George Soros, Hard Work, Bubbles, Disparities, Barrack Obama, the Economy
A trader by the name of David Silverman, chief operating officer of the Intellectual Property Exchange International and author of such articles as ‘Is the Market a Random Walk?’ cites the “good news” that any aspirant who is willing to work hard at the trade can compete and succeed at trading. That is the gospel in this reportedly democratic nation of ours, and it behooves the novice to believe it with all his heart and soul, and to act accordingly, despite the fact that most of us know quite a few virtuous people who have failed miserably.
Mr. Silverman gives us good cause to wonder how successful he is at trading, for he has paraphrased another old saw, that those who can, do, and those who can’t, teach: Those who can make a living at trading, trade, and those who can’t trade, well, they write articles about it. To be fair, there are always exceptions to the general rule, and ways to make millions if not billions of units of exchange on them: George Soros, the greatest speculator in the world, inspired in his youth by John Menard Keynes to be a successful trader, economist and philosopher, has written several books on trading and political economy. Of course Yours Truly, who writes easily for long hours for the abstract joy of nothing in particular, would enjoy consuming David Silverman’s income, such as it is, yet he would enjoy giving away George Soros’ billions to a far greater extent.
Mr. Soros’ philosopher-hero, Karl Popper, quoted Karl Marx’s opinion on hard work: “The kingdom of freedom actually begins only where drudgery, enforced by hardship and by external purposes, end; it thus lies, quite naturally, beyond the sphere of proper material production.” Professor Popper believed that Karl Marx’s ‘sole aim was to open the way into the non-materialist kingdom of freedom for all men alike’, for Marx had said, “The shortening of the labour day is the fundamental pre-requisite.” Freedom is the intended end of Marx’s dialectics as well as Hegel’s, and Professor Popper was careful to point out that Marx cherished the spiritual world. Where that world or this one ends is uncertain.
Mind you that George Soros’ “thing” or main theme is his reflexive notion of uncertainty. The future is unknowable, no matter how many long hours one might work hard to build it to one’s liking – alas, one might dislike it if it were had! The hard-working author of a Utopia might come to a bad end when reality catches up with him despite his good intentions, as will those upon whom he might successfully impose his utopian scheme by the while. Wherefore the Delphic injunction ‘Know Thyself’ enjoins us to know our limits. That does not mean that we should not push the envelope and follow up on hunches from time to time. We may know more than we think we know, and we might just get lucky.
As we have noted in our chapter on Sorosian Hunches, “Almost every extraordinarily successful person takes a bow to Lady Luck or Bon Fortuna after giving standard lip-service to the virtues of hard work and long hours.” Apparently those who believe along with Karl Marx that abundance can be obtained for all without long, grueling hours in the pit are thieves, communists, welfare recipients, heirs to considerable fortunes or otherwise plain lucky. To the best of our knowledge, Mr. Silverman has yet to publicly bow to Lady Luck; short of a windfall he may never do so, wherefore we wish him Good Luck.
We also pointed out that no aspiring trader may be as successful at trading as George Soros, for there is only one George Soros allowed per planet; he happens to be the only trader whose fate places him at the head of the flat end on the x-axis of the bell-shaped curve representing the distribution of the loot. We call it loot because trading seems to be a vicious business to begin with, and all the more so if the gains are not shared with everyone in the final analysis. Indeed, our progenitors elaborated on the brutal redistribution habit, celebrating and apportioning the kill according to their respective folkways; for example: the spoils were laid out on the butcher’s altar; the blood was drained and the cup was passed around by the high chef; the remains were duly dedicated to the Fire; the fat, liver and kidneys were shared by the sycophantic cooks; choice cuts went to the noblest hunters and their ilk; of course mates and kids got their preferential shares; scraps were tossed to the loners skulking on the fringes; the smoke, made pungent with herbs, rose to pacify the ferocious god.
“If you are not willing to treat trading as a full-time endeavor, you have no chance against traders like me,” Mr. Silverman averred in the April 2008 issue of ‘Stock, Futures, and Options, The Official Journal for Personal Investing.’ “What the casual trader does not seem to get is that professional traders are pigs, and not cute Wilbur-types from Charlotte’s Web, but mean razorbacks that will eviscerate traders with their tusks and eat their brains.”
We suspect there is something inherently vicious about the business that spurs so many of us to the hard labor that does the masses so much good on the way to the slaughter house: “The Root of evil Avarice,” wrote Bernard Mandeville of his Grumbling Hive, “That damned ill-natur’d baneful Vice, was Slave to Prodigality, that Noble Sin, whilst Luxury Employ’d a Million of the Poor, and odious Pride a Million more. Envy its self, and Vanity were Ministers of Industry.” And, “The grave Industrious were the Same. All Trade and Places knew some cheat, no calling was without deceit.” Moreover, “Thus every Part was full of Vice, yet the whole Mass a Paradice.” Paradoxically, “Such were the Blessings of that State, their Crimes conspired to make them Great.” The moral of the story: “T’enjoy the World Conveniences, be famed in War, yet live in Ease without great Vices, is a vain Utopia seated in the Brain. Fraud, Luxury and Pride must live.”
But Mr. Silverman has chosen Swine over social Bees, and more analogically so, for Pigs are almost Human in Mind and Body although the human Being nevertheless is wont to reject their mental and physical Organs. Yet Yours Truly, for one, takes prodigious Pride in being a Member of the Campbell Clan, the Clan of the Wild Boar, whose Honour has been Vouched for by the Most Reliable of Medieval Bards and Faithful Senechals. We are not to be outdone by Bees, for We Boars have not only our Royal Sort, but our Fair Share of Traitors, Sharpers, Parasites, Pimps, Players, Pick-Pockets, Coiners, Quacks, Shysters, Wheeler-Dealers, Stock Brokers and Analysts.
Besides Scotland, Hungary too has had its fair share of Swine. We note well that a Nazi debarking from a Budapest tram shouted, “Get out of my way, piglet face,” at George Soros and his father, Tivadar, who was wearing the Jewish star to assess how gentiles would react to his Jewishness. Tivadar told George that the local yahoo was no doubt referring to George as a young pig, for “pig face” would be the appropriate term for the father. The family went underground, where George learned to root around surreptitiously and sell the masses short, taking care not to be seen urinating or be attended to by the wrong doctor lest his reviled identity were revealed and he be hung from a lamppost or sent off to Auschwitz to be made into a lampshade. And now it is said that the Hungarian razorback capitalizes on calamity, charging from the brush at the last moment to gorge on bloody fools.
As a matter of fact, George Soros has been accused of maliciously engineering several slaughters instead of merely feasting on the inevitable plunges from overvaluation to deadly reality. The calumny heaped on him by neoconservative detractors and fundamentalist ministers places him in league with the Devil. He is of course a traitor to his adopted country, this great nation of ours, the United States of America, the sole superpower on which an attack is an attack on civilization itself. We know he gave around fifty million dollars to “radical leftist” organizations such as MoveOn.org in a futile attempt to defeat President Bush’s presidential campaign. Removing the so-called Texas jackass from office was a life-or-death project for him; he underestimated the momentum of bull on four legs.
Not only is George Soros allegedly a greedy billionaire who believes his money or reputation for making a lot of it can buy him stature as an economic sage, philosophical prophet and philanthropist, he is also a self-hating or anti-Semitic Jew, or so his worst critics say. Just for starters, they say, he exhibited his cowardice by passing himself off as Christian to survive the war instead of waltzing into a death camp. And during a December 1988 60 Minutes program, the moderator insinuated that the thirteen-year George helped the man posing as his godfather confiscate Jewish property as untold thousands of Jews were being slaughtered. Young George, having assumed the name Sandor Kiss, had in fact tagged along with an employee of the Agriculture Ministry, one Mr. Baumbach, ostensibly his godfather, while Mr. Baumbach inventoried an estate left behind as a bribe by a wealthy Jewish aristocrat who emigrated to Lisbon. George merely dallied around the grounds while the inventory was being taken, or so the story repudiating the nasty gossip goes. As for the Christian disguise, his father commanded him: “This is an emergency. If we remain law-abiding citizens and continue our current existence, we are going to perish. So we have to make alternative arrangements.”
George Soros’ critics noted that the ovens are barely cold and Jew-haters want to fire them up again, yet Mr. Soros recently went so far as to publicly state that he did not support Israel. Even worse, he purportedly equated Yassar Arafat the terrorist with Ariel Sharon the beloved freedom fighter when he said that people in the Bush administration have the same mentality as those two; insidiously implying that Mr. Sharon, like Mr. Arafat and the head of the Bush administration, was a murderous thug or some sort of war criminal. And he might as well have called Mr. Bush a Nazi out right, for he said that post-Bush America should confess its sins and go through the same de-Nazification process that it advanced in Germany – if the United States fails to recognize its mistake, said Mr. Soros, its future will become increasingly grim.
And his detractors say that he is a self-hating billionaire to boot, an expletive-deleted postmodern liberal who, for instance, supports euthanasia, abortion and homosexuality while opposing abolition of the so-called double-taxing Estate Tax abhorred by the greatest spokesman ever for the neoconservative rich, President Ronald Reagan, may he rest in peace. Undoubtedly George’s philanthropic pretensions are ungodly and politically motivated, they say; but to return to his profitable business, he is called a callous speculator, a hit man with an itchy finger who is virtually devoid of genuine sympathy or concern for the many thousands of people whose lives are ruined by his financial machinations. Indeed, they say he is an economic animal through and through, relying accordingly on animal instincts.
We might ask: Why should he care about others when he is simply playing by their rules and happens to make a killing? And what does he do with his ill-gotten gains after the bloodbath? He must feel somewhat guilty for making a fortune on the rules. He has given billions away, which has been the right thing for the wealthy to do since time immemorial – what we need in this great nation of ours is a National Annual Potlatch Competition, to see who can give the most away – the winner will no doubt give it all away, and throw himself on our charity.
Again, if people do not want to get hurt, let them change the rules democratically, George Soros has advised. Voltaire, hero of the Cartesian Age of Reason, said, “If you want good laws, burn those you have and make yourself new ones.” George Soros thinks that experience has proven the Cartesian spirit of certainty obsolete, but that is not to say we should be lawless. He has done many good works, at least according to liberal democrats. Politically motivated education is his main philanthropic mission; the truth that there is no absolute truth is the gospel propagated. There are certain rules he would like to see changed, and he puts his money where his mouth is. For one thing, people should have a right to freely flap their lips without getting their tongues cut out, and, once made literate, they should communicate freely without getting locked up and liquidated; for that a liberal education and an Internet backbone is indispensable. Dictators may be able to intimidate service providers into ratting out dissidents, but they cannot shut the World Brain down. Where there is a will, there is a way to make asses out of local yahoos, so it behooves the power elite to tolerate free speech. In our free country, at least, the radicals can say whatever they want to say, in the alternative media, letting off steam before the pot boils over, and the power elite can still control the mainstream media and do business as usual.
“What’s not to like about George Soros?” some liberal-minded people ask. Besides, there are two sides to a coin: would there be any game left to play without great malefactors-benefactors? In any event, according to George Soros, the particular market would have collapsed whether he had played or not, so he did not mind getting his hands dirty, so to speak. ) “If I had tried to take the social consequences into account, it would have thrown off my risk/reward calculations…. Fortunately I did not need to bother about the social consequences because they would have occurred anyway.” The anonymity of the markets “allowed me to dirty my hands.”
If not him, then someone else would have been destined to play a pivotal role in saving people from even worse consequences of the mania. Where would the bottoms be if short sellers were not around to buy things for a fraction of what they had already sold them for? But Mr. Soros’ has been painted as a thief. Well, why should we care if he were a thief or not, as long as he made billions at it? We tend to celebrate the winners over the most righteous of our kind. But he is not a thief: he plays by the rules, and it avails us not to complain that laws are made by vested interests for their own good, to steal people blind with impunity.
We note well that the very same gods from time immemorial have done both great good and great evil, depending on one’s perspective. Behold the sacred buzzard, ugly grounded, beautiful in flight. The greatest Egyptian god was publicly praised on the same stone for his kindness and his cruelty, and his Egypt was turned into stone. Wherever goods are apparent there shall also reside apparent evils, perhaps even more evil than good. In the event that evil currently exceeds good, have no fear, for life will then be spurred towards its own good in self-defense, in this best of all possible worlds. Yet we may wish that good would exceed evil at all times and even vanquish it in the end. Zoroastrian Dualists logically eschewed the Zurvanian heresy inspired by Judeo-Christianity’s confusion, and adhered to two gods, the good one to eventually overcome the evil one at the end of time – very few Zoroastrians are still waiting. Pierre Bayle in his great, talmudic dictionary admired the good logic of the Dualists. And Bernard Mandeville, during his Enquiry into the Origin of Honour and the Usefulness of Christianity in War, said the most rational opinion is that there is but one God, the Creator, a perfectly good Being without admixture of evil.
“But Reasoning and Metaphysicks must have been carried on to a great Height of Perfection, before the Truth could be penetrated into by the Light of Nature. Plutarch, who was a Man of great Learning, and has in many Things display’d good Sense and Capacity, thought it impossible, that one Being should have been the Cause of the Whole, and was therefore of Opinion, that there must have been Two Principles; the one to produce all the Good; and the other all the Evil that is in the World. And Some of the greatest men have been of this Opinion, both before and since the Promulgation of the Gospel. But whatever Philosophers and men of Letters may have advanced, there never was an Age or Country where the Vulgar would ever come into an Opinion that contradicted that Fear, which all men are born with, of an Invisible Cause, that meddles and interferes in Human Affairs; and there is a great Possibility, that the most Senseless Enthusiast should make a knowing and polite Nation believe the most incredible Falsities, or that the most odious Tyrant should persuade them to the grossest Idolatry, than the most artful Politician, or the most popular Prince, should make Atheism to be universally received among the Vulgar of any considerable Kingdom, tho’ there were no Temples or Priests to be seen.”
The failure of Christian theodicy to reconcile the difference between good and evil in one god, not to mention the attempt to prove that three equals one, has led to the development of critical logic, the assassination of the divine tyrant, and liberal democratic progress beyond good and evil. George Soros has said that he does not have faith in god, nor does he have faith in the Equilibrium maintained by the Invisible Hand of Free Market Fundamentalism, even though the Nobel Prize winning mathematical maximist Professor Gerard Debreu, enthused by Leon Walras’ revelation Supply = Demand, had in 1954 provided mathematical proof of the Hand’s Equilibrium, in ‘Existence of an Equilibrium for a Competitive Economy’; better yet, in his 1959 classic paper ‘Theory of Value: An Axiomatic Analysis of Economic Equilibrium’, Mr. Debreu proved the existence of a price system where aggregate excess demand correspondence vanishes, and even incorporated uncertainty in his certainty. Nor does Mr. Soros have confidence in our ability to forge truths that perfectly correspond to reality. He has had cause from his earliest experiences to fear that things might not work out on a regular basis; some unknown reason or invisible cause might interfere with the best of orders, and we suppose that has made a skeptical philosopher out of him, at least where the absolute truth is concerned.
Now David Silverman has dished up some absolute truth in the form of a “reality check” for investors who would safely profit from globalization: he advises us to apply the “Washington Consensus test,” which he claims is “recognized” by the World Bank, the International Monetary Fund and the World Trade Organization “as the minimum standards by which a country must abide before it can be considered a safe place to invest.” It’s the standard obsequious refrain: Reduction of public expenditures, privatization, deregulation, free trade, foreign investment, free-market determination of interest rates, et cetera. Ultimately, we might as well not have a political government, for business should be our government, and the only reason we need a political government is to protect the interests vested in business and make sure that the police power gives preference to the power elite in the name of their absolutely powerful, singular deity, the self-regulating, anarchic money-god, lest a socialist countermove against their avaricious hegemony gets underway.
Yes, if we know what is good for us, we will obey the dictates of the Washington Consensus enjoyed by the Chosen People at the Center of the Universe, despite the fact that the consequences of the political-economic consensus of Washington ideologues have brought the world’s sole superpower into ignominious disrepute around the world because its practice has made many of the people it would liberate from their traditions, whether they like Washington-style capitalism or not, miserable indeed. That is not to say that the Washington Consensus has been entirely wrong, at least it has not been wrong for razorbacks such as Mr. Silverman, whose stated professional interest is in eviscerating other traders with his tusks and eating their brains. May God help the piglets who get underfoot; they had better join the consensus, and suck hind teat. Then again, maybe not, for progressive civilizations favor not the strongest but the weakest, and the Great Punctuation proceeds, although Mr. Silverman does not feel the hot air of the bursting bubble on his face.
Enter George Soros, the little piggy who got away and made it big and developed a gigantic conscience. He believes in liberalization too, but not the sort that further tramples the downtrodden and makes of the nobleman a gutless and heartless wonder. The self-regulating market of Free Market Fundamentalism must be regulated or it will self-destruct, annihilating the humane substance of humankind. In The Crisis of Global Capitalism, he writes: “To put the matter simply, market forces, if they are given complete authority even in the purely economic and financial arena, produce chaos and could ultimately lead to the downfall of the capitalist system.” Another iconoclastic economist raised in Budapest, Karl Polanyi, had already noted well that a self-regulating market “could not exist for any length of time without annihilating the human and natural substance of society.” A market economy in itself has intolerable social outcomes, Mr. Polanyi insisted; society’s general interest is broader than the merely economic. Of course Karl Marx believed the essence of private capitalism would eventually destroy it.
George Soros may be a mean man in the trading pit, but he is otherwise a man of the Golden Mean. He is in effect a moderate. His liberalism is political and economic; the moral of the story would be embedded in a compromise state. He pleads not for more regulations but for better ones. Fortunately he is not the only voice raised against the regurgitations of the free-market fundamentalist fanatics: on July 11, 2007 the New York Times cited evidence of a growing will to debate fundamental assumptions: “There is too much ideology,” and economics is “often a triumph of theory over fact,” said Professor Alan Blinder. As far as he is concerned, economics is not scientific enough; mathematics may seem scientific, but it does not “generate refutable hypotheses.” Government intervention is of course anathema to the pretended consensus-regurgitators. “What I’ve learned is anyone who says anything even obliquely that sounds hostile to free trade is treated as an apostate,” Mr. Blinder said. Economist David Card chimed in, with “You lose your ticket as a certified economist if you don’t say any kind of price regulation is bad and free trade is good.” According to Economist Dani Rodrik, orthodox faith holds that government regulation is always bad. Professor Fredrick Lee at the iconoclastic University of Missouri-Kansas City academically scoffs at the neoclassical economics ideal, that if the market were left alone it would find a happy balance and we would live happily ever after. By the way, Professor Lee thinks oil companies determine gas prices, not market operations. Professor Robert B. Reich believes the “consensus” has become a mere pretense in the face of the income inequality and dislocation that globalization have helped to create.
Globalization is desirable and private enterprise is better at creating wealth than states, Mr. Soros stated in his book The Bubble of American Supremacy, but market fundamentalists ignore the shortcomings of their anarchic approach, which places faith in the ability of self-regulated markets to obtain equilibrium in the provision of an optimum allocation of resources. Despite Professor Friedrich Hayek’s perfusions on the errors of deliberate construction of social institutions, in marked contrast to their spontaneous evolutionary development, as well as his disparaging remarks on the “mirage of social justice” projected by demagogues, terrorists, tyrants and the like, Mr. Soros maintains that markets by themselves are not able to meet collective needs nor are they “competent to ensure social justice.” He states that the growing social injustice, evident in the inequality between the rich and poor, arises from the fact that the winners of the globalization game are not “compensating the losers” either within states or between states. Apparently a redistribution of income by the welfare state outside of the market mechanism is warranted – Professor Hayek, by the way, did not object to welfare redistribution but rather to the abusive means implemented by states. Mr. Soros observes that the current globalization trend, with its flight from taxation and privatization of government services, is depriving the state of its means to provide for the welfare of the people – a patronal notion provided, for instance, by our forefathers in the Preamble of the United States Constitution.
We might add that government is being effectively reduced to a business bureau, and not a better business bureau at that. The legislature has become a chamber of commerce – Mr. Mandeville might compare it to a whore house, praising the beneficial results of the uses to which it is put.
Our most prudent forefathers used to think that we should live modestly in good times, saving up for a rainy day. But we have become a society of plastic spendthrifts during good times. When the unpredictable flood comes, as it inevitably will, the rich on the high hill shall watch the poor drown and claim that they did all they could to save them. When bad times follow good times, as they inevitably will, the power elite in the center curtail the number of scraps being thrown to the needy on the periphery. The poor and unemployed must bear the brunt of the downturn as the wealthy fortify their luxurious compounds and jet from one conclave to another. Public transportation and police services in poor neighborhoods must be cut when they are needed the most. Fare increases shall be approved by people with cars and imposed on carless people in Miami, for example, where the recession is setting in with a vengeance.
The economic ironies abound: Now that unemployment is climbing rapidly, the director of Miami-Dade’s privatized employment agency called the staff together for its annual retreat. Instead of the usual food, drink, and entertainment in a fine ballroom, the staff, who had saved room in their bellies for food, were told that the number of Workforce employment offices in the Miami area would be reduced from 13 to 4, so they had better start looking for another job – anyone who wanted to save their job might find someone to provide rent-free space. Neither food nor water was provided in the rat-infested meeting room, so the staff went hungry; some of them naturally booed and hissed. By the way, the health plan has been changed – one cancer patient complained that he was required to pay $400 for a diagnostic test. So much for the force of the Workforce: it’s terrible tale may never be told; Miami’s so-called liberal major daily is not interested in the sorry story, although it is of national import and might win a prize.
The Center controls: it holds fast to its wealth and does not mind cutting throats for its own good. Mr. Soros complains that “the countries at the center of the global capitalist system enjoy far too many advantages over countries at the periphery. Perhaps their greatest advantage is that they can borrow in their own currencies. This allows them to engage in counter-cyclical policies, that is, they can lower interest rates and raise government expenditures to fight recessions. The countries at the center are also in control of the IMF and the international financial system.” Many of us looking forward to the government expenditures; we appreciate the $600 scraps, which are already spent on inflated prices even before they are received. And behold what the Center got – of course, we could not exist without the Center. “Whenever the center is threatened,” writes Mr. Soros, “the authorities take decisive action in order to protect the system. As a consequence, the devastation is confined to the periphery.” Since the productive assets of peripheral countries are largely controlled by foreign capitalists, they can repatriate their capital and gut the countries at will. At least we have plenty of sports stadiums in the United States to house people rendered homeless by the massive foreclosure flood.
Mr. Soros sums up three major “disparities” in the global capitalist system, two of which we have touched upon already: the disparity between public goods and private goods; the disparity between center and periphery. The third disparity is the disparity between good and bad governments, a subject that should be especially interesting to Mr. Silverman’s clients. Some countries have good democratic governments like ours, and others have corrupt or repressive regimes. The income gap or inequality looms large in bad countries, which are plagued by armed conflicts and financial crises. The United States, beset with armed conflict and now plagued by crisis, has trended towards bad government for some time, so the primary concern of Mr. Soros in The Bubble of American Supremacy is not his usual concern with the excesses of misguided market fundamentalists but with the “excesses of American supremacists.”
Although Mr. Soros does not believe in the myth of perfect equilibrium wrought by the imaginary Invisible Hand, his selection of the term ‘disparity’ gives us cause to believe that he would like to see a better balance between public and private goods, between center and periphery, and, curiously, between good and bad governments. There is ample room for evil in its parity with good, and a great deal of good will be required to balance the evil on the other end of our teeter-tottering country. Now it appears that the excesses of American supremacists and free market fundamentalists may be curbed by George Soros’ endorsed candidate for President, Barrack Obama. Mr. Soros’ primary concern right now is with bursting bubbles. Given his record for making billions off the pops, the losers shall no doubt be looking forward to social justice in the form of adequate compensation. Justice was really the god of our ancient cultural ancestors, the Hebrews and the Greeks. Only god knows when, but one day justice shall be done. Indeed, in one myth the Greeks had Zeus declare that any person without a sense of justice should be put to death.