Against the Rules: “The Seven Minute Rule”

A sense of unfairness pervades society, Michael Lewis wants to explore its origins.

Michael Lewis.

If you listened to this week’s This American Life you know Michael Lewis has a podcast. If you’re a non-fiction nerd like myself, a podcast from the author behind Liar’s Poker, Moneyball and The Big Short recommends itself.

In Against the Rules, the first from Malcolm Gladwell and former Slate editor Jacob Weisberg’s Pushkin Industries that doesn’t feature Gladwell as a host, Lewis attempts to determine what’s happened to the country’s idea of fairness. He explores the sense that the system is rigged, that nobody trusts the referees.

The first episode takes that metaphor literally. Lewis looks at the increasing number of outbursts against NBA referees. Counterintuitively, he finds it’s a response to better officiating in the age of instant replay. The outbursts come from star players who no longer get breaks.

This week’s episode turns to Lewis’ signature subject, consumer finance. He talks to a woman with $77,000 in student loans and looks at the ways student-loan servicing companies fail to act in the best interest of their clients. He also speaks to U.S. Sen. Elizabeth Warren, D-Massachusetts, who attempted to create a referee for consumer financial products.

But the episode’s opening poses a unique question. A man posed as Michael Lewis and accrued more than $16,000 in debt with Citigroup and tanked his credit rating. Why, Lewis asks, is this his problem? Why isn’t the onus on Citigroup, who issued the credit card to an imposter?

A sense of unfairness pervades society. The presidential campaigns of U.S. Sen. Bernie Sanders and President Donald Trump both found success with vows to dismantle a rigged system. The recent revelation that rich parents have paid bribes and forged test results to get their children into elite schools just revealed something everyone assumed had always gone on. Michael Lewis wants to explore the origins of that belief. Two episodes in, he’s off to a good start.

Listen here.

New episodes of Against the Rules with Michael Lewis appear on Tuesdays.