George Soros is a man of many contradictions, a philanthropist that donates billions to help underprivileged populations and also an aggressive hedge fund manager that bankrupts fragile economies. A man that is praised by the left and vilified by the right. He has spent decades fighting to see Eastern Europe embrace liberal democracy, but now in the final chapters of his life, he is afraid that his life’s work may have been for naught.
In order to understand Soros and his contradictions, it is necessary to trace the path of his life. To really see why he has amassed an equal amount of supporters and detractors, one must travel the timeline of his long and interesting life.
1944: George Soros’ father obtains a false identity for George and his brother Paul to protect them from the Nazi invasion of Hungary. George is sent to live with an agricultural officer, posing as his Christian god-son. While living with the officer, he accompanies the officer in his work taking inventories of Jewish-owned properties.
1946: Soros flees to England to escape Communist rule. He attends school in London where he meets Professor Karl Popper, the author of “The Open Society and Its Enemies.” Popper opens Soros’ mind to the ideals that will be the driving force of his life.
1956: After obtaining his degree in London, Soros moves to New York to work on Wall Street. He gave himself a goal of earning $100,000 to which he says, “I overperformed.”
1969: Soros establishes what will become the Quantum Fund, an extremely successful hedge fund that makes billions of dollars.
1979: Soros creates the Open Society Fund. It begins by sponsoring college scholarships for black South Africans. Then moves on to funding dissident groups in Eastern Europe.
1981: The Open Society Fund begins financing Solidarity Strikers in Poland.
1989: After the fall of the Berlin wall, Soros begins pouring millions of dollars into Eastern Europe in an effort to promote liberal democracy. He also gives Viktor Orban a scholarship to study political science at Oxford.
1991: Soros publishes his book titled “Underwriting Democracy.” He also donates $250 million to the Central European University in Hungary.
1992: After the collapse of the Soviet Union in December of 1991, Soros begins donating millions to Russia in an effort to help the country transition away from Communist rule. He creates a $250 million program to revise textbooks in Russia, seeking to help promote critical thinking. Also, in 92, Soros donates $50 million to rebuild a water treatment plant in Sarajevo.
1992: The Quantum Fund trades against the British pound, earning $1.5 billion. Soros becomes known as “the man who broke the Bank of England.” The Open Society Foundation begins providing funds to help combat discrimination against Roma in Italy and across Europe (the total donated in the 90s will reach upwards of $200 million.)
1994: Soros gives a speech at Moldova University where he says that his goal is to make Hungary “a country from which I wouldn’t want to emigrate.”
1997: The Quantum Fund trades against the Thai Baht, earning $750 million and devastating the Thailand economy. Soros is this time called an “unscrupulous profiteer.”
1998: Soros and the Quantum Fund do not trade against the Russian ruble, a move that is speculated to be because of the criticism after the Thai fallout. Quantum Fund loses $400 million.
2003: Soros helps fund the Center for American Progress, a left-leaning think tank responsible for the ThinkProgress blog among other endeavors.
2004: Soros spends $20 million backing John Kerry’s presidential campaign. Republican Dennis Hastert appears on Fox News and suggests that Soros may be involved with drug cartels saying, “I don’t know where George Soros gets his money. I don’t know where — if it comes overseas or from drug groups or where it comes from.”
2007: Soros says, “The American public has proven remarkably susceptible to the manipulation of truth, which increasingly dominates the country’s political discourse,” in an article for The Guardian.
2008: Soros contributes to the Obama campaign, but is disappointed after Obama wins and “closes the door” on him.
2010: Glenn Beck airs a multi-part special on Fox called “George Soros: The Puppet Master.”
2016: Soros contributes more than $25 million to Clinton and other democratic candidates, and he also donates more than $500,000 to a group called Best for Britain in an attempt to stop Brexit. Trump features Soros in a campaign ad with anti-Semitic overtones.
2015: Putin kicks Soros’ organization, the Open Society Foundations, out of Russia calling the group a security threat. The Open Society Foundation also begins providing assistance to refugees along the Hungarian border which prompts it’s parliament to introduce a “Stop Soros” bill that would make it illegal to give assistance to illegal immigrants.
2017: Soros makes the decision to transfer most of his $18 billion fortune to his philanthropist group the Open Society Foundations in order to continue financing projects in public health, immigration, and criminal-justice reform after his death. He also becomes one of the founders of the pan-European think tank, the European Council on Foreign Relations. Yair Netenyahu, son of the Israeli Prime Minister, posts an anti-semitic cartoon featuring Soros on Facebook. After the Charlottesville protests, a Republican Congressman from Arizona, Paul Goser, blames Soros for the violence and claims that “he turned his own people in to Nazis.” Alex Jones announced on InfoWars that Soros is the head of the “Jewish mafia.”
2018: Viktor Orban is re-elected as Prime Minister in Hungary. Orban runs on an anti-Soros campaign, claiming that Soros wanted to replace Hungary’s Christian heritage. The Hungarian politician erects billboards with anti-Soros sentiments and also attacks him during campaign rallies. All of the anti-Soros rhetoric causes the Open Society Foundation office in Budapest to close amid worries of violence towards staff. In American politics, Soros predicts the Democrats winning the November midterms in “a landslide,” and he donates over $15 million to help them do so. In May, Roseanne Barr tweets that Soros was a Nazi collaborator, it is retweeted by Don Trump Jr. She issues an apology for the message two weeks later. Shortly after Roseanne’s tweet, Ginni Thomas, the wife of Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas, posts a meme on Facebook that accuses Soros of working against Trump and attempting to topple “our constitutional republic.” Soros speaks to the European Council on Foreign Relations, in June, those in attendance include the President of Serbia and Prime Minister of Albania. He suggests increasing aid to Africa in order to help alleviate the refugee crisis and “save Europe.” He also predicts a “major economic crisis” on the horizon, a statement that causes the Dow to drop by 400 points.
When Soros is asked to explain the seemingly contradictory actions of his life, especially the juxtaposition of his hedge fund days with his more philanthropic outputs, he responds thusly, “This is the difference between my engagement in the markets, where my only interest is to get it right and make money, and my political engagement, where I stand for what I really believe in.” He waves away his own contributions to the capitalist society and income inequality claiming that if his fund hadn’t gone after the Thai baht or the British pound, someone else would have. Which is most likely true, and also true is the fact that the other person probably wouldn’t have used those profits to promote democracy and liberal ideals.
Now in his 87th year, George Soros, reflects that he may have not always made the right decisions or backed the right people, but he held to his ideals. He regrets that he is often seen as the villain (sometimes rightly so) of the story saying, “I’m not happy to have that many enemies. I wish I had more friends.”