[Swiftwater Gazette] George Soros hedgemony December 2016
kroposki at att.net
Thu Dec 29 07:34:23 EST 2016
GeorgeSoros Conjures Hitler In Attack
On'Ascendant Populists', Warns "DemocracyIs Now In Crisis"postedby Tyler Durdenhttp://www.zerohedge.com/news/2016-12-28/george-soros-conjures-hitler-attack-ascendant-populists-warns-democracy-now-crisis
Authoredby George Soros, originally posted at ProjectSyndicate,
Wellbefore Donald Trump was elected President of the United States, Isent a holiday greeting to my friends that read: “Thesetimes are not business as usual. Wishing you the best in a troubledworld.” Now I feel the need to share this message with the rest ofthe world. But before I do, I must tell you who I am and what I standfor.
Iam an 86-year-old Hungarian Jew who became a US citizen after the endof World War II. I learned at an early age how important it is what kind of political regime prevails. The formative experience of mylife was the occupation of Hungary by Hitler’s Germany in 1944. Iprobably would have perished had my father not understood the gravityof the situation. He arranged false identities for his family and formany other Jews; with his help, most survived.
In1947, I escaped from Hungary, by then under Communist rule, to England. As a student at the London School of Economics, I came under the influence of the philosopher Karl Popper, and I developed my own philosophy, built on the twin pillars of fallibility and reflexivity.I distinguished between two kinds of political regimes: those inwhich people elected their leaders, who were then supposed to lookafter the interests of the electorate, and others where the rulerssought to manipulate their subjects to serve the rulers’ interests.Under Popper’s influence, I called the first kind of society open,the second, closed.
Theclassification is too simplistic. There are many degrees and variations throughout history, from well-functioning models to failed states, and many different levels of government in any particular situation. Even so, I find the distinction between the two regimetypes useful. I became an active promoter of the former and opponentof the latter.
Ifind the current moment in history very painful. Open societies are in crisis, and various forms of closed societies – from fascistdictatorships to mafia states – are on the rise. Howcould this happen? The only explanation I can find is that electedleaders failed to meet voters’ legitimate expectations andaspirations and that this failure led electorates to becomedisenchanted with the prevailing versions of democracy andcapitalism. Quite simply, many people felt that the elites had stolentheir democracy.
Afterthe collapse of the Soviet Union, the US emerged as the sole remaining superpower, equally committed to the principles of emocracy and free markets. The majordevelopment since then has been the globalization of financialmarkets, spearheaded by advocates who argued that globalizationincreases total wealth. After all, if the winnerscompensated the losers, they would still have something left over.
Theargument was misleading, because it ignored the fact that the winnersseldom, if ever, compensate the losers. But the potential winners spent enough money promoting the argument that it prevailed. It was a victory for believers in untrammeled free enterprise, or“market fundamentalists,” as I call them. Because financialcapital is an indispensable ingredient of economic development, andfew countries in the developing world could generate enough capitalon their own, globalization spread like wildfire. Financial capitalcould move around freely and avoid taxation and regulation.
Globalizationhas had far-reaching economic and political consequences. Ithas brought about some economic convergence between poor and rich countries; but it increased inequality within both poor and richcountries. In the developed world, thebenefits accrued mainly to large owners of financial capital, whoconstitute less than 1% of the population. The lack of redistributivepolicies is the main source of the dissatisfaction that democracy’sopponents have exploited. But there were othercontributing factors as well, particularly in Europe.
Iwas an avid supporter of the European Union from its inception. Iregarded it as the embodiment of the idea of an open society: anassociation of democratic states willing to sacrifice part of theirsovereignty for the common good. It started out at as a boldexperiment in what Popper called “piecemeal social engineering.”The leaders set an attainable objective and a fixed timeline andmobilized the political will needed to meet it, knowing full wellthat each step would necessitate a further step forward. That is how the European Coal and Steel Community developed into the EU.
Butthen something went woefully wrong.After the Crash of 2008, a voluntary association of equals wastransformed into a relationship between creditors and debtors, wherethe debtors had difficulties in meeting their obligations and the creditors set the conditions the debtors had to obey. Thatrelationship has been neither voluntary nor equal.
Germanyemerged as the hegemonic power in Europe, but it failed to live up tothe obligations that successful hegemons must fulfill,namely looking beyond their narrow self-interest to the interests ofthe people who depend on them. Compare the behavior of the US afterWWII with Germany’s behavior after the Crash of 2008: the USlaunched the Marshall Plan, which led to the development of the EU;Germany imposed an austerity program that served its narrowself-interest.
Beforeits reunification, Germany was the main force driving European integration: it was always willing to contribute a little bit extrato accommodate those putting up resistance. Remember Germany’scontribution to meeting Margaret Thatcher’s demands regarding theEU budget?
Butreuniting Germany on a 1:1 basis turned outto be very expensive. When Lehman Brothers collapsed,Germany did not feel rich enough to take on any additionalobligations. When European finance ministers declared that no othersystemically important financial institution would be allowed tofail, German Chancellor Angela Merkel, correctly reading the wishesof her electorate, declared that each member state should look afterits own institutions. That was the start of a process ofdisintegration.
Afterthe Crash of 2008, the EU and the eurozone became increasingly dysfunctional. Prevailing conditions became far removed from those prescribed by the Maastricht Treaty, but treaty change becameprogressively more difficult, and eventually impossible, because itcouldn’t be ratified. The eurozone became the victim of antiquatedlaws; much-needed reforms could be enacted only by finding loopholesin them. That is how institutions became increasingly complicated,and electorates became alienated.
Therise of anti-EU movements further impeded the functioning of institutions. And these forces of disintegration received a powerful boost in 2016, first from Brexit, then from the election of Trump in the US, and on December 4 from Italian voters’ rejection, by a wide margin, of constitutional reforms.
Democracyis now in crisis. Even the US, the world’s leading democracy, elected a con artist and would-be dictator as its president. AlthoughTrump has toned down his rhetoric since he was elected, he haschanged neither his behavior nor his advisers. His cabinet comprisesincompetent extremists and retired generals.
Iam confident that democracy will prove resilient in the US. ItsConstitution and institutions, including the fourth estate, arestrong enough to resist the excesses of the executive branch, thuspreventing a would-be dictator from becoming an actual one.
Butthe US will be preoccupied with internalstruggles in the near future, and targeted minorities will suffer.The US will be unable to protect and promote democracy in the rest ofthe world. On the contrary, Trump will have greater affinity withdictators. That will allow some of them to reach an accommodationwith the US, and others to carry on without interference. Trump willprefer making deals to defending principles. Unfortunately, that willbe popular with his core constituency.
Iam particularly worried about the fate of the EU, which is in dangerof coming under the influence of Russian President Vladimir Putin,whose concept of government is irreconcilable with that of opensociety. Putin is not a passive beneficiary of recentdevelopments; he worked hard to bring them about.He recognized his regime’s weakness: it can exploit naturalresources but cannot generate economic growth. He feltthreatened by “color revolutions” in Georgia, Ukraine, andelsewhere. At first, he tried to control social media. Then,in a brilliant move, he exploited social media companies’ businessmodel to spread misinformation and fake news, disorientingelectorates and destabilizing democracies. That is how he helpedTrump get elected.
Thesame is likely to happen in the European election season in 2017 inthe Netherlands, Germany, and Italy. In France, the two leading contenders are close to Putin and eager to appease him. If eitherwins, Putin’s dominance of Europe will become a fait accompli.
Ihope that Europe’s leaders and citizens alike will realize thatthis endangers their way of life and the values on which the EU wasfounded. The trouble is that the method Putin has used to destabilizedemocracy cannot be used to restore respect for facts and a balancedview of reality.
Witheconomic growth lagging and the refugee crisis out of control, the EUis on the verge of breakdown and is set to undergo an experience similar to that of the Soviet Union in the early 1990s. Those whobelieve that the EU needs to be saved in order to be reinvented mustdo whatever they can to bring about a better outcome.
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