Thursday, July 17, 2008

The Crisis of Global Capitalism

By George Soros

Book Review

By Richard E. Noble

This is my first exploration into the mind and thinking of George Soros. This book was not difficult to read. Mr. Soros is not a deceptive writer.
It seems that Mr. Soros is one of the richest men in the world. He made his money in the international financial marketplace. Today he is out of the speculation business and characterizes himself as a philanthropist.
His educational background is in economics and philosophy. Being familiar reading philosophers, I feel safe in saying that he writes, thinks and explains himself like a philosopher.
This would make him difficult for some to understand. I understand his philosophy and his philosophical references. I understand his overall economic theories. I understand the problems that he outlines in this book. I do not understand his global financial solutions or his proposed international rules and regulations.
Many critics consider Mr. Soros a liberal or an apologist for the "socialist, communist" left. I think not. Mr. Soros is first a Capitalist. He is willing to admit the short comings of the capitalist theory and his notions are similar to the notions of "innocent fraud" outlined by the economist John Kenneth Galbraith. Neither Soros nor Galbraith believes in the divinity of the guiding hand when it comes to the marketplace. Soros states categorically his disbeliefs - and it does sound strange coming from such a successful capitalist.
He does not believe in the "equilibrium" notion which proposes a self-adjusting world. An unregulated financial world may very well destroy itself, he admits. But yet he believes in An Open Society. It is really difficult to see much difference in Mr. Soros' Open Society and the fundamentalist capitalist society. I would say the only difference that I can see is that Soros' idea is more reasonable and contains a dream of hope and morality. But Soros, like the fundamentalists, has no method or suggestions for how hope could replace the fundamentalist cynicism or how morality could be injected into the world marketplace - at least not in this book.
As I see it, George Soros is a capitalist to the core. Like John Maynard Keynes before him, I understand him to be a pragmatic capitalist personally engaged in the task of expanding and attempting to move capitalism along positively to a globally successful economic system. He accepts that capitalism has gone global. He doesn't resist globalism but realizes that without restraints and rules and regulations it has a possibility of collapsing upon itself.
This book was published in 1998. For those who ask, Who could have seen this mess that we are now experiencing in the year 2008, one may safely answer - George Soros.
But he has not been alone. William Greider and others have been writing about such problems and possibilities for years. Greider's last book the Soul of Capitalism could be considered as a college workbook for Mr. Soros philosophical analysis and theoretical propositions.
Soros's solutions are in my opinion the philosophical convolutions of a capitalist investment broker. Sort of a Meditations by Marcus Aurelius - but in international financial investment. It was a real struggle for Marcus Aurelius to maintain his philosophical inclinations and at the same time, authoritatively and often ruthlessly, rule the Roman Empire. It is equally difficult for George Soros to balance his philosophical and moral character with his necessary ruthless an amoral behavior in the gruesome world of international finance. But like Marcus, George gives it an honorable attempt.
Mr. Soros states that he may be an idealist but that he is not naïve but in my understanding of the historical circumstance surrounding capitalism, I think Mr. Soros is being rather naïve.
Capitalism and the capitalist have gone global partially in response to the capitalist aversion to rules, regulations and the restrictions placed on them by national governments. The Capitalist has been at war with labor, wage increases and benefits, environmental constraints, anti-monopolist and trust-busting attempts and national government taxation policies. The whole new Globalism economic concept has resulted because of the capitalist’s desire to escape to the wild west of globalism where they would be free from the interference of national governments, workers and democratic voter morality. For Mr. Soros to suggest a global governmental type agency to counter the perils of the unregulated marketplace seems extremely naïve to me. That is exactly what the capitalist has been fleeing. And to get a world organization to accomplish what smaller nation states have been incapable of doing seems totally naïve.
The solution in my opinion is a retreat from the globalism concept and a reigning in of the ‘amoral’ capitalist inclinations. Many speculative amoral capitalist should be going to prison not to the Riviera. In fact Mr. Soros may be one of them. If he doesn’t belong inside a prison, he could certainly be doing some community service. Actually, that is probably exactly what he is attempting with his philanthropic endeavors – as was the case with Andrew Carnegie, John D. Rockefeller, Henry Ford, and many other of our past unscrupulous economic giants.