The Soros "Threat"
"I now fear that the untrammeled intensification of
laissez-faire capitalism and the spread of market values into all areas of
life is endangering our open and democratic society
.After the failure
of communism there came a general disillusionment with universal concepts,
and the open society is a universal concept.
Too much competition and
too little cooperation can cause intolerable inequities and instability.
Insofar as there is a dominant belief in our society today, it is a belief
in the magic of the marketplace. The doctrine of laissez-faire capitalism
holds that the common good is best served by the uninhibited pursuit of
self-interest. Unless it is tempered by the recognition of a common interest
that ought to take precedence over particular interests, our present system
- which, however imperfect, qualifies as an open society - is liable to break
- George Soros, "The Capitalist Threat," the cover story of The Atlantic
Monthly, February, 1997
by Carter B. Horsley
The 11-page article by financier George Soros in The Atlantic
Monthly is a remarkable document because of its impressive erudition, impassioned
but sober reasoning, and the fact that Soros was proverbially cutting his
Greatly influenced by the writings of Austrian philosopher Karl
Popper (who published "The Open Society" in 1945), Soros offers a brilliant
epistemological essay into the dilemmas of unfettered
political and economic beliefs. His insights are not unlike those of Fred
J. Cook's article in The Nation a generation ago about "The Corrupt Society,"
C. Wright Mills' investigation of "The Power Elite," and other realpolitik
analyses by Gaetano Mosca, among others.
But Soros is not interested in political theory per se as much
as he is passionately observant of social and cultural vacuums and their
His comments are a devastating and intelligent indictment of
the oversimplification that passes for -ism infallibility and he cogently
argues for a sophisticated understanding of the self-predictability and
"reflexivity" of markets: "Accepting the unattainable character of truth
offers a better prospect for freedom and prosperity than denying it
the reflexive connection between thinking and reality, truth is not indispensable
He concludes that "Where reason has failed, fallibility may
Surprisingly, Soros' essay has not unleashed a firestorm of
protest. Rob Norton weighed in with a snide, one-page dismissal of his philosophy
in the March 17, 1997, issue of Fortune Magazine, describing his arguments
as "wacky and weak" and calling the article "a rodomontade of sloppy
Deep thinking would be more like it and not at all the "Deep
Thoughts" of "Saturday Night Live".
In this contradictory era of downsizing and global reaching,
of widening gaps between the rich and poor, social breakthroughs and breakups,
deconstruction and blockbuster thrillers, Soros' common sense message about
excesses is an important and provocative tonic for both the left and the
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