By Lambert Strether of Corrente
A cat may look at a monarch, and so I suppose a blogger can make suggestions to George Soros. Soros recently published an essay at Project Syndicate, “Open Society Needs Defending,” which has been reprinted across a spectrum of sites, from Zero Hedge to Down with Tyranny. Soros is not my least favorite billionaire — he does not, to my knowlege, own a super-yacht (Financial Times, “Superyachts magnify billionaires’ worst traits”) — and he’s funded the Institute for New Economic Thinking, which is certainly a worthier cause than, say, the economics department of Florida State University. So today is my day to be nice! Rather than go through Soros’s essay in detail, I’m going to make two very very simple suggestions:
- Soros Should Simply Stop Funding Democrats
- Soros Should Simply Stop Funding Neoliberal Projects
Soros Should Simply Stop Funding Democrats
Soros has been a major funder of Democrat projects. Not only did he throw $25 million into the money pit that was the Clinton campaign, he’s been a major funder of Democrat projects generally. Post Citizens United, it’s become very difficult to track who contributes what to whom. What is clear is that Soros is a major funder what Politico calls “the institutional left” (by which is most definitely not meant, say, Bernie Sanders and his supporters, hence not really “left” at all. Politico:
George Soros and other rich liberals who spent tens of millions of dollars trying to elect Hillary Clinton are gathering in Washington for a three-day, closed door meeting to retool the big-money left to fight back against Donald Trump.
the meeting also comes as many liberals are reassessing their approach to politics — and the role of the Democracy Alliance, or DA, as the club is known in Democratic finance circles. The DA, its donors and beneficiary groups over the last decade have had a major hand in shaping the institutions of the left, including by orienting some of its key organizations around Clinton….
The meeting also comes as many liberals are reassessing their approach to politics — and the role of the Democracy Alliance, or DA, as the club is known in Democratic finance circles. The DA, its donors and beneficiary groups over the last decade have had a major hand in shaping the institutions of the left, including by orienting some of its key organizations around Clinton
The Democracy Alliance was launched after the 2004 election by Soros, the late insurance mogul Peter Lewis, and a handful of fellow Democratic mega-donors who had combined to spend tens of millions trying to boost then-Sen. John Kerry’s ultimately unsuccessful challenge to then-President George W. Bush….
Since its inception in 2005, the DA has steered upward of $500 million to a range of groups, including pillars of the political left such as the watchdog group Media Matters, the policy advocacy outfit Center for American Progress and the data firm Catalist — all of which are run by Clinton allies who are expected to send representatives to the DA meeting.
Let’s look at the record. Where did the money go? The Democrats set all that money on fire and threw it into the air. I won’t go into detail again in this post (but see here, here, here, here, and here); rather, I’ll simply turn to Matt Yglesias, because when you’ve lost Yglesias…
The whole Democratic Party is now a smoking pile of rubble
[Besides the Presidency,] Republicans control the House, and they control the Senate….
In state government things are worse, if anything. The GOP now controls historical record number of governors’ mansions, including a majority of New England governorships. Tuesday’s election swapped around a few state legislative houses but left Democrats controlling a distinct minority. The same story applies further down ballot, where most elected attorneys general, insurance commissioners, secretaries of state, and so forth are Republicans.
One could perhaps overlook all of this if the Obama years had bequeathed the nation an enduring legacy along the lines of the New Deal or the Great Society. But to a striking extent, even as President Obama prepares to leave office with strong approval ratings, his policy legacy is extraordinarily vulnerable. And the odds that it will be essentially extinguished are high.
Due to a combination of bad luck and poor decisions, the story of the 21st-century Democratic Party looks to be overwhelmingly the story of failure.
When does it make sense to reinforce failure? Continuing to give the Democrats money is like putting generals Gamelin, Georges, and Weygand in charge of La Résistance after their debacle in the Battle of France. So write off the sunk costs and call it a day.
Less obviously, but more importantly, Soros should encourage organic small-d democratic institutions doing policy and electoral politics to thrive. Warren Buffet (not my favorite) had a saying: “You never know who’s swimming naked until the tide goes out.” The liberal institutions that depend on outside funding from the wealthy are the ones who are swimming naked. The Sanders campaign showed that organizations that are self-funded by small donors are the future of small-d democratic organizing, and the best way to strengthen them is to stop artificially propping up their competitors, and to let them get on with it. Those organizations are the ones in bathing suits, so let the tide of outside money roll out.
Soros Should Simply Stop Funding Neoliberal Projects
Here’s how Soros explains Trump, Brexit, the rise of LePen, and so on:
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 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.
Not to mention their money, as the foreclosure crisis showed.
After the collapse of the Soviet Union, the US emerged as the sole remaining superpower, equally committed to the principles of democracy and free markets. The major development since then has been the globalization of financial markets, spearheaded by advocates who argued that globalization increases total wealth. After all, if the winners compensated the losers, they would still have something left over.
The argument was misleading, because it ignored the fact that the. But the potential winners spent enough money promoting the argument that it prevailed….
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, , who constitute less than 1% of the population. The that democracy’s opponents have exploited. But there were other contributing factors as well, particularly in Europe.
Therefore, the neoliberal project, considered under the aspect of justice, was destined to implode, and known to be so destined from the very beginning, since ultimately for popular acceptance it depends on redistribution, but “winners seldom, if ever, compensate the losers.” So why throw good money after bad?
Now, to be fair, some more fair-minded mainstream academics are trying to improve neoliberalism by bringing redistribution forward. First, why — after forty years of neoliberalism — would anyone trust them? For example, a current popular topic is the replacement of all wage work by robots. And sometimes the topic “How to help all those poor
losers workers” is vaguely discussed. Are we really to believe any help will be forthcoming? Or that, if it comes, it won’t be gate-keepered and means-tested to death? History says no. Experience says no. Second, neoliberalism puts markets first. Always. So there’s no reason to think that losers will ever be compensated, because there’s no market in doing that. In any case, how do you put a price on a destroyed Main Street or a child dead from opiates?
The neoliberal project has finally failed. It cannot secure a popular mandate, and by its nature cannot ever secure one. Therefore, anyone dedicated to an open society should not fund it. One might argue that alternatives to that project should be funded, but I think (see above) that only small-d democratic projects can create such alternatives, and they should be self-funded.
I think philanthropy even on the Nineteenth Century Robber Baron model — Carnegie Libraries, the Frick Museum, or genuine scholarship — would be preferable to continuing to fund Democrats, or neoliberal projects generally. Soros should consider those alternatives. Short neoliberalism.
 I put iNet under that heading.
 Hat tip ReaderOfTeaLeaves.