(To read Part I, click here.)
THE AMORAL ANTI-CAPITALIST CAPITALIST
Democrats looking to George Soros as a moral compass may want to check to see which direction the needle is pointing. The billionaire might actually be able to help them out on that count: In the mid-1990s he posited that there was “something both phony and pompous about a financial speculator inveighing against the moral crisis of our age.”
Much has been written about Soros’ vast fortune. Indeed, the man is a visionary in the world of business. Since his arrival on Wall Street in 1956 at age 26, Soros has remained consistently ahead of the curve. A shrewd observer of gaps in the international financial scene, he saw opportunities in postwar Europe that others completely missed. He became involved in the embryonic stages of the globalization of markets trading international securities. The more successful he became the more cash he had on hand. The more cash he had on hand the more influence he had over events.
At a certain point, Soros stopped reacting to situations and began instigating them. His consolidated financial power has always been used to benefit himself, of course, even when that meant crashing the markets of entire countries, indeed, sometimes entire hemispheres. In 1969 Soros started the Quantum Fund to trade securities at higher volumes, with around $5 million. By the 1990s the fund was worth nearly $6 billion. Governments and powerful individuals alike began taking heed of his every move. Institutional Investor magazine called Soros “The world’s greatest money manager.”
On September 16, 1992, Soros made his fund a cool billion dollars in a single day betting against the British sterling, helping to usher in what the Brits refer to as Black Wednesday. On that day, British citizens saw their currency lose 20 percent of its value. Trying to stave off the challenge to its currency, the British government had borrowed heavily before finally accepting defeat and allowing the devaluation of the pound. Soros was dubbed the Man Who Broke the Bank of England, a designation in which he seemed to take perverse pride.
Perhaps what is most interesting about the episode, considering Soros’ recent professions of moral outrage at the Bush economic plan, is his blasé attitude toward social mores in business. “If I abstain from certain actions because of moral scruples then I cease to be an effective speculator,” Soros told the London Guardian shortly after the incident. “I have not even a shadow of remorse for making a profit out of the devaluation of the pound.” Pushed further, Soros gave an example. “Let’s suppose speculation went on to push the franc,” he said. “That would be wrong and bad. But it wouldn’t stop me.”
Later on 60 Minutes, when asked whether he felt any complicity in the financial collapses in Thailand, Malaysia, Indonesia, Japan or Russia, Soros was similarly blunt. “I think I have been blamed for everything,” he said. “I am basically there to make money. I cannot and do not look at the social consequences of what I do.” A few minutes later, he reiterated the point in even stronger language. “I don’t feel guilty because I am engaged in an amoral activity which is not meant to have anything to do with guilt,” he said. Worse was Soros’ contention that, despite the fact that a single letter from him to the Financial Times recommending a 25 percent devaluation of the country’s currency sent Russia into an economic tailspin, “I am actually trying to do the right thing.”
Well, try harder, George. You’ve plunged half the world into depression to line your own pocket.
Soros weeks later remained unrepentant about the havoc he’d wreaked, going so far as to explain how the “instability” he’d caused worked to his advantage:
“The net effect is a breakdown of the system, instability, and a negative effect on the economy, the size of which we don’t know, but it could be very, very serious. I mean, Europe is going to go into a very serve recession. Business is practically collapsing in Germany, also very bad in France. … Instability is always bad. It may be bad – it may be good for a few people like me who are instability analysts, but it’s really bad for the economy.” And when the economy suffers, society suffers too. How, then, does this sit with his claim of working to better the situation of each individual and the greater, “open” society.
More recently Soros has been very publicly betting against the dollar. In an interview with CNBC last May, Soros explained, “I now have a short position against the dollar … we continue to sell the U.S. dollar against the euro, the Canadian dollar, the New Zealand dollar and gold.” A real patriot, hell-bent on making cash off yet another market crash – ours. Could this be a part of the Democrats’ 2004 strategy? Journalist Richard Poe believes it could be:
“In view of the catastrophes Mr. Soros has inflicted on so many foreign lands, his sudden rise to prominence in U.S. politics deserves closer inspection,” Poe writes. “Bellicose charges of vote-rigging and calls for UN intervention such as we have heard lately from high-ranking Democrats fall strangely on American ears. Yet, for George Soros, such overheated rhetoric constitutes business as usual. The Democrat strategy taking shape in America this year strongly resembles a ‘velvet revolution’ in the making. Every piece of the puzzle has fallen into place. Only the exact time and nature of the final provocation – the signal for action – remains unknown.”
From a purely cold-hearted perspective, this all might be kosher. But now that Soros is a billionaire, his sudden pangs of conscience over the role of capitalism in the U.S. seem a bit too convenient and contrived to help foster the hero image he is so obviously attempting to create for himself. “I am not so optimistic about capitalism,“ he told Charlie Rose. “It is built on false foundations.” Then where, one wonders, did all of Soros’ cash come from? He claims he is no “neo-Marxist,” but his writings throughout the 1990s have certainly had that flavor. He has declared himself, for example, “at odds with the latter-day apostles of laissez faire” and, further, doubts the markets’ ability to allocate goods properly.
“I now fear that the untrammeled intensification of laissez-faire capitalism and the spread of market values into all areas of life is endangering our open and democratic society,” Soros, the thirty-eighth-richest man in the world, wrote in the Atlantic Monthly in 1997. “The main enemy of the open society, I believe, is no longer the communist but the capitalist threat.” Later in the same article Soros writes, “Laissez-faire ideology … is just as much a perversion of supposedly scientific verities as Marxism-Leninism is.” In his more recent book The Bubble of American Supremacy, Soros asserts that the Communist doctrine failed “only because the free enterprise model has been pursued in a less dogmatic, extremist way than the Communist one.”
At one point in The Bubble of American Supremacy, Soros laments that “international income distribution is practically nonexistent.” Haughty words from a man with a bank account larger than the GNP of some Third World countries. If the rich getting richer pains Soros so, why not go ahead and stop accumulating massive amounts of money by raiding the treasuries of entire nations and making them poor?
“It is exactly because I have been successful in the marketplace that I can afford to advocate these values,” Soros said candidly in Soros on Soros. “I am the classic limousine liberal.”
Nevertheless, Soros blames capitalism for the coarsening of American culture. He apparently is the only one able to handle wealth properly. The rest of us savages couldn’t be trusted with his fortune:
“Unsure of what they stand for, people increasingly rely on money as the criterion of value,” Soros writes in The Capitalist Threat. “What is more expensive is considered better. The value of a work of art can be judged by the price it fetches. People deserve respect and admiration because they are rich. [Why does Soros think people respect him???] What used to be a medium of exchange has usurped the place of fundamental values, reversing the relationship postulated by economic theory. What used to be professions have turned into businesses. The cult of success has replaced a belief in principles. Society has lost its anchor.”
Tough talk for the man who also has boasted, “I cannot and do not look at the social consequences of what I do.” The word hypocrite doesn’t even begin to describe what Soros is involved in here. Schizophrenia may come closer.
Although widely credited as the penultimate example of an anti-communist, Soros has chafed at the term in the past. In fact, Soros told the New York Times in 1990, “I feel more comfortable with Soviet intellectuals than I do with American businessmen.” Soros also complained to The New Yorker in 1995 about a newspaper that had had the gall to call him an anti-communist in the late 1980s. “It was highly embarrassing and damaging to me, because I had a foundation in China, where I said I was a supporter of the Open Door Policy,” Soros said. “‘I’m not an anti-communist,’ I said to them. So you would have to say different things in different countries.”
Soros was also no fan of the Reagan administration’s hard-line stance against communism. “Anti-communism as it is professed and practiced by the Reagan administration runs a great risk,” Soros wrote in the Financial Times in 1984. “If we interfere in the internal politics of countries within our orbit in order to prevent them from falling into the Communist orbit, we must deny them the privilege of choosing their own form of government.”
This is interesting in hindsight, what with Soros proudly taking credit for overthrowing regimes and – in his own words – proudly “meddling in the affairs” of other nations. Soros goes on in the same article to try and foment fear and mistrust in the economy, writing that the only way to find an “alternative to economic and political calamity in 1985” required “a thorough revision of U.S. economic and foreign policy.” Soros went so far as to repeat the age-old mantra of the far left that communist nations failed economically not because of ideology, but because of U.S. hegemonic ambitions, accusing the Reagan administration of developing “a new form of economic imperialism” to the detriment of the rest of the world: “Under the present arrangements we are … denying them [communist countries] economic prosperity,” Soros wrote.
His statement is eerily similar to what Osama bin Laden and the rest of the Islamist, anti-American lobby is claiming today. For example, in bin Laden’s so-called “Open Letter to America” he wrote: “You steal our wealth and oil at paltry prices because of your international influence and military threats. This theft is indeed the biggest theft ever witnessed by mankind in the history of the world.” These two men who use vast wealth to influence world events are not so far apart in thought.
Thank God George Soros didn’t get his way in the 1980s; otherwise we might still be waiting for communism to collapse. We now know that strength brought us peace, and tax cuts and deregulation brought us hitherto unknown prosperity before the dawn of the 1990s.
“Insofar as there is a dominant belief in our society today, it is the belief in the magic of the marketplace,” Soros wrote in The Capitalist Threat.
Not so fast, wrote Robert Samuelson in a retort published in Newsweek magazine. “If that were so, governments everywhere would be shrinking radically,” he wrote. “They aren’t.” In fact, Samuelson said, in most rich democracies, “the central problem of the political economy is the reverse of what Soros says. It is not how to curb rampaging markets. It is how to maintain a large welfare state without suffocating a productive economy.”
With millions of people’s fates riding on his every whim, here is one of Soros’ secrets of finance: “You know the reason he changes his position on the market or whatever is because his back starts killing him,” his son told biographer Michael Kaufman. “It has nothing to do with reason. He literally goes into a spasm, and it’s this early warning sign.”
Of course, we’ll have to take Soros’ word for whatever he’s doing, since, for most of their existence, his hedge funds operated overseas outside the purview of the Securities and Exchange Commission. “We are not registered with the Securities and Exchange Commission,” Soros acknowledged on 60 Minutes in 1998. “We find it more convenient to operate without it.”
“So in some ways, it’s to escape regulation?” reporter Steve Kroft asked. To which Soros brazenly replied, “Yeah, that’s right.”
Soros could not even join the board of his own Quantum Fund because he was an American citizen. If the fund were actually run by him it would be subject to U.S. laws on insider trading and taxes. As an offshore fund, Quantum avoids the Investment Company Act, which, according to economics writer Andrew Tobias, “severely restricts the ability of funds to sell short or to make big undiversified bets – betting half the fund’s assets on the collapse of some foreign currency, say. Offshore fund shareholders are not subject to U.S. taxation, though their American fund managers are. Some Americans do invest in offshore funds, but they must perjure themselves to do so. Many use foreign trusts, with non-U.S. in-laws or non-U.S. institutions as administrators.”
Doesn’t quite sound aboveboard, does it? Investment lore says Soros started offshore because in the beginning only people outside the United States would invest in his fund, but that doesn’t quite jibe with the reality of today. It is clear Soros is strictly attempting to avoid American investment law with his funds these days. Take Quantum Realty, his one attempt at a U.S.-based investment house, for which Soros was given assurances “at high levels” that non-U.S. investors would be exempt from U.S. taxes. “Politics then demanded this decision be reversed after the fund had been operating for over a year,” Tobias writes. “It had to be disbanded to protect the non-U.S. investors.”
The offshore fund faced little serious regulation, leading one of Soros’ colleagues to explain to The New Yorker that “George has his own rules – they’re different, larger. He is unencumbered.” The same article went on to describe Soros as “a consummate games man, adept at finding every tax loophole and operating in gray areas where there is no oversight and maneuverability is wide. … Indeed the sums of money that he manages not to pay the I.R.S. in taxes put his present gift giving in a different light.”
The irony of that insight is that Soros would probably make no bones about it. Deception and smoke and mirrors are all an acknowledged part of his personality and business plan. “I am sort of a deus ex machina,” Soros told the New York Times in 1994. “I am something unnatural. I’m very comfortable with my public persona because it is one I have created for myself. It represents what I like to be as distinct from what I really am. You know, in my personal capacity I’m not actually a selfless philanthropic person. I’ve very much self-centered.”
Even Soros’ semi-authorized biographer couldn’t get a grip on exactly what was going on over at the Quantum Fund: All Gary Gladstein, the managing director of Soros Fund Management, could say was that the total number of investors in Quantum and the other five funds Soros established “probably” never exceeded 1,000. “They are all very rich individuals, and many have interests in several or even all of Soros funds,” Kaufman writes. “Under the laws of Curacao, where the fund is legally chartered, it is illegal for any of its directors or representatives to identify any shareholder by name, even to the people at Soros Fund Management, the New York part of the operation that determines and carries out investment decisions as the fund’s adviser.” Many of these investors are known only by “coded Swiss bank accounts or by financial advisers serving as their nominees.” Kaufman notes, “It is quite likely that Soros does not know or, for that matter, care to know all of his shareholders.”
The general idea is that he doesn’t have to care, because he is the primary investor. But for Americans this setup poses an interesting quandary. Since Soros is dumping so much money into social causes and political campaigns in the U.S., is it to prevent us from knowing who so we do not know who the nameless, faceless investors in America’s future are? And do their agendas tie in with Soros’ agendas? Is there a particular wealthy investor who has a specific interest in drug legalization or euthanasia, for example? Could a certain Russian investor have a vested monetary interest in seeing the ruble crash – a crash, it is worth noting, Soros was able to precipitate in the late ‘90s with a single letter to a newspaper? Soros, who spends so much time talking about the need for “transparency” and “openness,” runs one of the most secretive and powerful investing firms in the world. And it affects us all.
Occasionally, even with all his deceptions, hidden agendas and personas, Soros has still gotten nailed. In 1979 he was charged with stock manipulation for buying a large amount of a computer company’s stock, selling it off quickly to drive down prices, then buying a greater amount at an “artificially low price.” Soros signed a consent decree in which he neither admitted nor denied complicity in the act. Then in 1986, he was fined $75,000 by the Commodity Futures Trading Commission for using several private accounts to hold positions well above speculative limits.
Soros’ most infamous brush with the law was in France, where a court convicted him; Jean-Charles Naouri, former aide to France’s then-Finance Minister Pierre Beregovoy; and Lebanese businessman Samir Traboulsi of insider trading. (Perhaps now that Soros is an enemy of the hated Bush, the French government will find it in its heart to pardon him?) Soros met the decision with predictable bluster. “I have been in business all my life, and I think I know what is insider trading and what isn’t,” he said.
Nevertheless, there is little political will to put Soros in his place stateside. When pulled in front of the House Banking Committee ostensibly to testify on hedge funds and the fatal danger international currency speculators like himself posed to the economy, House Democrats were all too willing to let any serious questions fall by the wayside.
“The members of the Banking Committee led by their chairman, Henry Gonzales, were indeed ready to blame the hedge funds for kicking the markets downhill and risking the banks with their heavy borrowing,” business writer Irv Chapman said on Lou Dobbs’ Moneyline after the hearing. “But they wound up treating George Soros as an expert witness on world markets and currencies instead of a man whose heavy high-risk trading keeps them awake at night.”
Why? Because right off the bat Soros was willing to tell them what they wanted to hear. After Soros’ opening statement, which was but a cruder, shorter rehashing of his Atlantic Monthly article, Minnesota Democrat Bruce Vento praised Soros for the “heresy you may have committed here by admitting that Adam Smith’s invisible hand has some fingerprints.”
Typical anti-capitalist, pseudo-populist rethoric was all it took to throw Congress off his scent. Committee members inexplicably took Soros at his word, even in the face of all the evidence, when he assured them that his unregulated Quantum Fund was not a “destabilizing” force. “I see no imminent danger of a market meltdown or crash,” Soros breezily told the committee. “Frankly, I don’t think hedge funds are a matter of concern to you or the regulators. There is really nothing to regulate on hedge funds.”
Soros is smooth enough to know, however, that there has to be some red meat too, so he sent the committee off in another, more vague direction: derivatives traders. “There are so many of them, and some of them are so esoteric that the risk involved may not be properly understood even by the most sophisticated investor, and I’m supposed to be one,” Soros said. “Some of those instruments appear to be specifically designed to enable institutional investors to take gambles which they would not otherwise be permitted to take.”
No one seemed to pick up the irony of that last bit: Soros was essentially describing what he did every day. But because he was willing to say capitalism was bad, the Dems let him slide. Perhaps his newfound distaste for laissez-faire is more thought-out and self-interested than most suppose.
Somewhere in the love fest, everyone forgot the part where they were supposed to fact-check what the billionaire was telling them. For example, Soros told the committee that “The only thing [hedge funds] have in common is that managers are compensated on the basis of performance and not as a fixed percentage of assets under management.” This, as it turns out, was a ludicrously false statement.
As Forbes writer Dyan Machan later pointed out:
“Soros forgot to add that whether they perform or not, most hedge funds also get paid a fee based on assets under management. In Soros’ case, we are talking about $90 million last year on the $11 billion he managed – nearly a cool quarter-million a day, counting Saturdays and Sundays. Maybe Soros forgot about that $90 million because it was dwarfed by the half-billion or so he collected in fees from his 15 percent share of the trading profits.”
In a story for the Ripon Forum, writer Jeffrey Kuhner suggested Soros’ anti-capitalism went hand in hand with his “ideological kookiness.”
“The 20th century is littered with examples of messianic visionaries – Lenin, Hitler and Castro – whose megalomania and absolute desire for power have wreaked unimaginable havoc,” he writes. “Mr. Soros’ brand of neo-Marxism is no different. His one-world globalism and hostility to capitalism are part of the radical left’s long-term ambitions to alter human reality through social engineering. … If implemented, Mr. Soros’ utopianism would eventually lead to a form of one-world authoritarianism and economic collectivism.”
THE PHILOSOPHER KING
Another factor that sheds light on Soros’ behavior is that he believes he is continuing and furthering the ideas of his hero, Sir Karl Popper, generally considered one of the greatest philosophers of science in the whole of the 20th century and a man he had nominal contact with while studying at the London School of Economics. Popper’s best-known concept was that of “open society” – that is, a society that would “maximize the freedom of individuals to live as they wish.” Soros has borrowed the term in the titles of two of his books, Open Society: Reforming Global Capitalism and The Crisis of Global Capitalism: Open Society Endangered. His massive philanthropic endeavors operate under the umbrella of the Open Society Institute.
In practice, then, anything Soros endorses becomes a boon for “open society,” while anything he disagrees with – Bush, immigration policy, the war on drugs, even the United States itself – becomes its greatest enemy. Hence, the war in Kosovo was a justified defense of “open society,” while the war in Iraq is a tyrannical plot devised by George W. Bush, destined to bring about the apocalypse and destroy freedom for everyone.
Soros has been jabbering on about “open societies” for decades now, but he is still unable to give a reasonable explanation of what one is. When he tries to define it, it comes out as the sort of pseudo-sociology one would expect from a starry-eyed college freshman. An “open society,” to George Soros, is “a different conception of how society ought to be organized” and it is “really more sophisticated than the democracy or Communistic systems.” The “little people” would be hard pressed to understand Soros’ genius, his tone suggests. Apparently we should just collectively hand the keys over to the Soros Godhead and let him drive us where he will.
But this is about more than money. Soros’ heroes have always been philosophers and intellectuals, not businessmen. He’s been known to pay graduate students in philosophy to just walk aimlessly around with him discussing “ideas.” He puts on elaborate weekends at his home, inviting prominent intellectuals and philosophers to debate the philosophical tracts he has toiled on, writing and rewriting them throughout his life.
Biographer Michael Kaufman spoke to Jonathan Wolff, from University College, London, who had attended one of Soros’ philosophy discussion parties. “He had apparently read no philosophy since the fifties and had made clear that he did not think that much of significance has occurred in the field since then,” Wolff told Kaufman, adding that Soros, “did not think any of us really understood his ideas. He had some of the typical features of an autodidact – an impatience with anyone who mentioned a text he had not read, and a tendency to change the track of discussion when things got hard.”
Soros himself noticed this tendency in his own work, writing in his unpublished essay, The Burden of Consciousness, that, “I have tried to be concise but occasionally I have slipped into verbosity – especially when I did not have anything original to say.”
At points, The Burden of Consciousness, could get downright weird:
“I have very definite ideas about the relationship between my mind and the outside world,” Soros writes. “I realize that there is a world of which I am a part. That world has existed before I became a part of it and will continue to exist after I have ceased to exist. I can influence the outside world through my actions and of course the outside world impinges on my existence in an infinity of ways.”
Huh? Is this a newsflash for Soros? Yet this was the drivel he felt important enough to take a leave of absence from the business world to pursue.
This romantic vision of himself, not as a world-class financier, but as a first-rate intellectual, is a major part of George Soros’ myth of himself.
“I have had these illusions, or perhaps delusions, of grandeur and they have driven me,” Soros told biographer Michael Kaufman. Far from making light of these delusions, Soros embraces them. Explaining his self-proclaimed role as a “stateless statesman,” Soros told Kaufman, “Yes, I do have a foreign policy…my goal is to become the conscience of the world.” The man who couldn’t be bothered with morality in business, is convinced that he can steer the entire world on the correct moral course. And he isn’t joking. In a 1995 speech, Soros hinted at his ultimate hope of philosophical vindication:
“There is more to my existence than money. I focused on it in my career mainly because I recognized that there is a tendency in our society to exaggerate the importance of money, to define values in terms of money. We appraise artists by how much their creations fetch. We appraise politicians by the amount of money they can raise; often they appraise themselves by the amount of money they can make on the side. Having recognized the importance of making money, I may yet come to be recognized as a great philosopher, which would give me more satisfaction than the fortune I have made.”
Others have caught the scent of something other than philosophy in the air around Soros. His son Robert, in an interview with Kaufman, said, “My father will sit down and give you theories to explain why he does this or that. But I remember seeing it as a kid and thinking, Jesus Christ, at least half of this is bullshit.” His father is driven more by “temperament” than anything else, Robert said. “He is always trying to rationalize what are basically his emotions. And he is living in a constant state of not exactly denial, but rationalization of his emotional state.”
Soros, despite his wealth, never passes up an opportunity to downplay its influence in his life as if to say, I am not one of THEM. Really, I am not. “I used to collect but actually I don’t have great material needs,” Soros once said. “I like my comfort. But, really, I am a very abstract person.” Soros defines modesty a bit differently than most Americans. In addition to his mansion in Sun Valley, Idaho, he owns many homes across America and the world, including, according to USA Today, “an apartment, a beach house and a country house in the New York area.” Soros’ repeatedly has pointed to the fact that he doesn’t collect art as proof of his lack of “material needs,” meanwhile the billionaire is collecting houses. That’s some Average Joe, alright. Not to mention modesty is something other people are supposed to point out about a person, not something one points out about themselves. Such is the Soros charm, however. Like Arafat, who accumulated billions he stole from the Palestinian people, which enables him to be in power while wearing apparently the same uniform for decades, Soros, too claims that his lack of “materialism” is the driving force behind his success. “I did not really want to identify myself with moneymaking to the extent that was necessary in order to be successful. I had to deny my own success in order to maintain the discipline that was responsible for that success.”
No matter how many times Soros brazenly boasts about his success in Business Week or Forbes, he never seems to tire of warning against it in his “philosophical” writings.
“Our sense of right and wrong is endangered by our preoccupation with success as measured by money,” Soros wrote in the Atlantic Monthly. “Anything goes as long as you can get away with it.” And yet, this sort of amoral pursuit of success is what Soros practices and encourages in his “other” life.
In the end, Soros’ philosophy is really a kind of non-philosophy gibberish. He wants the world to follow him on the basis of his discovery that he is probably wrong about everything.
“We have now had 200 years of experience with the Age of Reason, and as reasonable people we ought to recognize that reason has its limitations,” Soros writes in his article, The Capitalist Threat. “The time is ripe for developing a conceptual framework based on our fallibility. Where reason has failed, fallibility may yet succeed.”
Yeah, right. Failure is not only an option, it’s our only option according to this madman.
One thing is sure: Do not expect any apologies, ever, from George Soros.
“When it comes to protecting your own life or saving the system, I know which one I would do first,” Soros told The Guardian. “It’s much better to be a successful speculator and then apply your moral priorities elsewhere.”
But at what cost? And what would is Sir. Karl Popper’s view think of that?
“One of the main arguments of The Open Society is directed against moral relativism,” Popper wrote in his philosophical autobiography, The Unended Quest. “The fact that moral values of principles may clash does not invalidate them. Moral values or principles may be discovered, and even invented. They may be relevant to a certain situation, and irrelevant to other situations. They may be accessible to some people and inaccessible to others. But all this is quite distinct from relativism; that is, from the doctrine that any set of values can be defended.”
Soros’ incessant utopianism, his lack of respect for any opinion other than his own, and the way he drowns out other voices with a flood of cash, would likely not have sat very well with his hero either. Once again, from The Unended Quest:
“There can be no human society without conflict: such a society would be a society not of friends but of ants. Even if it were attainable, there are human values of the greatest importance which would be destroyed by its attainment, and which therefore should prevent us from attempting to bring it about. On the other hand, we certainly ought to bring about a reduction of conflict.”
The message is clear, we can and should work to alleviate conflict, but it cannot be eliminated and utopian schemes usually destroy the human spirit rather than set it free. This is why Popper referred to The Open Society as his “war effort.” It was openly influenced by his fears that, “freedom might become a central problem again, especially under the renewed influence of Marxism and the idea of large-scale ‘planning.’”
If “large-scale planning” without the consent of the general population isn’t Soros’ shtick, what is?
Although Popper met with Soros once or twice while Soros was a student at the London School of Economics, and sent a note with short comments on The Burden of Consciousness, Soros failed to make much of an impression on the old philosopher. According to Kaufman’s biography, when Soros contacted Popper in 1982 to let him know about how he’d been naming funds, foundations, and various other entities after the concepts enshrined in The Open Society, Popper wrote back: “Let me first thank you for not having forgotten me. I am afraid I forgot you completely; even your name created at first only the most minute resonance. But I made some effort, and now, I think, I just remember you, though I do not think I should recognize you.”
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