I’ve never really known who George Soros is. I hear he’s wealthy and is from a country across the ocean but other than that, the only reason I know his name is because he seems to be the target of conservative ire. I’m pretty much a knee-jerk liberal but there are certain things I’ve never even heard of as a liberal that apparently I’m supposed to know about. Soros, the Van Jones affair, ACORN,…these are all strawmen fabrications that the conservative right dreamed up. From what I can tell, Soros is just a guy with a lot of money and a left leaning political opinion. Isn’t that what conservatives claim is fair? He earned his fortune and gets to spend it how he sees fit? Perhaps the oddity is that he’s rich but isn’t a good little conservative like he should be.
Soros György was born in Bhudapest, Hungary in 1930. His family name was originally Schwartz but his father changed it due to the growing anti-semitism in Europe prior to WWII. A self-made billionaire and philanthropist, Soros made his fortune speculating on when currency markets would collapse. He has successfully done so on numerous occasions. Soros has authored or co-authored over a dozen books and articles on economics.
Soros is well known for his philanthropic and political endeavours. He began by funding black students in apartheid South Africa and dissident movements behind the iron curtain. He continues to give to educational institutions, fledgling democracies, and fights to eliminate poverty in third word countries.
In the United States, Soros stated that removing George W. Bush from office was the ‘central focus of his life’, stating that he would sacrifice his entire fortune if someone would guarantee Bush’s removal from office. Soros is a primary funder of the liberal organization MoveOn.org. During the 2004 election Soros donated $23.5 million to 527 groups dedicated to defeating President Bush. He has also donated $1 million to fund proposition 19; a move to legalize marijuana in California. He has supported similar movements in other states as well. Other controversial topics Soros has backed have to do with sanctioned suicide such as Oregon’s Death with Dignity Act.
In economics, Soros has been a bit of a loose cannon. He argues that the current system of financial speculation undermines healthy economic development in underdeveloped countries. He characterizes this as market fundamentalism. Some world leaders have blamed him for capitalizing on these same market principles. Malaysia’s Prime Minister in particular blames Soros for the destabilization of the Asian market in 1997. According to Soros:
Market fundamentalism with its assumption that markets will correct themselves with no need for government intervention in financial affairs has been “some kind of an ideological excess”. In Soros’ view, the markets’ moods – a “mood” of the markets being a prevailing bias or optimism/pessimism with which the markets look at reality – “actually can reinforce themselves so that there are these initially self-reinforcing but eventually unsustainable and self-defeating boom/bust sequences or bubbles”
His writings also focus on the concept of reflexivity, or the effects of individual biases on market transactions. The typical example used is the housing bubble in the early 2000s.
Soros also warns of the coming domination of China in the marketplace:
Regarding the political gridlock in America, he said, “Today China has not only a more vigorous economy, but actually a better functioning government than the United States”
Perhaps conservatives fear Soros because he recognizes the game they rely upon to make their fortunes and he plays it much better than they do. Not to be outdone by conservatives, some liberals have been critical of Soros’ tactics as well. Nobel prize winning economist Paul Krugman states:
“[N]obody who has read a business magazine in the last few years can be unaware that these days there really are investors who not only move money in anticipation of a currency crisis, but actually do their best to trigger that crisis for fun and profit. These new actors on the scene do not yet have a standard name; my proposed term is ‘Soroi.'”
Hmm. No wonder conservatives hate him. He seems to make a lot of sense.
- 11 Timely Insights From George Soros On The Economy (businessinsider.com)
- George Soros: Greek Default Might Be ‘Inevitable’ (huffingtonpost.com)
- Bryant, C. G. A. (2002). “George Soros’s theory of reflexivity: a comparison with the theories of Giddens and Beck and a consideration of its practical value”. Economy and Society 31 (1): 112–131. doi:10.1080/03085140120109277.