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June 07, 2003

OPEN SOCIETY....Billionaire George Soros is leaving Russia because there's someplace else that needs his help more:

After 15 years and $1 billion in charity, international financier and philanthropist George Soros bid an emotional farewell to Russia on Thursday, saying it was time to focus his efforts on a nation more in need of help -- America.

"I was led to come to Russia because of my concern for a prospering open society," Soros told students and journalists at the Higher School of Economics, which was created with his funding. "But now I have to concentrate on what goes on in America. The fight for an open society now has to be fought there," he said.

Glad to hear it. Maybe in another decade or so we'll manage to have a society as open as Russia's.

Sheesh.

Posted by Kevin Drum at June 7, 2003 08:48 AM | TrackBack


Comments

We are all being boiled alive, like the fabled frog - every day in some small way we lose more freedom and more liberty and more justice.

And it isn't going to stop, because most people still think that "If I'm not guilty, I've got nothing to fear" is a rational line of reasoning.

Until people realize that the bell tolls for them, we're fucked.

Posted by: craigie at June 7, 2003 09:14 AM | PERMALINK

"Maybe in another decade or so we'll manage to have a society as open as Russia's."

Wow. The ignorance of that statement is astonishing! Are you REALLY a professor???

Posted by: Al at June 7, 2003 10:01 AM | PERMALINK

No, Kevin is not a professor, and I think he was being a bit sarcastic (although who knows its hard to detect sarcasm in the written medium).

Posted by: Steve at June 7, 2003 10:03 AM | PERMALINK

Wasn't Soros more or less the guy who short-sold the South-East Asian economies into poverty so as to benefit his shareholders?

Posted by: Cheem at June 7, 2003 10:08 AM | PERMALINK

Al: for crying out loud, even in print sarcasm isn't that hard to pick out, is it?

And what on earth makes you think I'm a professor? I'm a former high tech marketing executive.

Posted by: Kevin Drum at June 7, 2003 10:19 AM | PERMALINK

There you go with another "America is so great" post. Well, Russia has good vodka! Uh, and fur hats! You can't get fur hats like that in the US.

Posted by: scott h. is also sarcastic at June 7, 2003 10:54 AM | PERMALINK

I mean, just because they lack in some minor areas like "freedom of the press" doesn't mean we're all that better.

Posted by: scott h. is also sarcastic at June 7, 2003 11:00 AM | PERMALINK

Come on, he has spent literally billions throughout Eastern Europe, even before the fall of the wall. He has been instrumental in the happy transition of most of those countries to firly modern fairly liberal democracies ready to join the EU. Al of this has been through methods open to governments if they had had much interest. Maybe he has some idea what he is talking about. Shock therapy was not his idea.

Posted by: Jack at June 7, 2003 11:15 AM | PERMALINK

Hooray for Kevin Drum for not buying the assertion that "sarcasm is hard to detect in the written medium."

This bolonious commonplace is heard endlessly on line. If it were true, we'd have to throw out metric tons of world literature. Goodness knows how Moliere managed without using sideways smiley faces and other just-kidding semaphores.

Posted by: Patrick Nielsen Hayden at June 7, 2003 11:35 AM | PERMALINK

Patrick, can I steal the word "bolonious?" I've never heard/seen it before; it's wonderful.

Jonathan Swift would also object to the idea that sarcasm doesn't work in print.

Posted by: Linkmeister at June 7, 2003 11:52 AM | PERMALINK

The etymology of "bolonious" is evident: It's Bush's name in pidgen Latin - Fullius Bolonius Maximus!

[SARCASM]

Posted by: pessimist at June 7, 2003 12:12 PM | PERMALINK

Actually, Soros may have a point: America is a world leader culturally and politically, and the direction it goes has a major effect on the rest of the world. SO, even if our culture is still more open than Russia's increaing the degree to which America is an open society may have greater impact. FOr example:
Gay Rights. As long as Equal Treatment regardless of sexual orientation is a real debate here, we can't mount effective challenges abroad to far more egregious curtailing of rights. Egypt imprisons people for having gay sex, and the US has a hard time criticizing this position because a significant and powerful minority here support that.
So, even if America has a MORE open society than Egypt or Russia, the battle may still be here because winning here may mean eventual victory there, whereas losing or staying even here keeps the US from using its immense pressures on foreign countries.

Posted by: MDtoMN at June 7, 2003 12:18 PM | PERMALINK

George Soros is an interesting guy. He has what amounts to his own personal foreign aid program. In a number of cases, he's doing more than the US government... and he has discovered, and written extensively about, the fact that effective aid, aid that actually improves things for the recipients, is hard.

But not impossible.

If he's really turning his attention to the US, that is cause for modest optimism. He has the resources, for instance, to do something about the SCLM problem.

Posted by: Canadian Reader at June 7, 2003 12:51 PM | PERMALINK

What MDtoMN said. i think this is the money quote:
"Soros said he was worried about the state of the U.S. media and the administration of President George W. Bush for its handling of the situation in Iraq. 'It's quite wonderful to get rid of Saddam Hussein, but you can't do it the way it was done on this occasion, because now what do you do about the Turkmenbashi of Turkmenistan, or [Zimbabwe's Robert] Mugabe?'"

Getting the U.S. to stop trashing our international alliances could be one of the best ways to improve the world.

Maybe my calculations are skewed by what I myself want (I care more about the U.S. than Russia, because I'm a bad person), but c'mon Kevin; haven't you been looking for a cranky center-left billionaire to stir shit up? Let's make him welcome.

Posted by: Matt Weiner at June 7, 2003 12:55 PM | PERMALINK

It would be great to see Soros materialize as the Richard Scaife of people of reason and conscience in the U.S.

Posted by: p4troklus at June 7, 2003 01:22 PM | PERMALINK

Nah, Soros isn't cranky enough. I welcome his billions, of course, and he's made clear his commitment to responsible wealth, but we still need our very own rich crank!

Posted by: Kevin Drum at June 7, 2003 01:45 PM | PERMALINK

I think Soros recognizes that if the original open society goes the way of the dodo, then everyone else will have their societies close up as well.

Posted by: pessimist at June 7, 2003 02:15 PM | PERMALINK

Well in my world (as an academic philosopher), naming your think tank after Karl Popper makes you a crank for sure. :-)

Posted by: Matt Weiner at June 7, 2003 02:33 PM | PERMALINK

Man, I wish I was wealthy. Not only would I not have to wait tables and tutor stupid rich kids for the SATs and, soon enough, LSATs, I could also start my own think tank and really have a cushy job researching things and kvetching like any good Liberal. On the subject of cranky think tank names, anyone got any good ideas? I'm thinking of starting a nonprofit and seeing if I can exploit it for the purposes of research money (only in legal ways of course, because aside from the moral issues of tax evasion, I don't know nearly enough to avoid getting caught). So, any innovative Ideas of Think Tank names? Since I have no credentials I was thinking something really generalized and innocent sounding, Like "The Policy Studies Center" (If I want people to know I'm Liberal) vs. "The Center for Economic Research" (If I want to trick people into thinking its conservative). I would love to start "The Orwell In America Oversight Committee" to regulate the American discourse, but I think that would be arrogant. Suggestions are appreciated.

Posted by: MDtoMN at June 7, 2003 08:58 PM | PERMALINK

"Al: for crying out loud, even in print sarcasm isn't that hard to pick out, is it?"

I never expect you lefties to have a sense of humor! [/Sarcasm]

But, actually, then, I can't make out what you think of Soros's move. Oh well.

"And what on earth makes you think I'm a professor? I'm a former high tech marketing executive."

Hmph. Apologies. I'm only an occasional reader, and I guess I fit you in with the Reynolds's and DeLong's and Volokh's somehow... you don't link to a bio anywhere, do you?

Posted by: Al at June 7, 2003 09:58 PM | PERMALINK

I am surprised to hear Soros praised in any kind of way on a liberal web site. He made his billions through currency speculation - the worst kind of capitalist one can imagine. He played a certain part in the troubling of the East Asian economies in the late 90s.

Open Society? Bah - whatever Soros wants becomes the "Open Society". In this country, the Open Society funds gun control.

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