Indebted to Liberal Causes
Q: As a financier and political activist who has spent fortunes trying to remove President Bush from office, do you ever feel you have squandered your resources?
Not at all. When you take a stand, you do it because of a principle and not because you necessarily will prevail. I did what I could. I didn't succeed. You know, it didn't hurt me.
How much money, roughly, did you contribute to MoveOn.org and other anti-Bush groups during the last presidential campaign?
Something like $27.5 million. It's a lot of money, but the annual budget for my foundation is about $400 million.
In that case, why didn't you give more money to Democratic causes?
You can't buy the elections. Partly because of my participation, as much money was spent on the Democratic side as there was on the Republican side, but the Republicans are much better at messaging and distorting the truth. The Swift Boat ads, which cost maybe a million or whatever, had a tremendous impact because they were in-your-face distortions of the truth.
Are you saying you think it is futile to inject your own money into the midterm elections this year?
I feel it's very important for Democrats to win control of the House, and I am supporting efforts to do that. I am really concerned about America. In a way, we have the wrong leadership. But we also have the wrong followership. People don't care about the truth.
That is the theme of your new book, "The Age of Fallibility: Consequences of the War on Terror." Did you write it yourself?
Unfortunately. I don't trust ghostwriters.
I thought you went too far when you compared the Bush administration to the Nazi regime, with their reliance on propaganda and the politics of fear. As a Holocaust survivor, surely you can see the difference between them?
It is not identical at all, but our open society is endangered. We live in a democracy. I live here because here I can be critical. In Hungary, I lived under false names. I didn't open my mouth.
These days, you also seem down on Israel.
I am very critical of Israel, but since I don't live there, I don't feel that I should be particularly vocal in my criticisms.
Do fellow philanthropists ever criticize you for not extending your charity to Israel?
Not to my face. My foundation actually supports the rights of the Arab citizens in Israel.
You have also been a critic of globalism and what you call in your book "market fundamentalism." Which is what, exactly?
It is the belief that the common interest is best served by allowing individual participants to pursue their self-interest.
How is that different from laissez-faire?
It's the same thing. It used to be laissez-faire in the 19th century. It's a French word. Nobody speaks French.
For all your doubts about the unbridled pursuit of self-interest, few people have benefited more from capitalism than you.
I am happy to acknowledge that. I have a platform because I made a lot of money. If I were just an intellectual, an obscure university professor, I would be saying these things, and I wouldn't be heard.
If all your ideas about regulation were put into place, could you still profit?
I would say I would probably lose out.
So you think you have made too much money? ,/p>
No. Not enough, not enough.
Have you ever gone into debt?
All the time since starting a hedge fund.
Aren't your two oldest sons running the hedge fund you founded, Soros Fund Management?
Yes. I have given it to my kids. I still would like them to make money. So I am helping.
Do they listen to your advice?
How are they doing?
They seem to be doing all right. But it is not something that I actually wanted them to do. I think that running a hedge fund requires a certain talent.
A talent for what?A talent for making money.