled in a very passive aggressive way in real life. in the movie, they dramatized about having had really good in the face of billy dean. and so, that didn't happen. i was kind of the willingness to actually fight with his bosses he didn't have enough flash. patrick willis. so, patrick willis was a really
interesting character. but michael is at the university of mississippi, he was maybe a year or two behind patrick and michael i can remember, yes i met patrick willis. they actually had lunch with him because he was an instant connection because patrick had been adopted by a family at a pretty young age and i think saw in him someone who might be next with michael and smooth this transition into ole miss. but what i really remember about patrick willis is that he had been on the bench i think. this guy was an unbelievably gifted linebacker. i was up in the press box at the ole miss hemingway stadium, whatever it was called in mississippi, sitting with scouts
, nfl scouts, someone from the giants, someone from the bronx, watching lsu play all this. i was there and i wanted to talk to them about what they thought about michael. that really looked like an nfl tackle to them. and lsu running back came through in the three-yard line, looking like he's going to score. out of nowhere appears patrick willis, with him up on his shoulder, jack mason into the ground. what was that? an act of such violence. i turned to the guy and a sad, do you know who that guy is? he's obviously covering a lot of ground on the field, but nobody knows who he is yet. this kind of the moment he was being discovered. it was interesting because he you think you must be an all-pro
linebacker. and then it comes up and wreaks havoc on the football field. i remember patrick willis fondly. very, very sweet guy who you would not believe have the capacity that be displayed on the football field. o-oscar let me ask about you. your dad was a lawyer, your mom a community organizer? >> guest: that makes my monsanto were then she was. i would say activists. my dad, call him a lawyer, he was a lawyer, but he ran a law firm. my mom was a really gifted administrator who didn't particularly like being a lawyer, but he liked running a law firm. they were both people, who ran every cynic organization in new orleans at one point or another in my mother is still very active. you created a couple of charter schools and choose out door
every morning at 6:00 in the morning. mostly retired. >> host: your great-grandfather? >> guest: well, my grade, great-grandfathers and historian. the short story is my lewis ancestor with josh lewis was my great, great grandfather was sent by thomas jefferson to new orleans in 1803 to receive the purchase from the french and he became -- the louisiana purchase and he became the first justice of the louisiana supreme court and wrote the first legal opinion. i never went to law school. and stayed. his son was there in new orleans, john lewis.
the family never left. the other side of the family the carpetbagger showed up in 1830s. my family has been in new orleans both sides and most people are still all there since then and had it been woven into the fabric of the city in lots of different ways. >> host: our guest is author michael lewis on c-span 2's "in depth." we'll take a short break and show you some of the books that have become best-selling movies and will be back with your phone calls here on seat and two. -- c-span2. >> most kids of his background wouldn't come within 2000 miles of this place. >> i expect to make him feel welcome. >> you are their friend. ♪
>> big mike. >> what is he wearing? it's below freezing. >> do you have a good place tonight? don't you dare lie to me. >> is this a bad idea? >> what's the big deal, it's just for one night. >> this is for v.? >> i've never had one before. >> what? around yourself? >> abed. >> last night fell asleep with one eye f o open. >> you threaten my son, you threatened me. >> michael's grades have improved enough that he went out for spring football in march. >> user family, michael.
when you look at income you think of me. are you going to protect the family,>> michael? you're going to want to get this. >> who is the big kite eating with your little brother? >> my big brother. >> i think what you're doing is soso great. you are changing that boy's life. ♪ >> your goal should be to buy players. >>it should be to buy wins. >> who are you? >> the players that have beenen overlooked for one reason or another. and here is a championship team. one that we can afford. >> the kid is the new assistant gm. we are going to shake things up.
>> the new direction of the oakland names. we are card players out the blackjack table. we are turning it into a computer, billy. >> billy beane is coming to reinvent the system and now it's just not working now. they call it money ball. i think you got a ticket on the titanic. >> daddy, do you think you lose your job? >> watch tv, talk to people. >> do you believe in this thing or not? >> 100%. >> with the not come you may not look like a winning team, but you are one, so play like one tonight. >> we've got something really unexpected and special in the walled city is filling out.
>> we stay for good. >> things have conditioned us to trust them. what have we gotten from not? 25% interest rates. they screwed us on student loans we can never get out from. >> the most disgraced fraud in u.s. history. >> no one is paying attention. >> it's>> unbelievable. >> they risked their all to take them down. >> we are going to make the big banks hurt. >> how could they let that happen? >> but it's not stupidity. it is fraud. >> they got greedy and we can profit off of their stupidity. >> we have to act now. >> so he doesn't wear shoes and knows more than the federal government? >> i worry about him. >> i'm fine.
i love you, honey. i'll talk to you later. >> if we are right, people whose homes, people lose jobs. >> you're wrong. >> we can do everything straight and still go broke. >> the ratings agencies come ratings agencies, the banks, the government, all asleep at the wheel. you think this is a game? this is a once-in-a-lifetime deal. >> sometimes there's nothing you can do. >> i support the american people. >> okay, here we go. >> "the bigg short." ♪
depth" with michael lewis printer resetting a record for the longest interview you've done? >> guest: we surpass it by an hour already. posts ago first of all, 1999 and next in 2001. >> this is again related to my wife. since we were on the biographical journey. maybe at some point i should. she got a fellowship at stanford so this is 97-98 calendar year. >> host: you were just married. >> guest: she got it before we were married and she got it the fellowship. i got it during palo alto and the internet bubble is happening. story after story after story. i just started to poke around
then. i mean, it was clearly one of these historic events that happen to be sitting in the middle of and i thought how do you do it as a story? who is the person who sits in the middle of this thing? at the time the person was jim clark who was part of the silicon valley and made one small fortune now play behind the creation of netscape, which was launching to them. this is a funny story because what occurred to me, watching and writing about various internet phenomenon, the center of it all was this unnatural willingness to plow under everett and he had just done. it was just this machine for plowing under the old and replacing it with the new.
people don't naturally usually do that. you have to create nsa. you have to create an expectation that it's going to happen and even though he was in his 50s, he was not a young silicon valley purse and was legendary for being under his own life, as businesses. he was always kind of moving forward. i can remember a coffee shop across from the campus. i can remember sitting there thinking, you know, i have to write a story about jim clark. locate this human being, and this unsettled miss feeling that you feel out here. at the time i didn't have a cell phone. i was very late to get a cell phone and i wished i'd never had one, but nevertheless, i went to the payphone in the back of the coffee shop and there was a pay
phone and there was also a phonebook and i found clark in the phone book. i called jim clark and i got a housekeeper and she said jim is in the office, the u.k. and call him there. this is a billionaire. he picks up the phone and i said i michael lewis. i said i'm just down at this coffee shop. come on over. he was at that time is very depressing room on top of the jenny craig weight loss center. what he was doing when i got there was trying to program, write the program for a giant sailboat for a job that would enable him to sail the boat across the atlantic. it was just like a challenge. a fully automated vote that he could control remotely.
i just thought i want to spend more time with this guy and not lag to the new thing that led to some articles which got glued together. and the writer's life they are books and look-alike objects that may or could you does the whole thing from a magazine piece or hate them -- home game pasted together. >> host: what was netscape? >> guest: was netscape? it was the first browser. you think back to that time, the browser was what people thought was going to be valuable. >> guest: it wasn't that long ago. >> guest: jim clark who was
regarded by everybody at the time as the visionary in silicon valley, who kind of seems to always have his finger on what's about to happen. the end of the book he decides he's getting out his racket of the internet a little. it's gotten so crazy the stockmarket valuations are so crazy he wants to get his money out because even he is scared. the deal that kind of triggers this is insane is someone comes to him and says he cannot have it piece of his company called google. a search engine but you've got to pay putting million dollars for her. that's ridiculous. that would be worth tens of billions of dollars now. it was preposterous. so they get out. the valuation of google was preposterous. next we have an hour and it the chance for me to talk about
books nobody asks me about. i got interested when the bubble burst, the stockmarket collapse, things that were worth hundreds of millions of dollars were worth zero the next day, that kind of thing. but it was thought when i was writing about this event that the internet, the financial consequences of the internet were trivial compared to the social consequences in the noise in 2001 was all flawed, all phony. a lot of that. i thought no, actually what we want to do is trade the social consequences. it may be true the internet is not an engine for corporate profit. that may be true but it is an engine for social change. so i wrote these long essays, reported pieces about things that it happened on the internet they gave you a glimpse into a
very odd, for example, one of them was about them was about a kid in new jersey who at age 10 or 14 was a kid of a very modest family, like lower middle-class family whose grandmother had given him 100 bucks or 500 bucks that on point and it got not a line in open a brokerage account, somehow david the documents to make them seem like a grown-up. and he had turned a grub stake from his grandfather into 700,000 or $800,000 in trading profit and the local mercedes dealer, even when he couldn't drive, over $50,000 in cash and saying hold this for me until i get my drivers license. it is outrageous. the fec had followed that dignity finding tiny little
penny stock companies and buying stock in promoting him on internet words, advertisements with him because he saw that's what you do in the stockmarket. so he thought that is just how it worked. the fcc came down on him for stockmarket manipulation. there's a whole story and how he enables the phenomenon. >> how much did he end up keeping? >> he kept almost all of it. if you paid a fine, it was trivial. he kept almost all of it. postcode utilities doing today? s. plan for her trim and in years, which is odd. most of my subjects i'm in pretty close touch with. i'll hear from them once a month or every couple months and i can tell you where they are. last i heard from him, he sent an invitation to a party coming house on miami beach in us having mike lane wade and lebron
james over. not exactly that, but that kind of glamour event, so he'd gotten himself into i don't know what. that he had decided. i got into his life a bit in us trying to coax and he thought it was a waste of time. he was going to make money without having to go to college and i assume that's what is he doing but i don't know. >> host: john firm new hampshire company you are but tv. good afternoon.
legalizing pot and getting rid of discrimination against sexual orientation and sexual identity. all the stuff that congress won't do but the people actually want. one of the things he does i wanted to ask about was the tax system, it creates a tax that alters actions with no exemptions or deductions. when you do that, the total transactions in the united states totaled over $1,200,000,000,000,000 per year. -- 1200 -- if you tax that with half a a percent it comes out o over $6 trillion. >> host: any thoughts on that?
>> guest: with the adam sandler movie were maybe billy madison where he's in a debate in school and gets up in front of the whole school and he says what he has to say, then the principal says thank you very much. we're all a little stupider for having heard that. whatever i would say you would say thank you very much, we are all stupider for having heard that. don't know what he's talking about. it sounds like really interesting constitutional amendment. >> host: let me type into what you wrote about in your books, the role of social media, the role of internet and politics. there is a direct connection. we saw that with donald trump and twitter. >> guest: my heart sinks when you ask questions like that because i'm not a thinker. there are essays to be written on the subject. i really am a storyteller, and i have not, we can all see the
internet is having these with effects and politics that live anything to add from that? >> host: you wrote, people who bother to imagine how the internet might change democracy assume it will take power away from politicians and give it to the people. >> guest: did i write that in 2001? i don't read any of my books ever. i don't remember most of what i write, i haven't been able to remember what i wrote. i said that's the conventional wisdom, at the time that was the conventional wisdom. did i challenge it? that he had the decency to say maybe it's not true? it's had perverse effects. it's opened up the political marketplace, right? among the forces that corrode the authority of the party system. without the internet you don't get trump, anything like trump. and trump without the internet, trump cannot communicate the way he communicates.
you don't get twitter. i think it's probably could say it's broadly democratizing. there's no question it can be used for autocratic ends. we shall see if it is. >> host: going back to our first hour, this is from marshall. since michael oher study the briefing book what do the rest of us need to know about nuclear energy? >> guest: that's funny. the way i went into the department of energy like the way i went into the department of agriculture was, these enterprises are so very fast. to get them across in ten or 15,000 thousand words is a huge challenge. so i went in with a particular angle. the angle is what's the risk? what is the risk of a white house that is disengaged from actual managing the government any day, that didn't bother to get the memo and understand what the department did that is
running the date of that larger has an staff of the government in a lot of ways. like, what could go wrong? in the department of energy, the story about the department of energy starts with a fellow named john mcwilliams who was the first ever chief risk officer inside the department and he'd come from a successful investment career vicki made his fortune in private equity investing in things like nuclear power. he was brought in the first place to help the department assess the risk it was running in the investment portfolio because they do make their loans and subsidized loans and grants that make, to technology that may pay off 100 years from now. a few long-term scientific research and long-term investing in technologies. it morphed into this other thing, this other job of looking at all department, like what's the risk?
and nuclear energy was not on the list. the future of nuclear energy was a footnote in what concerned him, and so what concern me. he was much more concerned, let's say, the iran deal, the iran nuclear deal with fall apart because the white house wouldn't understand that it'd been negotiated by people who actually know how you make a nuclear bomb. so actually it make sure that everything kevin won't be able to do it because of this agreement. and that they won't actually get to that because they never got briefed on that. so in any event, there's a story to tell about nuclear energy that i don't know very much about but it's an interesting story, because when i was getting that was supposed be the energy of the future. what happened to that? what happened was i think we overreacted to things like
three-mile island, and public policy took some odd wrong turn that it wouldn't have been a very smart way to go to invest in nuclear power. and we didn't go there for complicated political reasons that would require a long piece to explain and a piece i haven't written. >> host: you have brought a couple times, finished the sims, the state of american politics today, is what? >> guest: all right, if it's a word now, and -- disturbing would be another word that would come to mind. the notion that there is no such thing as the truth or there is no such thing as fax you can assemble your own version of reality with your own newsfeeds and your own abundance and ignore evidence to the contrary, and you can have an electorate that is
so polarized that it sees the world, can you imagine -- can't imagine how the other side sees the world the way it does, except to ridicule the other side. it makes you fear for democracy. the absence of a walter cronkite type source of news where everybody kind of degrees that's more or less, that's more or less right. we more or less trust that, where we are all participate ie same reality, seems to be like a necessary ingredient to the democracy. i think trump is an accidental threat, i do. and i don't know how it's going to play out. my last book, "the undoing project," my most recent book one of the big takeaways is people are predicting things, turn and run as fast as possible and the other direction because most of the things they say that
are predictable or not. predicting what could happen in the political life of america, don't bother. we don't know the things are going to happen, they will drive the future. but it does seem like a very volatile, and certain time. what drew me in the first place to writing this series in "vanity fair" that eventually may become a book wasn't just how alarmed i was that the new administration had just ignored this wonderful course in federal government that was there for the taking, but that their whole approach to governing seem to be increasing, ever so slightly in some cases, not ever so slightly in other cases, catastrophic risk, the risk of various catastrophes happening. and that's what is on my mind
now is how we get through this alive. that's what's on my mind now. i live on the west coast. we are debating the north korean government like who knows, you know, the site it's fun to shoot a missile at us or put one on the boat and float it into the los angeles harbor. i think all kinds of very, very serious risks. john mcwilliams and the department of energy, his first concern, i configured before north korea was on anybody's radar, really, was north korea. he said the reason the department of energy is worried about north korea, and you wouldn't think, why would the department of energy be involved with north korea at all, is that they run the national lab, the national science labs that evaluate with the north koreans are doing when they're firing these missiles willy-nilly into the ocean and the real isotonic of it was a method to the math that -- a method to the mattis
and the rapidly improving their technology was making jumps that no one expected him to make. i think part of the strongest they've managed to to get some ukrainian scientist in to help them build missiles but they acquired intellectual property. it made them much more lethal. so i think we're sitting in a world where nuclear war with from something that i didn't think very much about a couple years ago, i mean, i'm aware there is a a risk, to being a l risk. and less dramatic, dysfunction, like the steady corrosion of the federal workforce because people just dump on all the time and don't appreciate what it does and think it's always, inefficiency and corruption. the corrosion to the societies that emerges from that approach to managing it, you may not see it as dramatically as you see a nuclear explosion, but you will
see it. it will have devastating effects. i'm trying to be helpful. i mean, i am naturally an optimist. "the undoing project" has a wonderful line, paired together with his great pessimist, the world's great pessimist, he's wandering around looking for what's going to wrong all the time. and he says at one point, pessimism is you stupid because if you're pessimist you are living a bad thing twice. first when you are imagining the bad thing happening and then when it actually happens. you don't want to wander around and a cloud of despair because a nuclear bomb would go off in san francisco because what good would that do? i almost cautiously adopt a surge of optimism, but the strategy is challenged daily right now. it is. >> host: we're talking with michael lewis. 14 books?
>> guest: the counter in the litter were i to get because i know how many books i've written. because i think i'm not as all exactly books, i mean, you might list, i think it edited an apology if of other people figt for charity, i did, with, i don't even remember the title of it. i didn't write anything. so the actual books, conceived as books and, from beginning to end and handed in his books are, the "liar's poker," "the new new thing," "moneyball," "the blind side," "the big short," "the undoing project," and "flash boys." those are the books. >> host: without we'll go to sandra joining us in santa rosa california. go ahead, please. >> caller: what an interesting
interesting, which we talked about. i just decided that you should be, have weekly hour-long program on television. >> guest: your hiring me. >> caller: if i could do that i would try to by week three you would be so sick of it, trust me. >> caller: no, no, no. anything everything else is sous and nobody knows anything. we don't get in-depth information we need from you. i read the department of energy article, and it was so revealing and i felt like i was on the inside. but we don't know anything. i knew it was bad but i didn't know how bad it was until i read that article. one of your other books that i got the most out of was "boomerang" ." and the way you express yourself is a way that we really need to hear. most of us are too busy, not me,
but watching stupid programs on television set of becoming educated about what's going on in the world. and what you just said for the last, what, your last five minutes about state of the world, it's pretty horrifying. i want to commend you for doing something to help us to be more informed. >> host: the book "boomerang" which we haven't talked about yet was about what. >> guest: she's in santa rosa? is that what she said. >> host: sander, stay on the line. >> caller: okay. >> guest: so "boomerang," it is a book. it covers, it's between covers but it was written in the first place as a series of magazine pieces. the idea was, the thing that interested me was on the back end of the financial crisis, i had written the american story, a story of what happened in "the
big short" here, but this was a global crisis and it was experienced by different societies the different ways. it was the same root cause which was indiscriminate lending. it was profit lending. people handing out money to people to do with it what it with without thinking too much about what that was. the lenders ceased to be a break on the process of, in the financial gain. and so in iceland, for example, this population of size of peoria built three of the world's biggest banks in a a matter of a decade. and about a whole developed a whole russian station about why iceland for years, for a total history had been prevented from achieving its ultimate destiny of being a capital global finance that they were, and the
athletic president was running when giving speeches saying how isolators, the viking mentality is a mentality, and we are now, the will can see where naturally gifted financiers. so they have that delusion until all came crashing down. the greeks wanted to bloat the already bloated sector with the money. what people did with the money i found it this way. it's like entire societies were left alone in the dark room with a huge sack of money and they were allowed to do whatever they want with it, and you could see the perversions in the society but what they did with the money. in this increasingly won a world culture where you can buy the same stuff in new york as you can in london as you can in tokyo, there are not many opportunities for distinctive travel journalism we can get it aspect of the society that are peculiar about the society through some lands. this was an opportunity to get what was peculiar about iceland
and greece and ireland and germany through the lens of money. so there are stories about countries which breaches of the financial crisis, and the material was unbelievable. i mean, iceland, i could go on about this too much because she's going to ask a question but you know, the population 150,000, 300,000 people i think it is, the men, generally the men with the breadwinners. all related, all these 300,000 people. in one way or another they are all cousins. the chief source of wealth was fishing. that's what they did, they fished. they had cheap energy, but the energy, it was thermal energy, geothermal energy and you could only -- for complicated reasons they did also smelled aluminum in iceland, but the fishing was the big thing. the men were fishermen and this
story happen over and over. fishermen goes to his wife and says he says i can trade for exchange at the new bank instead of fishing and to make twice as much money and you don't get wet, it's not cold compress that miserable and were actually naturally good at trading foreign currency. the wife says, are you sure about that? why would you know anything about trading foreign countries? bill, , everybody is getting rih doing this. doc the boat, we're not going to fisher instead we're going to get a trading desk. i interviewed exactly this person to this is an exaggeration, and then it turns out what it really is a financial calamity of global epic proportions, like these banks are catastrophic. i go in when it comes down. the only financial viable investment advisory business in
the country when i arrived is a woman who has set up, come to me and i'll help you figure out how to invest your money, business. her premise is i promise no man will ever be allowed to advise you to get his hand on your money. the distrust of men, all men were overconfident. it was a moment like the husband has said i know one going, i know i'm going. all of a sudden there are three states away from other supposed to be in whites is let's look at a map. the country had just elected not only the first female prime minister, but the first lesbian prime minister. they didn't want their head of state sleeping with men. it was the hostility towards the mail financial overconfident impulse was at its global peak. it gave, that's what i was writing about, and it was different things in different places. anyway, we publish his college dollars in phone bill.
>> host: sandra, thanks for waiting. please continue, well, at one time you said you're going to write about california, and i think the pension issue that has become such a huge problem, we don't have money to spend on important things because of the amount of money that's been spent on pensions. like 100 million in sonoma county alone. oh, my god, that's not a year, is it? i don't know, it's horrific anyway. that's what i was wondering about. >> guest: so i did write about it at the end of "boomerang." there's one chapter coming back home to california, and i don't think it was a particularly at a fine chapter but get at, and tested a great politician to do with, chuck reed was a matter of san jose who was in the war with
his own police department and fire department because he is trying to make, to cut their pension. it's a huge issue. it's an issue i might find some way to go write about because really the finances are out of control. what we pay, how california is spending its money, i mean, a lot of it is been masked by economic success, the tax service are strong and so on and so forth. the combination of really bad deals, state cut with public employees and legal application they therefore have to pay for these pensions -- legal obligation -- with low investment returns because interest rates have been low for so long. this is a slow-moving iceberg of a problem, but a slow-moving catastrophe in the making that's not just, and it's not just in california. that all these pension calculations are based on
returns of 8% for some assumed investment return that the pensions themselves are not earning. eventually you have shortfalls. we will have some messy political reckoning. >> host: among your favorite books, confederacy. what's this all about. explain the book? i haven't read it. >> guest: it's a novel that was written by a guy named john kennedy toole is my homeboy. he grew up not very far from where i grew up in new orleans, who killed himself for the novel was published. he had gotten as far as getting the public interested in going back and forth with letters and i don't know what happened but he killed himself. it's the funniest, one of the two or three funniest books i've ever read. it's the book, if anybody asks me, can you give me the book that describes new orleans?
is the book i given. it's the book a given because ignatius reilly, a character at the center of it, since don quixote, he's the best subject,, the best character since don quixote, and it's a wholly original character and holy other place. it's one of those books i read and i have tears streaming down my face. i haven't read it in a decade or so but it's one of the few books i have read more than once. >> host: how was it published after he killed himself? >> guest: what happened was this. he embedded in the novel a very funny portrait of his own mother, who was a lunatic, charming new orleans lunatic. and very expressive out there woman. and after he died she was convinced her son had written a work of genius, and she ran around bothering people to read the book.
she cornered the novelist walker percy, famous local novelist who wasn't exactly from new orleans with you some come who lived across the lake from new orleans. after one of his classes, he was teaching i think i'm loyola university and handed him this dirty manuscript and a brown paper bag and said my dad son wrote this, please read it and get it published. of course in his introduction to the book he says, this is just what you want, the mother of a dead child who's written a work of genius and now in my hands, and he said he started reading this thing, thinking he would read, he would give it to three pages so he could easily say i'm sorry, it's no good, aren't sorry idol see how will ever be published. he said at he turned the pages he did it with just growing wonderment, couldn't believe how good it was. so he got it to a publisher, i can't remember who publishes first. it might've been cannot. i'm not sure about that. anyway, he gets it published and
it wins the pulitzer of the national book award the senior walker percy novel is up, he went over walker percy. but it is, in this culture, unlike in english culture, it is really hard to pull off a comic novel that will be recognized in literature the same way it's hard to have a comedy that is a movie taken seriously and is something that makes you cry. and so the oscar always goes to the portentous drama as opposed to the really clever comedy. he pulled off a book that is a work of literature that anybody sees as a work of literature is one of the funniest things i've ever read. so anyway, it, there's a catharsis in having something explain to you that you didn't quite realize needed explaining.
one of the things i needed to explained to me as a result of my upbringing in new orleans is what's so peculiar about this place? it so different from every other place i go. i know it. i feel it. i have experienced it but i have put words to it. he not only puts words to it, he creates characters that embody it and just go all, it hits home. >> host: rachel and gastonia north carolina you on the air with michael lewis. >> caller: hi, michael. i watched you on c-span at the national book festival, and i play that ended over and over when i get so damn depressed. second, i believe you give an interview and i don't know where, "the undoing project" that you said, i gathered, that if you make decisions just using your gut, you're going to get nothing, or worse. but we have a president does
that, are we screwed? >> guest: the short answer is yes. the point, you know, and this is the source of the "moneyball" story is that the point in "the undoing project", one of the many points, one of the insights is that, is that you can show how people who were just going by their gut will get systematically wrong answers. not that the gut is always wrong. wrong. it's that if you have a choice between gut-based decisions and data-driven decisions where the data is really good and capturing what you need to make the decision, go with the data because the gut will mislead you because your mind mislead you. your point is very well taken, that we went from the president in obama was extremely aware of the limitations of his own mind,
even though he was a very smart person. he was very aware that the job of president is a decision-making job, and we can construct our environment so that we are less likely to make mistakes. but we are still going to make mistakes. but nevertheless, we could try to guard against an event by encouraging input from people who might not otherwise feel comfortable speaking about them, by acknowledging that first impulse i feel might be foolish. recognizing there's a whole literature on decision-making. even obama read something, it is been demonstrated that the mere act of making decisions erodes your power of decision-making or when you going to like sam's club or costco and tightest shop and your salted while these fashion after an hour you're exhausted. you give people lots of choice and they get, their ability to
make choice is promoted. obama did things like rid of all his close but his blue and his gray suits as we did have to decide what he wore. yet someone else decide what is going to eat. he tried to make his environment, he's going to make good decisions. you go for medicine is thinking he knows everything. and who is flying by the seat of his pants all the time, and he plays on our praise, whether he's doing it consciously or not i don't know, but as pointed out, we will as human beings long for certainty that in our leaders we punish intelligent uncertainty. that we don't want our president to get up and say we're will have 90% chance we'll get nuked, or there's only 75% chance the con is going to get better. we don't want probable, we
should want probabilistic thinkers expressing themselves clearly but we don't do we want people to stand up and say this is what we're going to do and this is how it's going to happen and i know. and every con man who ever walked the earth knows this, that certainty is, seeming certain, anyone who's ever sold stocks on wall street knows what to do is being totally certain about the thing you are proposing, that that will sway your audience. so we have a president who seems very happy to -- at all worries me. at all worries me. it always me. i know not supposed to be partisan but but i think we'rea very disturbing moment. >> host: we'll go to berkeley, california. try to my home. >> host: curley, your next. >> caller: how are you guys doing? big, big fan of c-span.
mr. lewis, big fan of your books and so forth. look, you guys have covered a lot of ground. it's been very interesting. i could go a lot of different places but i need to start in defense of the gut purchase a second, if i could. first of all, simplest one i guess is didn't billy beane uses get to decide that guy from cleveland who is using the number somebody told him wasn't ever going to work? didn't billy beane uses gut did make that decision? we will leave that for another time. but i did also just want to ask you about, because look, what you were saying, the cogent analysis you're making about what data is better than just thinking something without challenging it, that's pretty obvious and you did a very good job of explaining that. there's always those behavioral economic issues where you will go into a class where people
into doing at auction for $20 bill, i saw the sofa like him and the guy ended up paying $20 for $20 bill or something. excitement of the vote is the essence of an auction situation and of making markets for that matter. i did want to bring up just for a second black scholes which i know you probably know what i'm talking about. those guys used numbers analysis of the best kind for a long time to does come up with a situation that has led to where it was. >> host: thank you. >> guest: what would you like me to do what i i met your mer. you only hear what would you come how would you like me to go? >> host: how would you like to respond to currently? >> guest: there's lots of come he's absolutely right implicit in what he's saying is, you just don't have choice but to go with your gut.
but being aware that's what you are doing and being aware of the kinds of mistakes, the nature of the mistakes, that gut decisions lead to will help you go with your gut in a better way. i would sit in case of billy dean hiring a person who could do statistics to apply statistical analysis to baseball players, that's exactly a gut decision. he knew what kind of person he needed, and there were not a lot of people like you available. someone who is both great and statistics and also in the world of baseball. he already knew what he was looking for their, but if you are really going to go after me, he was being kind, you know, in "moneyball" there are passages where billy beane himself, the high priest of using analytics to evaluate baseball players and strategies just says screw it.
i think this peer i don't care what the numbers thing. he did this with the player who, because he thought the play was either doing drugs always having, he was detecting a social fact that there is going to have. billy in three would say doesn't matter. but, in fact, he had to since it did matter. it is more, being in a leadership position of an organization i don't think you can lead just by numbers. if for no other reason people will not listen to numbers. people need a story. it is more complicated than that. we would just leave everything to an algorithm, absolutely true, i agree with that. he went on, yet more than one -- how that would leave it at that? >> host: the books by michael lewis beginning with "liar's poker" back in 1989. "money culture," 1991. specific rift.
losers, the road to every place at the white house in 1997. "the new new thing" which came out in 1999. next, the future just happened. 2001. "moneyball" followed by coach, and then of course "the blind side" which came out in 2006. your ninth book. "home game," and axial guide to fatherhood. "the big short" from 2010. "boomerang" from 2011. "flash boys," and a recent book "the undoing project" ." what was the easiest, what was most difficult book? >> guest: "liar's poker" was easiest. a cousin didn't know how hard it was supposed to be. and if all these books i've got a character who i making a swing on the page but in that one that character was me. i was my material for large
parts of that book. not all of it, and i was unjustifiably amused by myself. it was just -- >> host: were you laughing? >> guest: i remember laughing until tears came down my face while i was writing this thing. that was the easiest. they came out of me very fast. when i think about like judging my books i said this, i judge them like you judge and a lithic die. not just the quality of the execution, is the degree of difficulty. "liar's poker" had a very easy degree of difficulty. it wasn't a hard book to write. the material was in my lap. i have lived it. the hardest to write, you know, after that it gets tricky but probably "the big short" ."
basically because you have to explain to understand in the financial crisis can you really do have to explain a collateralized debt obligation, and no one can explain the collateralized debt obligation, nobody. all you can do, all you can do is give the reader at best the illusion they understand a collateralized debt obligation which is different. so the complexity of what happened, it was really difficult to read that and and not lose the reader. so which one, if i had to rewrite one of them and take it on again, which would you regard as the most difficult to do, probably be "the big short." >> host: suzanne from williamsburg, virginia. thank you for waiting. your next. >> caller: thank you so much. it's been a great three hours almost. >> guest: tell me you have been watching for three hours, it's pretty hard to believe but -- >> guest: oh, my god, i
started by michael lewis journey with "liar's poker" side wait to go through the whole thing. anyway, the reason i'm calling is i have a little story that i thought you might enjoy. i was living in manhattan in early early '80s, and my limit at the time was dating john meriwether of long-term capital management. well before his long-term capital management, well before the infamous bad that he made that you wrote about and while my roommate was cooking dinner, john and i used to sit in the living room and play numbers games. we should try to guess configured , figure out the least amount of gases we could figure out a number that was in other's heads. and in hindsight -- [laughing] >> guest: in hindsight you are losing a day. [laughing] >> caller: i know, i was. i often wonder. i also went to whether that was very beginning of john's rise
and downfall was a simple game in the living room. but it truly was a betting culture that you noticed, and i would love to hear more about that. do you think people are born that way or is it just something that they acquire by acquaintance or whatever? >> guest: thank you. that's funny. so john meriwether was my boss at salomon brothers. i worked for the sales arm of his desk, and his desk was of historic interest because what they did, they were the proprietary trading arm at salomon brothers. and if you have gone back a decade earlier, not of the partnerships had this kind of operation in that scope. there were making these enormous debts. it was so big that by 1989-1990, more than 100% of the firms profits were coming from seven or eight people overseen by john
meriwether. 8000 person firm, everybody also losing money, they are making it up. so the whole enterprise was organizing itself ran john meriwether is desk and what bets it was making. these were huge gambles. it was true that he was gambling in the beginning with big edges in the marketplace. the marketplaces in aids get much book obligated. options and futures were invented and traded everywhere. there were lots of actual mispricing of securities that enable people are smart with the numbers to make arbitrage profits. in response to question about is it a gambling culture, is -- it was very much a gambling culture and i felt like when you walk on the trading floor that you in a place like people who are predisposed to alcoholism in a
bar. people are predisposed to gambling addiction were naturally attracted to the place, and there it was just kind of encouraged. and in defense of the place it was pretty shrewd about distinguishing a the smart gamblers from the dumb gamblers. in giving the money to the smart gamblers to play with. but you didn't do what john meriwether did for a living. unless you really like to gamble. most people couldn't sleep at night with the bats, the kind of bets they made. in the end he's so successful that he becomes almost too big for his own from andy cohen great long-term capital management and to make bets that into being catastrophic and almost bring down the global financial system. but you only get to the place and are allowed to make those bets if you have been unbelievably successful for a long time. >> host: that sandra bullock chapter leigh anne to eat in the movie, blindside? >> guest: sandra bullock
captures leigh anne iie so well that when sean iie, her husband, saw the movie for the first time, he goes, he went there's two of them. exactly what he said. oh my god, i can just have one. there are two of them. it was shocking to me and whisper something ever seen one of my characters in the pot a screen. so i was even more impressed that maybe i even should have been. i skeptical a song that brad pitt captures billy beane and all kinds of interesting ways. christian bale captures michael berry and all kinds of interesting ways. steve carell captures the ship in all kinds, and these acts of imitation, the impressions they do, back up and say the movie business, seems like kind of a nonsense business, hollywood and
celebrity, underneath that in los angeles there is a trade and a craftsman with unbelievable skill and talent. these actors of the directors and writers, the good ones, are so talented that when come you can't quite believe when you see. can i tell you one little story? i loved sandra bullock. she is just the best i i thinkd she did a unbelievable job of the actor whose give me the most with his powers was christian bale picky scared me because michael berry who has aspergers syndrome, he has no connection much social to the outside world. he's the first to really see what's going on in the subprime mortgage, and the only one who is an argument about when the market is going to turn and wide. and it is based on having studied the loans that were made that should not of been made. anyway, in person he's a little
quirky. not wildly quirky but quirky. i heard that christian bale had gone and spent one day with him. that was it. he called michael very politely, can they come spend the day in the review? king in the morning and watched them, talk to them, very natural conversation. michael said to me it was odd for me picky set was for me because he didn't get to go to the bathroom. he didn't get be. he sat in my office for 12 hours and i was exhausted at the end of it, said michael berry. christian bale on the screen becomes michael berry. he is wearing the clothes that michael berry was wearing when i met him because he went into michael bears coat closet and took them. i quoted christian bale to say you spend one day within. i spent a year studying this person, and i could not have
done and oppression. i mean, you would all kinds of things. how did you do that? he didn't want to talk about it. it's like magicians don't want to tell the magic tricks. finally i fathered in cellucci said okay, here's what, this is the thinking it was obvious right away. he breathes on you. i said what? he said, when he talks he takes breaths in odd places and essence. from that all these mannerisms emerge and i saw them right away and so is obvious and such assent to the director when i was playing, get my breathing by, if i get the breathing right of the s will follow. >> host: in 2012 the ucla commencement address. >> back in 2006 when a bunch of us shorted portugal, italy, greece and spain, we called them that pigs for a reason. i can explain it in one sentence. when the entitled to elect
themselves, the party accelerates, the brutal hangover is inevitable. my career at ucla arts in such a manner i promise i'll write in the middle of the financial meltdown profiting from it because i have predicted it. i have been a chicken little or a cassondra to some, especially government, i am one lucky s.o.b. in truth, i was just trying to figure it all out. just think it's funny, another thing that's funny about michael berry, watching them, is so he trained to be a doctor. that's what he was going to be but is more interested in the stock market. he comes up and says make him i said why did you stop being a a doctor? he said i thought about, you know, i asked myself, he said, do i care about people? not really. it was a really honest kind of
like self assessment, like i should be a doctor. i don't care that much about people. i find him unbelievably lovable. i really love the guy. just a very good person, very interesting person. has his own peculiar take on the world that happened to fit with that moment in history. but the portrayal of income that doesn't exactly duplicate, he's on the stage and reading the thing. lady sitting at his desk, it's incredible what this guy did with him. anyway i don't know. this starts with sandra bullock. >> host: we will go back from leigh anne tuohy. we watch and think it's a reaction. >> once and after church we were in north oxford baptist, true story, and we played the day before anyone the football right and left. i'm thinking what wrong with him? short schoolbus picking up the he needs to be running left. we're coming out of church and your comes -- i break to the left and shot is like, grabbing the.
leigh anne, that's like, i said no. eisteddfod of his car and will to win a deficit how are you doing today? i said not real good actually, coach. he said what's the problem? i'm trying to figure out, i said, my son was a three season consensus all-american left tackle. really talented, and i said you ran the ball right like 50 times yesterday and like left ten times. i said, i'm not understanding this. i said, he goes well, -- i said go back and watch the film because you did. and i said so want to get back to me. run the ball left. >> guest: that's her. she's the best. she's the best. very funny. she's not talking, the scene in the movie which is going and marching up to the high school coach and telling them what to do. she's talking about in that clip
the ole miss football coach. so she's assaulting the college football coach at that point. i have seen a couple times in the last year i've been down in memphis, and they are close friends there, but the funniest thing, she has seats at the memphis grizzlies basketball game that are on the court, season tickets, and she has receipts right next to the opposing teams bench. so she's from here to there to the opposing teams players and she spends the whole again teaching them how to behave. don't you use language like that. and they all, yes, they are all just listening to her. but she's a force of nature. now, interesting thing about movies and people, real life people, when i met, , well, whei
spent, when i reengaged and assert you think about writing this story about michael oher as a book, she was very wary for a bunch of reasons. she really didn't know, she didn't think any good would come out of it, but she didn't like the idea of being on stage. she was nervous about her, i know, she was, she wasn't shy in her own world. she was a force. but she didn't have any sense of herself as a character, and she has acquired a a sense of hersf as a character. part of the reason is sandra bullock showed her what a character she was by doing it on screen. i am glad no one is trying to make the movie about me because i think it would be very hard, especially if it was done well, to go through your life with such a vivid impression of yourself having been seen by
millions and not have it affect you in some way. >> host: kathryn in california, you are next. what part of the state are you from? >> caller: rancho santa margarita. >> host: welcome to the conversation. >> caller: thank you very much and thank you again for c-span and booktv. my weekend, and we can for many, many years. >> host: thank you for watching michael lewis for three hours. >> caller: i want to agree with sandra from santa rosa, first off, but i had to short questions. one of which is when i i was listening to conversation i was struck by what you said about not being a thinker. i think you are a thinker and i don't want to disturb your self image. [laughing] i'm wondering if you give yourself as a conscience of the culture, perhaps a wall street person of silicon valley, but
more broadly culture itself? i do and again i do want to disturb your self image which is so creative. i think that's what you are and i really, really appreciate it. that would be one question, do you think that. just ignore if you think it might bother you. [laughing] it might be, this might be a silly postscript to a whole thing because it's a wonderful conversation again, i appreciate it. but in your list of authors there are no women and i'm just wondering if you are inspired by women, if you read them, and if you do read them, , why are they not on your list of inspiration, or maybe it's just a short list? that's my question. i'll go here your answer off-line. >> guest: this is an unrepresentative sample in some ways. the broad answer is yes, i do read books by women. when i go back to like the
beginning, i don't read anybody now. this is going to sound horrible, but nobody inspires me anymore, as a writer. what happens as you do this, it is a long time and i think it's because you spend so much time tearing up your own pros that you reach of critically. i now read so much more critically with less pleasure and when i was 20 years old. that writers can't get inside me in the same way they could. it's the thing i like least about what i do that having turned it into a career, if slightly deadened my interest, or changes my interest in reading in a way is not all good. that leaves you have from the, i'm pretty sure all books all got inside when i was 20 years old. rebecca west got inside when i was 20 years old.
she would've been in the next five. black black land, grey falcon. she was just, i discovered this seemingly plain style british writer. she was one, orwell was another, where they had by this sheer clarity of their pros generated this power and made me think that's the way to go is to be as clear as possible. don't use fancy words whenever the word will do. don't use complicated sentences when a a simple sentence will . don't disguise the fact of nothing to say by trying to say it in a fancy way. have something to say. so back in those days when i was capable of being inspired, she is on the list. but not many of the people are on the list but she is on the list. so anyway. >> host: if there is one writer in all of time that you
want to meet, who would it be? >> guest: you have to do a little better than that. do i get to spend some days within or are we going to have dinner or -- >> host: yucatán dinner with him. evening with a writer trying to i don't think i want to have dinner with george orwell. i might want to spend a couple weeks with him. i think it would take a while to get to him in any meaningful way. maybe dickens, mark twain. dickens or mark twain for dinner. mark twain i feel i've read so much about and he is so, he spent so calm over that if you like i might get a lot more out of dickens because it would be fresher. >> host: we will go to stephen in decatur illinois. go ahead. >> caller: good day to you. i have a shorter thinking spend some listening to you because i've seen your pursuit of the
truth and i heard you earlier that while you write, edit think i heard you write because you have that, the truth is like gold. it doesn't run in a straight line. it weaves. when you find it, you don't have to let people know. you're a writer and i'm not a writer. so you discover the truth and you know the difference between fools gold, true constructed or your assumptions than the actual truth. i find you -- you have the truth seeker,. >> guest: you should see my colored contact lenses. it is true what you say that when you find, , seems like an interesting truth. it is really energizing as a writer.
however, enough by nature, maybe i'm just proving this this three-hour marathon, but preachy. it's not kind to my style. if i i could get back to the previous callers ., i don't think of myself as anybody's conscience. i can hardly function as my own. and i think oddly with books, your dancing, , having a relationship with the reader, that the reader controls, or if it's going to be in a good the reader has to some control over. you can't take them around in your truth because it will feel it. they will feel they're being told what to think about the story there reading. all good stories have like a reader size hole, that the reader walks into and exercises discretion over. and so the byproduct of this is that one of the frustrations if you're hoping for your books to
deliver a truth to the reader is often they come away with a clearly different truth. they read it in a way you have no idea. i keep coming back to why i write, and this is, the pleasure i get of doing it that help the reader is getting the same kind or same caliber of pleasure reading it as i got creating it. i think of myself as she is trying to create pleasuring interest in peoples lives. beyond that i don't feel i have that much control over what's going to happen. >> host: you and to why you might but this from elizabeth new jersey who wants to know how much time you spend research, writing and how much santos michael lewis spend just thinking? >> guest: we've established that it don't think. the typical book you said like what do you need come what's the
pattern? they are not all exactly the same, but roughly what will happen, , a book will take me to years, at 18 months of the will be gathering the material in six months will be writing. when i'm writing i will write six, seven, eight hours a day. 18 months i will be writing, writing character sketches, notes, writing down ideas, organizing the structure of the thing but i'm not really writing. my writing, it's sporadic. when i write i write a lot and i write very fast and i revise and revise and revise. but it's immersive. there was a second part to the question. what was the second part? >> host: how much time to spend thinking and the process of writing in general? >> guest: in my upbringing, my father used to say when i was a
kid, the lewis family had a motto and he said it's inscribed on the lewis family coat of arms in latin i just believed in. it was not true. he had me believing is until i was 22. he said the lewis family motto, do as low as possible and that unwillingly for its better to receive a slight reprimand than to perform an arduous task. .. >> and i thought, how would you do that? like, sit and think, i don't
know how that works. the way it works for me is reactive and maybe a thought occurs and didn't try to have it. and never, until i'm engaged in writing a book, do i sit down am i systematically kind of, i guess, thinking. and so, for me, my writing life, a third to a half of the waking hours of my life. and then, parenting and just living and friends and figuring out how i'm going to give my life meaning otherwise, with the rest of it. and somewhere in there, a thought or two might occur, and be disappointed. >> michael, lewis, we're out of time. >> it's a miracle. >> we appreciate you being with us and another book or two in you? >> yeah, my kids will star. plenty of things--
the world keeps giving me material. >> michael lewis, thank you so much. >> thank you. c-span where history unfolds daily, in 1979, c-span was created as a public service by america's cable television companies, brought to you today by your cable or satellite provider. c-span, where history unfolds daily. in 1979, c-span was created as a public service by america's cable television companies and brought to you today by your cable or satellite provider.