From the August 1997 issue of Chronicles.
"It is a sort of a disease when you consider yourself some kind of god, the creator of everything," confessed George Soros to a British newspaper, "but I feel comfortable about it now since I began to live it out." Recalling youthful fantasies of omnipotence in his 1987 book The Alchemy of Finance, the multibillionaire speculator and global do-gooder conceded that "I carried some rather potent messianic fantasies with me from childhood, which I felt I had to control, otherwise they might get me into trouble." Now that he has the means to live out the fantasy, it is the rest of us who are in trouble.
This is no ordinary madman, but George Soros, one of the richest men in the world, and it is necessary to pay close attention. In his recent book Soros on Soros, the author describes his financial holdings as "truly awesome," a phrase that describes the scope of his ambition as well. Though he claims to have outgrown his delusions of divinity, his impulse to remake the world in his own image is unabated, inflated beyond reason by the absurd dimensions of his vast fortune. The result has been the rise of a new force in the world: Sorosism.
Sorosism is an international network of tax-exempt foundations, quasi-political organizations, and "independent" media churning out a great variety of Soroscista propaganda: arcane studies showing the need for a world central bank, a torrent of op-ed pieces calling for "peace" in Bosnia—but not before every ranking officer in the Bosnian Serb army is hanged for "war crimes." It is a coalition of lobbying groups devoted to increasing the immigrant population and mobilizing it as a political force. It is the Project on Death, a Soros creation, which seeks to transform the American "culture of death." The Soros philanthropic network is, increasingly, the backbone and chief funder of the escalating campaign to decriminalize some drugs.
Most of all, it is Soros the philosopher-king, singular in the scale of his crackbrained grandiosity, who, in expounding his theory of "reflexity," compares himself to Descartes. From deity incarnate to philosopher-king is a demotion, but one that George Soros is willing to live with. Yet he still claims to rule by divine right: when a journalist suggested that he should be elevated to the Holy See, he asked: "Why? I'm the Pope's boss now."
Soros is not kidding. The sheer scope of his many projects—from shaping the direction of American foreign policy in the post-Cold War world to reformulating the American way of death—is an agenda that not many statesmen have the resources to undertake. But Soros not only has the money, he has the will—and a growing power base among the international elites.
The myth of George Soros is that he rose from nothing to become a modern Croesus by the sweat of his brow and the audacity of his entrepreneurial spirit: a poor but brilliant Hungarian immigrant who arrived in this country in 1956 practically penniless and went on to build a financial empire. An alternative view explains his rise in terms of his connections, especially among the European super-rich whom he made even richer through his legendary ability to double and triple their investments in his Quantum Fund. Far from being a nobody when he first arrived in New York City, Soros carried with him the cachet of sophisticated European investors and exotic foreign markets. As Soros put it: "Nobody knew anything about [European securities] in the early 1960's. So I could impute any earnings I wanted to the European companies I followed. It was strictly a case of the blind leading the blind."
The secret of his success is hinted at in a biography by Robert Slater, who writes: "Soros's most distinctive feature, the trait that explained his investment talents best, was his ability to gain membership in a very exclusive 'club,' a club that included the leadership of the international financial community. No one could apply for membership in this club. Most of the participants were the political and economic leaders in rich countries: prime ministers, finance ministers, heads of central banks."
Soros was a success from the start, establishing an offshore tax haven for immensely wealthy European, Arab, and South American investors. The rule book of this exclusive club, aside from requiring a substantial minimum investment, also contained another very specific clause: no Americans allowed. Soros, who had been naturalized in the early 60's, was the only American citizen permitted to own shares.
But in what sense can Soros be considered an American, other than the strictly formal? He is, in himself, a separate nation, a transnational corporate and political entity that has no borders but only tentacles. As such, he owes no loyalty to any particular state, but only to the good of mankind—which generally seems to coincide with the good of George Soros.
What Soros called "the killing of a lifetime" came about on September 22, 1985. Treasury Secretary James Baker and the finance ministers of the major industrial countries were in secret and solemn conclave at New York City's Plaza Hotel, and were about to devalue the dollar. Soros somehow got wind of it. Working through the night, he bought yen by the barrel. As morning broke, he was $40 million richer. Central banks continued to depress the dollar, and Soros's profits on the deal eventually climbed to $150 million. His greatest coups are due just as often to his friends in Washington as to his much vaunted skill as an entrepreneur, such as when he got wind of a secret government report that predicted the oil crisis. Once again, Soros's private pipeline to inside information swelled his coffers.
In the late 1970's, Soros went through what has been described as an "identity crisis." He not only separated from his longtime business partner, Jim Rogers, but also from his wife, Annalise, whom he had met and married in 1961. While the pressure of his work had taken a toll on his marriage, Soros admits that "my wife had been very supportive, very tolerant of my involvement in business," and attributes the breakup to his own attitude. He describes "a rather wild period" in which he "deliberately loosened the constraints under which I had been operating." It was, he reflects, a good investment strategy: "The result was, ironically, a period of absolutely fantastic performance. We practically doubled our money in each of the next two years. The fund jumped from $100 million to almost $400 million."
Soros's concept of his divorce as an investment strategy is stunning in its utter innocence of any wrongdoing, a complete incomprehension of the repulsion this divine narcissism engenders in mere mortals. In Soros on Soros, he tells us he met his future wife on the day he and Annalise were legally separated. In what has got to be one of the worst pick-up lines on record, he confided to 22-year-old Susan Weber, a recent acquaintance, "I just got separated from my wife today. Would you like to have lunch?"
Soros's personal coldness permeates his philosophy, Sorosian N4an is a curiously abstract, stripped-down being, devoid not only of ordinary human feeling but also of nationality. Soros, the self-proclaimed "stateless statesman," hates all nationalism, especially the American variety. Tradition and religion are evidence of "dogmatic thinking." More godlike than human, Sorosian Man has not even the fear of death. While claiming to be a disciple of the philosopher Karl Popper—whom Soros tried to interest in his ideas, without success—He Who Moves Markets is actually a nihilist who believes that "all mental constructs are flawed" and no true knowledge is ever possible. Everything is uncertain, and "the question is, can we have a set of beliefs based on the recognition that our beliefs are inherently flawed?" It is an investor's view of the world that he projects; reality, like the market, is in constant flux, unpredictable, often capricious; it is not true or false, but only up or down. Soros proposes that "we need three categories—true, false, and reflexive."
This pseudo-philosophical doubletalk is not without a point, for "then we need to revise thoroughly our view of the world." What especially needs revision is "a widespread belief that markets are perfect." While admitting that this belief is "based on the recognition that government regulations fail to fulfill their objective," that is not the whole truth; "If you introduce a third category of truth, the reflexive, it becomes apparent that the failure of regulation does not mean that free markets are perfect and vice versa. Both arrangements are flawed and the choice between them is reflexive."
Soros theorizes that in the market for ideas, as in the market for stocks and bonds, the trend-following "herd" mentality predominates. Again, Soros draws the analogy with the financial markets, and maintains that, since all markets always overcorrect, in rejecting Marxian socialism, we are now faced with the specter of an overcorrection in favor of laissez-faire.
What kind of a system would we have if Sorosian economics took hold? Apart from vague references to "social justice," we are given a concrete example in Soros on Soros. In answer to a question about why he changed his mind and decided to invest in Eastern European countries where his foundations have gained some influence, Soros declares that, in Russia, the situation is so desperate that "the pursuit of an abstract good like the open society hardly seems credible. I made the decision to start investing last year at the height of the robber capitalist episode. It seemed to me that to appear as a robber capitalist who is concerned with cultural and political values was more credible than to be a disembodied intellect arguing for the merits of open society. I could serve as a role model for the budding robber capitalists of Russia."
He could serve as a model for robber capitalists everywhere. For here is a man who pioneered—and greatly profited from—the financial instruments known as derivatives now declaring, in testimony before Congress, that he wants to ban derivatives. This is the typical pattern of robber capitalist behavior; make your bundle, and then lock out the competition.
Yet it would be a mistake to write off Sorosism as pure self-aggrandizement; he is far more ambitious than that. As he has often said, the money is just a means to an end, and Soros is busy giving it away. He spent $1.1 billion trying to usher in an "open society" in Russia and Eastern Europe. In 1995, he gave away $350 million, largely to his overseas foundations, and now has turned his sights on the West, the United States in particular. He recently pledged to devote half of his annual giving to five domestic issues; "immigrants rights," drugs, death and dying, education, and reforming the criminal justice system.
His Project on Death in America is a consortium of experts who are far too cautious to come out in favor of legalized euthanasia, although Soros says he cannot see why not. While "there is just as much death as there is sex," says Soros, the former is just not talked about.
This death fixation complements an other arm of the Soros propaganda machine, and that is the fantastically successful lobby for U.S. military intervention in Bosnia. Soros is the chief financial angel of the American Committee to Save Bosnia (ACSB), the activist arm of a network that includes the Balkan Institute and the Action Council for Peace in the Balkans, whose letterhead reads like a Who's Who of all the most respectable precincts of the political spectrum; Norman Podhoretz, Richard Perle, and Jeane Kirkpatrick join hands with Hodding Carter, Henry Louis Cafes, Saul Bellow, Fouad Ajami, and the omnipresent Susan Sontag in lobbying for intervention on behalf of the Bosnian Muslims. Council on Foreign Relations types such as Zbigniew Brzezinski and Frank Carlucci stand alongside celebrities Walter Cronkite and international jet-setter Bianca Jagger, in solidarity with the Iranian mullahs' European colony. Balkan Institute Executive Director Marshall Harris and Associate Director Stephen Walker are two of the three officials who quit the State Department in a huff in August 1993, because the administration wasn't hawkish enough for their tastes; they also head up the ACSB. According to Walker, the Action Council—chaired by Hodding Carter—was entirely the creation of John Fox, Soros's man in Washington. Yet Soros, the Stateless Statesman, is also faceless; his name does not appear on any of these letterheads, and Fox is similarly anonymous.
Overseas, Soros is bolder; he is not afraid to embrace Macedonian President Kiro Gligorov, a career communist bureaucrat who came up through the ranks of the Tito-era Yugoslav Communist League. Soros supports him on the grounds that he is the president of the region's only genuinely multiethnic state. Underscoring the depth of his support, Soros declared that he would personally travel to Macedonia and take to the hustings for Gligorov if the president's victory at the polls seemed in doubt. As it turned out, Soros need not have worried; Gligorov's neocommunist ruling party keeps a tight rein on the media, and Gligorov is widely suspected of having rigged the election.
Gligorov is in the middle of a tense standoff among Serbs, Albanians, Magyars, Greeks, and a half-dozen Balkan subnationalities that could trigger a regional war. The 500 American troops stationed in Macedonia, under U.N. command, are a tripwire planted by George Bush. With the full backing of Soros, Gligorov seems determined to set it off. The Gligorov regime has published textbooks which show a map of a Macedonia many times larger than the present one; the Macedonian constitution is explicitly committed to the defense of the entire Macedonian people, not just the nation-state. The director of the Soros Foundation of Macedonia, Vladimir Milcin, is a militant Macedonian nationalist, whose belligerent statements directed at neighboring Greece have suggested the possibility of war. A major point of contention with Greece is over the name: Macedonia is also the name of Greece's northernmost province. The Greeks have suggested Nova Macedonia, but Milcin declares that he will "go into the hills with the guerrillas if they change the name."
How is it that Soros, who bitterly attacks nationalism, has become the chief backer of the Macedonian variety? The reason is that this nationalism is completely ersatz; except as an administrative unit of Tito's Yugoslavia, Macedonia has not existed as a nation since the era of Alexander the Great. Tito's elevation of Macedonia to the status of an autonomous republic within the Yugoslav federation, coequal with Serbia, Croatia, and Slovenia, was a propaganda ploy aimed at aiding the communist side in the Greek civil war. The make-believe nation of Macedonia, like its Bosnian neighbor to the northwest, has no historical, legal, literary, or cultural tradition: it is a creature born of the imagination of politicians and ideologues, a "multiethnic" entity with no anchor in history. As such, it makes perfect sense that Soros is its chief backer and advocate.
It would be a mistake to dismiss Soros as just another wacky multibillionaire who can afford to enact his psychopolitical fantasies on a grand scale, a kind of anti-Ross Perot. His money and his message have gained him an audience in Washington at the highest levels. No one thinks Strobe Talbott was joking when he characterized Soros as "a friendly, allied, independent entity" and explained how "we try to synchronize our approach to the former Communist countries with Germany, France, Great Britain—and with George Soros."
The Soros network of foundations is not the only or even the major factor in his growing influence in Eastern Europe and the former Soviet Union. Through his vast financial holdings, Soros is a far weightier factor in the regional economy than, say, France or even Great Britain. This is especially true in Bosnia, where the Open Society Foundation in Sarajevo has served as a conduit for major projects undertaken by the government of Muslim President Alija Izetbegovic and his Iranian-inspired Party of Democratic Action. Schoolrooms in which the Muslim fundamentalist doctrines of Iranian mullahs are transmitted to a new generation of fanatics were built with Soros's financial and political support. Under the guise of "humanitarian" aid, Soros financed major reconstruction projects that enabled the Bosnian Muslims to continue the war.
While Soros's main interest is foreign policy, conservatives are more familiar with his views on such subjects as immigration and drug legalization. Bill Bennett and the Weekly Standard crowd have worked themselves into a lather of self-righteousness over the fact that Soros dealt both them and the Clinton administration a humiliating blow on Election Day, 1996. In Arizona and California, referenda decriminalizing medical use of marijuana passed overwhelmingly: Soros was a major contributor to both initiatives. The neoconservative line is that the war-on-drugs was voted down in two major Western states because, for once, the other side had money. The reality is that Soros merely balanced out the virtually limitless resources of various government agencies that actively campaigned against both initiatives.
While not many conservatives are worried about the prospect of the states deciding their own drug policies, far more troubling is Soros's response to a welfare bill that cut off $4 billion in aid to legal immigrants. In announcing his $50 million gift to various immigrants' rights organizations, Soros declared that the provisions of the welfare bill cutting off immigrants is "a clear-cut case of injustice." The pattern of Sorosian philanthropy in the Balkans is being repeated in this country; under the guise of multiculturalism and diversity, the idea is to funnel funding to one particular group of ethnic separatists (Bosnian Muslims, Macedonians, Latino nationalists of the American Southwest) then stand back and watch the explosion—and don't forget to sell short.
Bemoaning the fact that Gorbachev was defeated, denouncing the anticommunist revolution of the 1990's for not being "orderly," Soros complains that "after the dissolution of the Evil Empire we seem to have lost our bearings." What changed? In a statement unusual for its clarity, brevity, and directness, he answers: "I believe our concept of freedom changed. It was replaced by a narrower concept—the pursuit of self-interest. It found expression in the rise of geopolitical realism in foreign policy and a belief in laissez-faire in economics." Always careful to veil his own agenda behind verbal obfuscation, Soros is quite clear on the subject of just who are his enemies. Let them be forewarned.
[Image: By Niccolò Caranti (Own work) [CC BY-SA 3.0]]