Have you ever heard of George Soros? He’s a billionaire investor who has dedicated a large part of his life to philanthropic efforts to making the world more open.
As the blog of an idea sharing platform (Ideapod), we’re a big fan of the work he does to help ideas move freely around the world.
Now, Soros is worried about the current state of the world with the election of Donald Trump to the U.S. presidency. As he said to his friends recently in a holiday greeting card:
“These times are not business as usual. Wishing you the best in a troubled world.”
Now, in a recent op-ed for Project Syndicate, he has decided to share his message with the rest of the world.
You can see the op-ed in full here, or see the key extracts below.
The current moment in history is very painful
I find the current moment in history very painful. Open societies are in crisis, and various forms of closed societies — from fascist dictatorships to mafia states — are on the rise. How could this happen? The only explanation I can find is that elected leaders failed to meet voters’ legitimate expectations and aspirations and that this failure led electorates to become disenchanted with the prevailing versions of democracy and capitalism. Quite simply, many people felt that the elites had stolen their democracy.
Globalization has increased economic inequality
Globalization has had far-reaching economic and political consequences. It has brought about some economic convergence between poor and rich countries; but it increased inequality within both poor and rich countries. In the developed world, the benefits accrued mainly to large owners of financial capital, who constitute less than 1% of the population. The lack of redistributive policies is the main source of the dissatisfaction that democracy’s opponents have exploited. But there were other contributing factors as well, particularly in Europe.
Democracy is in crisis
Democracy is now in crisis. Even the US, the world’s leading democracy, elected a con artist and would-be dictator as its president. Although Trump has toned down his rhetoric since he was elected, he has changed neither his behavior nor his advisers. His Cabinet comprises incompetent extremists and retired generals.
What lies ahead?
I am confident that democracy will prove resilient in the US. Its Constitution and institutions, including the fourth estate, are strong enough to resist the excesses of the executive branch, thus preventing a would-be dictator from becoming an actual one.
But the US will be preoccupied with internal struggles in the near future, and targeted minorities will suffer. The US will be unable to protect and promote democracy in the rest of the world. On the contrary, Trump will have greater affinity with dictators. That will allow some of them to reach an accommodation with the US, and others to carry on without interference. Trump will prefer making deals to defending principles. Unfortunately, that will be popular with his core constituency.
The EU is in trouble
I am particularly worried about the fate of the EU, which is in danger of coming under the influence of Russian President Vladimir Putin, whose concept of government is irreconcilable with that of open society. Putin is not a passive beneficiary of recent developments; he worked hard to bring them about. He recognized his regime’s weakness: It can exploit natural resources but cannot generate economic growth. He felt threatened by “color revolutions” in Georgia, Ukraine, and elsewhere. At first, he tried to control social media. Then, in a brilliant move, he exploited social-media companies’ business model to spread misinformation and fake news, disorienting electorates and destabilizing democracies. That is how he helped Trump get elected.