Science Fair Project Encyclopedia
George Soros (born August 12, 1930 in Budapest, Hungary as Soros György) is a Hungarian-born American businessman. He is famous as a currency speculator and a philanthropist. Currently, he is the chairman of Soros Fund Management and the Open Society Institute and is also director of the Council on Foreign Relations. He is known around the world for the role he played in Georgia's Rose Revolution. In the United States he is known for donating large sums of money to in an attempt to defeat President George Walker Bush for reelection.
He is married to Susan Weber Soros, his second wife, and has five children.
George Soros is the son of the Esperanto writer Tivadar Soros. Soros was born in Hungary and lived there until 1946, when he escaped the Soviet occupation by participating in an Esperanto youth congress in the West. (Soros was taught to speak the language from birth.) As a young man, Soros traded currencies in the black market in Hungary during the second world war. Soros was fourteen when the Germans took military control over their ally Hungary in the last part of the war, and he avoided the fate of many Jews as the grandson of a Hungarian official overseeing the confiscation of Jewish properties, who was assisted by his son-in-law, Tivadar Soros.
Soros emigrated to England in 1947 and graduated from the London School of Economics in 1952. In 1956 he moved to the United States. He has stated that his intent was to earn enough money on Wall Street to support himself as an author and philosopher. His net worth reached an estimated $11 Billion.
On Black Wednesday (September 16, 1992), Soros became instantly famous when he sold short more than $10bn worth of pounds, profiting from the Bank of England's stubborn reluctance to either raise its interest rates to levels comparable to those of other European Exchange Rate Mechanism countries or to float its currency. Finally, the Bank of England was forced to withdraw the currency out of the European Exchange Rate Mechanism and to devaluate the Pound Sterling, and Soros earned an estimated US$ 1.1 billion in the process. He was dubbed "the man who broke the Bank of England."
The Times October 26, 1992, Monday: "Our total position by Black Wednesday had to be worth almost $10 billion. We planned to sell more than that. In fact, when Norman Lamont said just before the devaluation that he would borrow nearly $15 billion to defend sterling, we were amused because that was about how much we wanted to sell."
"But it was in France that Soros got into trouble with the authorities. In 1988, he was asked to join a takeover attempt of a French bank. He declined, but he did buy the bank's stock. In 2002, a French court ruled that was insider trading." "Soros denies any wrongdoing and says news of the takeover was public knowledge. Nevertheless, he was fined more than $2 million…roughly the amount French authorities say he made from the trades." Bill Moyers PBS
Criticism of financial activities
Critics point out that Soros has an undue influence on currency markets through Quantum Fund, his privately-owned investment fund.
Furthermore, the fund is registered in Curaçao, Netherlands Antilles, a Caribbean tax haven which has repeatedly been cited by the International Task Force on Money Laundering of the OECD as one of the world's most important centers for laundering the illegal proceeds of the Latin American drug trade. By operating from Curaçao, Soros not only avoids paying taxes but also hides the identity and nature of his investors and what he does with their money.
Criticism of political activities
Soros has critics from all over the political spectrum: American conservatives dislike his contibutions for campaigns against Bush, and supporters of Israel dislike his rhetoric with inflammatory comparisons of Israeli government policy to Nazi Germany and Yasser Arafat.
Former National Review contributor and ex-House Republican staffer Phil Brennan called Soros a "socialist billionaire". Lowell Ponte of David Horowitz's Frontpage called Soros a "Billionaire for the Left".
Some socialists, anarchists and other leftists, such as punk band Propagandhi, criticize Soros by calling ironic the fact that Soros is using capitalism, a system of exploitation in their eyes, to help people or with the intent to do good.
A host of a Soros October 19, 2004 speech to Harrisburg's Tuesday Club, State Representative Mark B. Cohen of Philadelphia, said that this criticism is off-base: "Soros is a political pragmatist using his economic resources to expand democracy and peaceful intercourse among nations. His generous contributions and potential to make further contributions give him a voice, and he is ambitious to use it for his public purposes."
- "There is a resurgence of anti-Semitism in Europe. The policies of the Bush administration and the Sharon administration contribute to that," Soros said. "It's not specifically anti-Semitism, but it does manifest itself in anti-Semitism as well. I'm critical of those policies."
- "If we change that direction, then anti-Semitism also will diminish," he said. "I can't see how one could confront it directly." ...
- "I'm also very concerned about my own role because the new anti-Semitism holds that the Jews rule the world," said Soros ... "As an unintended consequence of my actions," he said, "I also contribute to that image."
It should be noted that this could be a result of Soros's Popperian tendency toward self-criticism.
Soros has been active as a philanthropist since 1979, when he began providing funds to help black students attend the University of Cape Town in apartheid South Africa. Soros' philanthropic funding in Eastern Europe mostly occurs through the Open Society Institute and national Soros Foundations, which sometimes go under other names, e.g. the Stefan Batory Foundation in Poland. He also pledged an endowment of $250 million to the Central European University (CEU).
He received honorary doctoral degrees from the New School for Social Research (New York), the University of Oxford in 1980, the Budapest University of Economics, and Yale University in 1991. Soros was a student of Karl Popper and says that his investment strategies are based on a Popperian skepticism about the reliability of any one human belief.
- "How can we escape from the trap that the terrorists have set us," he asked. "Only by recognizing that the war on terrorism cannot be won by waging war. We must, of course, protect our security; but we must also correct the grievances on which terrorism feeds....Crime requires police work, not military action."
- "An open society is a society which allows its members the greatest possible degree of freedom in pursuing their interests compatible with the interests of others," Soros said. "The Bush administration merely has a narrower definition of self-interest. It does not include the interests of others."
- "The supremacist ideology of the Bush Administration stands in opposition to the principles of an open society, which recognize that people have different views and that nobody is in possession of the ultimate truth. The supremacist ideology postulates that just because we are stronger than others, we know better and have right on our side. The very first sentence of the September 2002 National Security Strategy (the President's annual laying out to Congress of the country's security objectives) reads, 'The great struggles of the twentieth century between liberty and totalitarianism ended with a decisive victory for the forces of freedom and a single sustainable model for national success: freedom, democracy, and free enterprise.'"
Despite his carefully groomed media image, Soros is a controversial figure. Although he has become extremely wealthy as an international investor and currency speculator (his fortune in 2004 was estimated at US$ 7 billion), he freely acknowledges that the current system of financial speculation undermines healthy economic development in many underdeveloped countries.
One could say that Soros is primarily a philosopher, and his successes in business and philanthropy are merely an expression of his views on the world. Certainly Soros sees himself that way, having aspired to be a philosopher since childhood.
Soros periodically has studied under and corresponded with Karl Popper.
Soros blames many of the world's problems on the failures inherent in market fundamentalism.
From Victor Niederhoffer (under "external links"): "Most of all, George believed even then in a mixed economy, one with a strong central international government to correct for the excesses of self-interest. I believe in the power of the market to give consumers the quantity and quality they want in timely fashion, in the power of incentive to create a constantly increasing plenty, and in the power of competition to distribute that plenty harmoniously and bountifully to the deserving consumer."
Soros vs. Bush
For many years, Soros did not involve himself greatly in US politics, but that changed under President George W. Bush. In an interview with The Washington Post on November 11, 2003, Soros said that removing Bush from office was the "central focus of my life" and "a matter of life and death" for which he would willingly sacrifice his entire fortune. Soros gave $3 million to the Center for American Progress, committed $5 million to MoveOn.org, while he and his friend Peter Lewis each gave America Coming Together $10 million. (All were groups that worked to support Democrats in the 2004 election.) On September 28, 2004 he dedicated more money to the campaign and kicked off his own multi-state tour with a speech: Why We Must Not Re-elect President Bush delivered at the National Press Club in Washington, DC. According to the Center for Responsive Politics, during the 2003-2004 election cycle, Soros donated $23,581,000 to various 527 Groups dedicated to defeating President George Bush. Bush was subsequently reelected to a second term as president on November 2, 2004.
Soros has been criticized for his large donations, as he also pushed for the Bipartisan Campaign Reform Act of 2002 which was intended to ban "soft money" contributions to federal election campaigns. Soros has responded that his donations to unaffiliated organizations do not raise the same corruption issues as donations directly to the candidates or political parties.
His most recent book, The Bubble of American Supremacy, was published in January 2004 ().
The Phoenix Group
On the weekend of April 16, 2005, Soros met with 70 likeminded millionaires and billionaires to discuss strategy for the creation of left-leaning thinktanks to compete with conservative institutions such as the Heritage Foundation, the American Enterprise Institute and the Leadership Institute . Former Bill Clinton Commerce Department official Rob Stein's Democracy Alliance will act as a clearinghouse and channel funds to organizations new and old, like David Brock's Media Matters for America and John Podesta's Center for American Progress.
Authored or co-authored
- The Bubble of American Supremacy: Correcting the Misuse of American Power (PublicAffairs, 2003) ISBN 1586482173 (paperback; PublicAffairs, 2004; ISBN 1586482920)
- George Soros on Globalization (PublicAffairs, 2002) ISBN 1586481258 (paperback; PublicAffairs, 2004; ISBN 1586482785)
- Open Society: Reforming Global Capitalism (PublicAffairs, 2000) ISBN 1586480197
- Science and the Open Society: The Future of Karl Popper's Philosophy by Mark Amadeus Notturno, George Soros (Central European University Press, 2000) ISBN 9639116696 (paperback: Central European University Press, 2000; ISBN 963911670X)
- The Crisis of Global Capitalism: Open Society Endangered (PublicAffairs, 1998) ISBN 1891620274
- Soros on Soros: Staying Ahead of the Curve (John Wiley, 1995) ISBN 0471120146 (paperback; Wiley, 1995; ISBN 0471119776)
- Underwriting Democracy: Encouraging Free Enterprise and Democratic Reform Among the Soviets and in Eastern Europe (Free Press, 1991) ISBN 0029302854 (paperback; PublicAffairs, 2004; ISBN 1586482270)
- Opening the Soviet System (Weidenfeld & Nicholson, 1990) ISBN 0297820559 (paperback: Perseus Books, 1996; ISBN 0813312051)
- The Alchemy of Finance (Simon & Schuster, 1988) ISBN 0671662384 (paperback: Wiley, 2003; ISBN 0471445495)
- Soros: The Life and Times of a Messianic Billionaire by Michael T. Kaufman (Alfred A. Knopf, 2002) ISBN 0375405852
- Soros: The Unauthorized Biography, the Life, Times and Trading Secrets of the World's Greatest Investor by Robert Slater (McGraw-Hill, 1997) ISBN 0786312475
- MoveOn's 50 Ways to Love Your Country: How to Find Your Political Voice and Become a Catalyst for Change by MoveOn.org (Inner Ocean Publishing, 2004) ISBN 193072229X
External links and references
- George Soros official site and blog
- Open Society Institute and Soros Foundations Network
- Project Syndicate
- Soros' political donations
- George Soros' Stock Picks and Market Insight at GuruFocus.com
- Three Lessons Learned from George Soros by Victor Niederhoffer and Laurel Kenner from the Speculator.
- Analysis of Soros' role in Eastern Europe
- Soros viewed as a post-modern philosopher (1) (2)
- Long article with many references
- Laura Blumenfeld, Billionaire Soros Takes On Bush, MSNBC, November 11, 2003.
- Matt Welch, Open Season on 'Open Society': Why an anti-communist Holocaust survivor is being demonized as a Socialist, Self-hating Jew, Reason magazine, December 8, 2003
- Articles about George Soros
- CLN financier Soros attacked with glue in Ukraine, UCCTruths.com, April 4, 2004.
- James O. E. Norell, The Man Who Would Be King, NRA America's 1st Freedom, April 2004, p. 36
- James O. E. Norell, George Soros's Anti-Gun Vision for America, NRA America Rifleman, April 2004, p. 16
- George Soros, The Bubble of American Supremacy, editorial in The Korea Herald , March 12, 2003.
- George Soros, The Bubble of American Supremacy, column in the Atlantic Monthly, December 2003.
- Johnson's Russia List Issue - Moskovsky Novosti: George Soros, Bitter Thoughts with Faith in Russia
- (stop-imf) FT: Soros on Brazil - Aug 13, 2002
- Interview with George Soros
- Interview with George Soros, Chairman, Soros Fund Management by ... - September 5, 2000
- frontline: the crash: interviews: george soros
- Wall $treet Week with FORTUNE . TV Program | PBS
- Challenge: The international financial crisis - International ...
- NOW with Bill Moyers. Transcript. David Brancaccio interviews ...
- Booknotes with Brian Lamb. Transcript and streaming video.
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