Understanding how Soros became one of the most powerful men in the world starts with his birth.
George Schwartz was born on August 12, 1930 in Hungary. Born to non-practicing Jews. The timing of it was interesting, given that’s when the rise of antisemitism in Europe first took off. From “The World According to Soros.” The New Yorker, January 23rd 1995. Pg. 5:
“My mother was quite anti-semitic, and ashamed of being jewish. Given the culture in which one lived being Jewish was a clear-cut stigma. Disadvantage, a handicap — and, therefore, she always had the desire to transcend it. to escape it.”
By age 6 he became George Soros. This was partially done in an effort by his family to hide their Jewish background. His name means “George will fly high” in Esperanto. George’s father was into the freedom from nationalities and Open Society leanings himself. He was a prisoner of war in Russia who lived through the Russian revolution and escaped. George’s parents were rich and affluent. “My father does not work. He just makes money,” A young Soros answered to people who asked what his father did.
We can actually get some sense of why George is the person he became, by looking at the behaviors of his father. His name was Tivadar. An October 2001 New Yorker article takes us back to what was clearly the climax of his life. Plus, by extension Masquerade: Dancing Around Death in Nazi-Occupied Hungary, Tivadar’s memoir. The thing about Tivadar is he kept his composure, even in the turbulent wartime of German occupation in Hungary.
Referring to the Elder Soros:
“Even the new threat of summary execution, like all bad things, had its good side,” Soros wrote some years later. “Cafe and restaurant owners were so terrified about food hoarding that they opened up again. Even though they kept their shutters closed, one door was always open, and, if nothing else, you could always get a cup of hot tea, though sometimes without sugar.”
George’s father saw the incoming Nazi advancement and knew takeover was inevitable. So he bribed a government official to take George Soros in and pretend he was his Christian godson. To keep him safe from the Nazi occupation. It also taught George to be something else than who he actually was. Obscure the truth.
Another source claims authorities instructed young Soros to give slips of paper to the Jews in his hometown. They were notices that they needed to report to the local Rabbi. Soros’s father told George to tell everyone not to go. As it was the Nazis rounding people off to ship to the camps. That all seems like a more heroic recollection of events. Nonetheless, it’s worth noting the article I read that from discloses a bias. According to the author themselves, George helped fund many of the activism campaigns the writer of the piece had worked on.
It’s best to directly read this transcript from the 1998 60 Minutes interview with George Soros and Steve Kroft. To get a better understanding of how Soros felt back then.
Soros: Right. I was 14 years old. And I would say that’s when my character was made.
Kroft: In what way?
Soros: That one should think ahead. One should understand and anticipate events when one is threatened. It was a tremendous threat of evil. I mean — it was a very personal experience of evil.
Kroft: My understanding is that you went out with this protector of yours who swore that you were his adopted godson.
Soros: Yes. Yes.
Kroft: Went out, in fact, and helped in the confiscation of property from the Jews.
Soros: Yes. That’s right. Yes.
Kroft: I mean, that’s — that sounds like an experience that would send lots of people to the psychiatric couch for many, many years. Was it difficult?
Soros: Not — not at all. Maybe as a child you don’t — you don’t see the connection. But it was — it created no, no problem at all.
Kroft: No feeling of guilt.
This is an often contested part of the discussion when talking about George Soros. People assume he was a Nazi collaborator in a more official sense than the actual circumstances. As far as we know, George wasn’t some sort of killing machine hellbent on serving Hitler’s will. His family came under the same wave of Nazi attacks as the rest of their country. However, it’s certainly unusual that Soros doesn’t have the typical reaction of grief and regret for having to witness such monstrosities take place in his homeland. Even more so, given the fact he had some role to play in carrying that fear out.
George fled the now Communist-controlled Hungary by 1947. By 1948 he was attending college at the London School of Economics over in England. Soros fell under the influence of Austrian-British philosopher Karl Popper. His theories of history helped lay the groundwork for George’s ideological leanings.
Boiled down: Humans are inherently flawed. The truth of social matters (political systems, stock markets, love) is unobtainable. People have a biased view of social events and it’s faulty by design. Human thought changes the state of the world, operating in an uncertain and reflexive state. It’s the Empiricism philosophy which reduces people to identical units of economic production.
Popper taught a brand of that deemed acceptable in the austere postwar Europe era. But Soros would take the concept further. He says small social events are “near equilibrium,” and large are “far from equilibrium.” The latter can either be stable or unstable. If unstable, it needs a solution quicker and more violent than what created it. Things Soros would say in one of his interviews reflect Karl Popper’s influence. He claims it’s closer to the truth to say the markets are wrong than to say they are always right. Understanding the role of misconceptions is critical to grasping a sense of economic reality.
In a sense, we can apply this to the European Union. He saw a chance to manipulate their system of government. To change their focus and directions of interest to where he wished. “Ultimately Soros’s mind is far more attracted to what works than what is true. “ It’s lucky for me that we live in this world of imperfect understanding,” he says. “If it came to knowledge, I wouldn’t flourish. I would not be good at science. I was no good at doing economics at college because you have to be methodical. I was no good at practicing a discipline. Therefore I questioned the foundations of the discipline. And I’m good at that.”
Soros doesn’t balance the world, he imbalances it. And that’s something we’ll come to understand by going over his business career in hedge funds.