George Soros: Capitalism and Open Society

George Soros: Capitalism and Open Society

George Soros is a progressive icon for his support of liberal causes.

Formative Influences:

Soros, who is estimated to be worth about $25.2 billion, was born August 12, 1930, in Hungary. He immigrated to England in 1947 and was a 1952 graduate of the London School of Economics. In 1956, he went to New York and started working on Wall Street. Within a few decades, he had established his own hedge fund and made a fortune.

Part of Soros’ life-long work in fighting for freedom and an open society can be attributed to his experiences living under Nazism and then communism. He was also powerfully influenced by Karl Popper’s Open Society and Its Enemies (1945).

Soros’ philanthropic work advances ways in which open societies can be strengthened. He began the Open Society Foundations in 1984. The Foundations “work to build vibrant and tolerant societies whose governments are accountable and open to the participation of all people.” It supports numerous causes around the world, ranging from education to fighting xenophobia. Read more about George’s life story at biography.com

Soros and US Politics

George Soros has been a key funder of Democratic candidates and causes. According to a Politico July 2016 article, Soros had donated millions of dollars to aid the chances of Democratic candidate Hillary Clinton, “and other Democratic candidates and causes.” Not only was Soros’ support useful in dollar terms, but it was also felt that his giving could catalyze giving by other rich activists.

Ultimately, Hillary Clinton did not prevail in the 2016 Presidential election. Trump and his populist agenda emerged triumphant.

A Surprising Critique of Capitalism

There might be no more surprising critic of capitalism than George Soros, given his background. But an article he wrote in February 1997 issue of the Atlantic seems prescient, given the rise of Trump, Putin, Brexit and Macron. In the article, entitled “The Capitalist Threat,” Soros traces not only the influence of Karl Popper’s work on his own philanthropic activity but also the real-life conditions that influence open societies.

Soros sees the “excessive individualism” of modern-day capitalism as the more powerful threat to today’s open societies. He delves into the three ways “laissez-faire” market ideas can threaten the open society.

The first of these is the worship of market values and the denigration of other kinds of values and any kind of regulation. Second, this leads to a situation of “social Darwinism,” that extends the evolutionary theory into the realm of society. Third, transposing these ideas into the international affairs arena, states pursuing their own self-interest can create conditions internally that lead to the erosion of open societies. Visit his profile on Twitter.

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