Monday, February 20, 2006

Why Soros embraced the open society concept

'I was born in Hungary in 1930 and I am Jewish. When I was 14, the Germans occupied Hungary and I would have been deported to Auschwitz and probably killed, if my father hadn't arranged for the family to take on a false identity. Later, I had a taste of a communist regime and I found it very stifling.

I left Hungary and went to England, studied at the London School of Economics and I read a book by Karl Popper, ‘Open Society and its Enemies’, and it had a very big impact on me. I actually spent a year as his (student), he was my tutor during my last year of my studies. He said that fascism and communism have something in common. They have the recipe for a perfect society, and Popper argued that perfection is not obtainable.

We all act on the basis of imperfect understanding and all human constructs are flawed and therefore if you have the 'final' answer, you can only impose it by compulsion. And that's what causes a lot of grief. Since I personally experienced it, this made a big impact on me.

Following Popper - who was a philosopher of science - I developed my own ideas about fallibility and the concept of reflexivity and of course, the importance of an open society. This then guided me in my business as a participant in financial markets. I exploited the imperfections of those markets.

And then when I made enough money, I wondered what I should do with that money - why should I knock myself out making more money - and that's when I decided to set up a foundation to promote the ideas of an open society....' More


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