Review: The Philanthropy of George Soros – Building Open Societies

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UPDATE 30 June to add link to Notes on, and Video of George Soros and Aryeh Neier discussing the theme.  See also his full essay online with comment: George Soros Nails It: Intelligence with Integrity

Chuck Sudetic

5.0 out of 5 stars 6 Star Special–Soros Out-Grows Broken System, June 24, 2011

On its own merits, without the Foreword from George Soros, this book is a solid five. With the most extraordinary Foreword, a Foreword that draws the lines of battle between a totally dysfunctional global governance and financial system of systems all lacking in integrity–where truth is not to be found–and the need for transparency, truth, and trust, the book goes into my top 10%, 6 stars and beyond.

The essay is a *major* part of the book, the first 57 pages out of just over 335. The essay is available free online and is a “must read” item for any person who wishes to be part of restoring the Republic and laying the foundation for creating a prosperous world at peace. Searching for <George Soros My Philanthropy> will lead directly to both the New York Review of Books and the GeorgeSoros.com offerings–select the latter to get the full article without subscription nonsense from the New York Review of Books.

I confess to having lost faith in George Soros–he fell for the Barack Obama Show and wasted a lot of time and money on what ends up being the Goldman Sachs Show–to the point that Goldman Sachs not only continues to own the Secretary of the Treasury, but now has installed its own man in the role of National Security Advisor. The irony does not amuse me.

This essay is phenomenal, and bears on the book at large, because Soros has finally put his finger of the sucking chest wound that I, John Bogle, William Grieder, and most recently Matt Taibbi have been sounding the alarm on: the lack of intelligence and integrity in the system of systems. Soros is halfway there; he is now outside the system looking in, and that is good news for all of us.

“I am looking for novel solutions in order to make an untidy structure manageable.”

“As I see it, mankind’s ability to understand and control the forces of nature greatly exceeds our ability to govern ourselves.”

“The theory of reflexivity I have developed over the years was studiously ignored or disparaged by academic economists and to a lesser extent by financial regulators. Mervyn King, the governor of the Bank of England, dismissed it. All this has changed as a result of the financial crisis.”

“The change of attitude among academic economists was much more gratifying. There was a widespread recognition that the prevailing paradigm had failed and a willingness to rethink its basic assumptions.”

“Today our political discourse is primarily concerned with getting elected and staying in power. Popper’s hidden assumption that freedom of speech and thought will produce a better understanding of reality is valid only for the study of natural phenomena. Extending it to human affairs is part of what I have called the ‘Enlightenment fallacy.'”

“Deliberately misleading propaganda techniques can destroy an open society.”

“The two trends taken together–the reluctance to face harsh reality coupled with the refinement in the techniques of deception–explain why America is failing to meet the requirements of an open society. Apparently, a society needs to be successful in order to remain open.”

“What can we do to preserve and reinvigorate open society in America? First, I should like to see efforts to help the public develop an immunity to Newspeak. Those who have been exposed to it from Nazi or Communist times have an allergic reaction to it; but the broad public is highly susceptible.”

“Second, I should like to convince the American public of the merits of facing harsh reality.”

That’s enough in the way of quotes, I hope, to persuade one and all that this book is worth buying for the essay alone. Indeed, and this is no reflection on the author of the larger work or the story he tells across ten chapters, after reading the forward-looking essay by Soros, the larger story is clearly one of persistent and honorable success along many disparate paths, all lacking the coherence of intelligence with integrity in the public interest, all lacking the strategy analytic model that the Earth Intelligence Network (501c3) created in the aftermath of the United Nations High Level Panel on Threats, Challenge, and Change.

The essay covers the future; the rest of the book is a history book, a biography of personal persistence, vision, and wide-ranging efforts across core challenge areas (natural resources, justice, poverty, tubuculosis, mental disability, human rights, drugs, and crime), but for me the blinding flash of insight across all of these is the same as I had when I studied the UN: brilliant successes in isolation and in the face of enormous resistance, but strategic incoherence overall.

I credit Soros with NOT wanting to create a global monolyth, and with being–and still being–intent on doing good without controlling, on nurturing and inspiring initiatives that would take on a life of their own and be self-supporting over time. What Soros missed with the first $8 billion is what I have been focusing on since 1988: both government and banks and big business lack intelligence and integrity in the larger Buckminster Fuller and Russell Ackoff sense of the word. They “rule by secrecy,” are a top-down command and control “because we say so” Weberian cluster of stove-pipes that hoard rather than share information, and so on.

What has been missing from the Soros global campaign to date is the same thing that has been missing from the United Nations, the Red Cross, and other global “do good” enterprises: intelligence and integrity, with an absolute commitment to transparency as a facilitator of truth, and truth as a creator of trust, which brings its own intangible value (wealth) with it.

The afterword by Aryeh Neier makes two key points that resonate with me:

1. Western Governments failed to adapt and failed to understand that what Soros was doing, they should be doing.

2. Soros, uniquely among philanthropists, delegated decisions about HOW to spend to the indigenous managers.

It is my sincere hope that the author, Chuck Sudetic, in bringing the essay and the history of the philanthropy of George Soros to the public in such a nice package, has earned the privilege of documenting what I believe will be an order of magnitude change in the future not just of how Soros helps the world, but of how the world helps itself–with alternative currencies, multinational information-sharing and sense-making that routes around the failed vestiges of the Treaty of Versailles and the Rothchild-Rockefeller-Sachs “axis of manipulation.” If Soros makes the leap from Open Society to Open Everything, and focuses on the Open Square that many of us have been advocating for over a decade (open source software, open source intelligence, open spectrum, and open data access), three big things will happen: 1) corruption will be exposed and eradicated; 2) waste will be scrubbed from the system; and 3) we will create a world that works for 100% of humanity.

Put most simply, I believe that the time is right for the creation of a World Brain and Global Game in which we connect all true cost information about products and services at every point in their life-cycle, to all human minds, and all human minds to one another, with an early emphasis on giving free cell phones to the three billion poorest (OpenBTS) backed up by regional and national call centers that educate the poor one cell call at a time, while serving as information sharing enterprises. With the imprimateur of George Soros, it should not be impossible to get Sir Richard Branson (his opposite in many ways) to fund “The Virgin Truth” as a global brand, to get Microsoft’s CTO Norm Judah and prospective Microsoft CEO Reed Hastings to pay attention to “Operation Cloudburst,” and finally, to get the regional organizations (ASEAN, UNASUR, AU, Shanghai Cooperative) to finally get serious about creating hybrid Multinational, Multiagency, Multidisciplinary, Multidomain Information-Sharing and Sense-Making (Centres and networks for their respective political and socio-economic alliances – the acronym is M4IS2–use <M4IS2> to search and find the core online information base).

Other books that I recommend with this one are:
The Battle for the Soul of Capitalism: How the Financial System Underminded Social Ideals, Damaged Trust in the Markets, Robbed Investors of Trillions – and What to Do About It
The Soul of Capitalism: Opening Paths to a Moral Economy
Griftopia: Bubble Machines, Vampire Squids, and the Long Con That Is Breaking America
Ideas and Integrities: A Spontaneous Autobiographical Disclosure
Redesigning Society (Stanford Business Books)
Reflexive Practice: Professional Thinking for a Turbulent World
The World Is Open: How Web Technology Is Revolutionizing Education (Wiley Desktop Editions)
High Noon 20 Global Problems, 20 Years to Solve Them
A More Secure World: Our Shared Responsibility, Report of the High-Level Panel on Threats, Challenges and Change
Philosophy and the Social Problem: The Annotated Edition

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