For many, the name George Soros evokes notions of massive wealth and business acumen. For others, Soros bring to mind international philanthropy and gamesmanship within American politics. And then a surprising number of people strangely associate the Soros name with sinister and conspiratorial ideas. While there is plenty of verifiable information available about Soros’ past, business ventures, philanthropy, and political activity, there is also much misinformation about him out there as well. A brief summary of Soros’ life and work makes clear what his actual intentions and impact have been.
Soros was born in Hungary in 1930 to an upper-class Jewish family who was largely secular. He and his family survived the Nazi occupation of their country by purchasing documentation presenting themselves as Christians. After the war, Soros left Hungary to study at the acclaimed London School of Economics where he eventually earned both bachelor’s and master’s degrees. Thereafter, Soros began his financial career, working at various banks and eventually moving to New York City to specialize in European stocks. After achieving success, he started Soros Fund Management in 1970. It is widely known that in 1992 he made over $1 billion by shorting the British pound.
According to The Atlantic, that windfall sparked Soros’ ability to become a worldwide player in philanthropy and politics, but it has also retroactively created the false impression to some that he possesses special control of global financial markets, which if of course inaccurate.
In 1997, Soros himself transparently articulated his worldview and philanthropic philosophy in great detail. The basic idea of the “open society” concept, which underpins the mission of his charities, is that “closed” societies promote tribalist thinking. In the extreme, this leads to repressive fascist or communist regimes as well as regression in terms of economic, scientific, and cultural progress. Open societies, on the other hand, are dynamic and tolerant, and they feature democracy and free markets that lead to advancement.
Soros argues that an absolute free market mindset, however, can also restrict a society’s openness, and that even a democratic nation can become closed if capitalist money and power is used to manipulate the people. In terms of global philanthropy, Soros has recently invested $18 billion to his Open Society Foundations. His charities have funded causes across the globe related to human rights, social justice, and the advancement of democracy. Before the collapse of the Soviet Union, much of his contributions were made to advance freedom and capitalism in Europe.
Within the United States, Soros is well known for having donated millions to campaigns in an effort to prevent George W. Bush’s reelection in 2004. But outside of campaign politics, Soros has made massive charitable contributions within the U.S., including providing tens of millions of dollars to fight childhood poverty.
As the recent article in The Atlantic makes clear, the attempt by a small cabal on the Internet to paint Soros and his work as sinister is clearly driven by bizarre conspiracy-theory-oriented thinking that is not supported by the facts.
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