Transcript from the December 20, 1998 television broadcast of "60 Minutes":
KROFT: (Voiceover) To understand the complexities and contradictions in his personality, you have to go back to the very beginning: to Budapest, where George Soros was born 68 years ago to parents who were wealthy, well-educated and Jewish.
When the Nazis occupied Budapest in 1944, George Soros' father was a successful lawyer. He lived on an island in the Danube and liked to commute to work in a rowboat. But knowing there were problems ahead for the Jews, he decided to split his family up. He bought them forged papers and he bribed a government official to take 14-year-old George Soros in and swear that he was his Christian godson. But survival carried a heavy price tag. While hundreds of thousands of Hungarian Jews were being shipped off to the death camps, George Soros accompanied his phony godfather on his appointed rounds, confiscating property from the Jews.
(Vintage footage of Jews walking in line; man dragging little boy in line.)
KROFT: (Voiceover) These are pictures from 1944 of what happened to George Soros' friends and neighbors.
(Vintage footage of women and men with bags over their shoulders walking; crowd by a train.)
KROFT: (Voiceover) You're a Hungarian Jew...
Mr. SOROS: (Voiceover) Mm-hmm.
KROFT: (Voiceover) ...who escaped the Holocaust...
(Vintage footage of women walking by train)
Mr. SOROS: (Voiceover) Mm-hmm.
(Vintage footage of people getting on train)
KROFT: (Voiceover) ... by -- by posing as a Christian.
Mr. SOROS: (Voiceover) Right.
(Vintage footage of women helping each other get on train; train door closing with people in boxcar)
KROFT: (Voiceover) And you watched lots of people get shipped off to the death camps.
Mr. SOROS: Right. I was 14 years old. And I would say that that's when my character was made.
KROFT: In what way?
Mr. SOROS: That one should think ahead. One should understand and -- and anticipate events and when -- when one is threatened. It was a tremendous threat of evil. I mean, it was a -- a very personal experience of evil.
KROFT: My understanding is that you went out with this protector of yours who swore that you were his adopted godson.
Mr. SOROS: Yes. Yes.
KROFT: Went out, in fact, and helped in the confiscation of property from the Jews.
Mr. SOROS: Yes. That's right. Yes.
KROFT: I mean, that's -- that sounds like an experience that would send lots of people to the psychiatric couch for many, many years. Was it difficult?
Mr. SOROS: Not -- not at all. Not at all. Maybe as a child you don't -- you don't see the connection. But it was -- it created no -- no problem at all.
KROFT: No feeling of guilt?
Mr. SOROS: No.
KROFT: For example that, 'I'm Jewish and here I am, watching these people go. I could just as easily be there. I should be there.' None of that?
Mr. SOROS: Well, of course I c -- I could be on the other side or I could be the one from whom the thing is being taken away. But there was no sense that I shouldn't be there, because that was -- well, actually, in a funny way, it's just like in markets -- that if I weren't there -- of course, I wasn't doing it, but somebody else would -- would -- would be taking it away anyhow. And it was the -- whether I was there or not, I was only a spectator, the property was being taken away. So the -- I had no role in taking away that property. So I had no sense of guilt.
From LatestWriting.com, April 7, 2012
George Soros (net worth: $24.5 billion) has set up "open society" institutions to study the failure of economic thinking. The institutions have succeeded only in demonstrating their failure, he said this afternoon at the CEU (Soros endowment: $880 million) in Budapest, but not in discovering what to do about it. The source of the problem, he explained, is relying too much on theory, on knowledge: we don't look at how acting in accord with our theories changes the world, because we expect the world to conform to our theories. We need to understand that no single theory is enough because our action is constantly changing the world. So I said to him after his talk:
- You have divided human activity in two parts, both economic: theory, and manipulation. Theory doesn't work, leads to crashes. And manipulation of markets is based on crowd behavior, on everyone holding to the same theory and reaching the same conclusion that now is the time to be afraid or not to be. But since ancient Greece the parts to human activity have been divided into not two, but three: you have left out practical action. Practical action is tied to no theory. It seeks to understand, for the sake of avoiding it, the theory based manipulation of fearful following and leading on of each other. Practical action seeks to discover what makes learning easier. It's purpose is outside of itself, in the part of life where we find beauty, what makes life good. Why not establish institutions that study how economic relations are practical: what forms of cooperation lead to a life of learning and freedom from manipulation, and which don't. And study how to make the transition from the present institutions based entirely on greed and fear to the kind we need to have. Do you understand?Let's go, says George Soros' assistant, urging him as she has been doing for the last few minutes as we talked. OK, I say, I tried. You remember me, right? Yes, he nods his head. The day before the friendly university guards stationed at the door had seen him leave the building just ahead of me. They insisted I take fate in my own hands and run after him. For what? Ask him for a job. I did it! People say it's difficult to diagnose the political problems of our times, but I don't see the difficulty. An open society with unhappy people is a closed society.
- I have studied maximization of happiness.
- No, that is not what I mean, that is only counting the results of manipulated fear based behaviors in the theoretically defined world of the marketplace. We need to study how to cooperate, study what forms of cooperation help us learn to make our lives better.
- Do you know why I've brought up the subject of George Soros?
- He's the typical American: master of technique, unconcerned with abstraction, careless of institutions. He does what he has to do.
- Is he American or Hungarian?
- Hungarian born American citizen. Resident in the U.S. I often find myself in the uncomfortable position of trying to explain to myself why I am so uncomfortable in this, my own country, the country I was born and raised in. It couldn't be ambition, which I rather liked, being ambitious myself at my own pace. It couldn't be the materialism or selfishness, because I have felt more comfortable in countries where the people were even more greedy and self absorbed.
- So what is it?
- More than a few times now you and me have talked about the dangers of model societies*. Central government control of all production and distribution is a model society. A free market is a procedure for building a model society. But it can't be that simple.
- Why not?
- Our leaders don't believe in big government, don't believe in little government; they don't believe in free markets, they don't believe in controlled markets.
- What do they believe in?
- You remember what we said about statistics and propaganda? Statistics relates terms we have no personal experience with. Price of oil is related to average temperature. We don't know why or how. Conversely, we form a model of a chair after we've had experience moving our hands and eyes across its parts, have developed habits of perception. We cannot change our models at will, because the models are inside us; not so our statistical knowledge.
- Big government is better, little government is better, free markets are better, controlled markets are better, are examples of statistical knowledge we can take an interest in or put aside at will.
- And then there's what we said before about alchemy**: when we speak we create a new world. In a real sense the world changes with everything we say about it. New ideas and actions are possible in it, and the world, as it were, speaks to us newly with those new possibilities. God created us by speaking, and made us like himself able to create speaking things by speaking. But it is also possible to create in our speaking a world that speaks destruction. Soros said at his lecture that theories didn't take account of the way market manipulations of the kind he makes his billions doing change the world they were formed to describe. Speculation undermines the efficiency of free markets, and causes economic crashes that make a joke of the claim free market capitalism makes ideal open societies. New theories have to be come up with to account for the havoc speculation and manipulation had wrought, which new theories themselves will in turn become the basis of destructive speculation and manipulation occasioning the need for new theories.
- If theories are always going to be undermined how can anyone believe in them?
- As we saw statistical knowledge is not really, not personally, believed. It is taken on like we take on a social role: performing a role is a matter of making a show of probabilities. Big government creates more wealth, or small government does, no matter, we don't personally have a stake in the terms, they aren't habits of our perception. Geoge Soros tells us we have to give up our theories and we easily can. After the speculation caused failure of free market neo-liberalism we must look for new theories based on new statistical correlations...
- Which Soros and others like him will undermine with their speculations!
- Yes. The interesting thing here is that speculation and manipulation require only that there be some theory that all can agree on, some basis of uniformity created so all traders can run in the same direction and the more astute traders can take advantage of their runs of confidence and fear. Such uniformity is efficiently achieved by use of propaganda: the statistictical theory of the day is drilled into us by wedding it to our statistical experience of social roles.***
- So both model states and the practice of mechanisms to achieve them are not believed in. What is believed in, believed, that is, based on personal experience, not merely statistically, is that profit is to be made from manipulations based on simply having a theory that all speculators may blindly follow.
- Soros represents American character because he's made billions in profit out of this holding at a distance political beliefs and practice and he openly admits to it?
- What do you think? We Americans don't really believe in any form of government, we're ready to do almost anything for profit. Discounted theories and unrestrained technical practice lock together in a cycle and lock out the practical, obscure even that it is possible to make the world speak to us how to live better. We think and talk but the world stays silent.
- It feels like there's no magic here.
- What did Soros say when you asked him for a job?
- "I'm busy."
Poetry Of No Compassion (When the world falls silent, society steps in.)
* Against Leaders
** Cannibals & Capitalists