George was born and raised in Hungary during a difficult period. During his childhood, the Nazis took over the country. After the defeat of the Nazis at the end of World War II, the Soviet Union imposed a communist government on Hungary. Consequently, Soros has experienced the worst tyrannies of both the far right and the far left. He escaped Hungary and went to England, where he attended the London School of Economics. While in school, he came under the strong influence of Karl Popper, a philosopher. This strongly influenced the rest of his life in two ways.
First of all, Soros credits applying Karl Popper’s General Theory of Reflexivity to making investments. He claims this gives him a way to accurately value securities, so he detects asset bubbles and when particular stocks or other asset classes are over or under valued. Plus, he explains in his book The Alchemy of Finance, he can predict how markets will react to actions that investors make. This turns investing into more of a long-term chess game, where he can implement a complicated strategy by planning his moves out ahead of time because he knows how the market will react to them. Most traders simply buy or sell a position, then end it when it either makes them a profit or loss. As a hedge fund manager, Soros has had unprecedented success. He has grown his wealth from nothing to billions, becoming one of the wealthiest men on Earth.
Karl Popper also wrote about his idea of an “Open Society” that is in opposition to tyranny and totalitarianism. This must have struck a chord with Soros after his experiences with both the Nazis and the Communists. In 1979 he was already an extremely wealthy man by most standards, so he began using his money to influence the world in a positive direction. He began by giving scholarships to black South Africans. At that time, the apartheid regime was still in control. In the 1980s, he funded political dissidents in Eastern Europe, especially his home country of Hungary. During this period, Soros was not well-known in the United States outside of financial traders who respected his success as a hedge fund trader, and supporting dissidents in the Soviet-bloc was considered a positive use of his wealth.
In 1993, a few years after the downfall of the Berlin Wall and the collapse of the Soviet Union, Soros founded the Open Society Foundation (originally called the Open Society Institute). This is a sort of umbrella organization that supports many open society organizations and initiatives in many countries around the world, based on the vision of an open society as expressed by Karl Popper and advocated by George Soros. Since then, Soros has donated over $32 billion to various organizations working to advance his various goals for an open society. The OSF’s mission statement starts out by saying it’s for building “vibrant and tolerant societies.” They want all governments to be accountable and open to all people.
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