George Soros, the self-made billionaire and philanthropist, has become famous both for his investment knowledge and his commitment to liberal causes. In his early years, he was a Hungarian Jew under Nazi then Communist occupation, before becoming a refugee in London, England during the late 1940s.
In London, he would discover the two things that would later become his driving passions in life: finance and the open society. At the London School of Economics, he earned a degree in finance and developed an investment genius that would make him a billionaire several times over.
The other thing he learned in school was a more serendipitous. In 1947 he picked up and read a book Karl Popper, a liberal thinker whose idealistic views of society were just starting to come into being. Karl Popper believed in what he called the “Open Society,” a world where people of all ages, backgrounds, beliefs and dreams could come and live together in harmony. It heavily critiqued totalitarianism, and strongly supported the philosophy behind science and learning.
For a person who had grown up seeing Nazi Germany and the excesses of Communist Hungary, it may be little surprise that George Soros fell in love with Karl Popper’s idealism. The book’s essential teachings in support of democracy, individual rights, and the necessity of having an open exchange of ideals would strongly influence much of George Soros’ charitable giving and future Foundation.
After graduating from the London School of Economics, George Soros moved to New York City. There, he found a niche among the other traders on Wall Street, and soon became a very well-known and respected trader on the stock exchange. He worked for other investors for nearly twenty years before beginning his own Fund, originally called the Soros Fund.
The 12 million dollars in initial investments grew rapidly under the Soros investment strategies and he became one of the wealthiest investment traders in the world. Over the next four decades, George Soros would see his wealth grow to an estimated net worth of 26 billion dollars, and at age 85 he was the 21st richest man in the world.
Even as his wealth grew, George Soros did not stray far from the philosophy of liberalism and tolerance that he first encountered between the pages of Karl Popper’s books. He wanted to see the open society that he’d read about come into being, and that’s why he named his foundation The Open Society.
The primary goal of The Open Society Foundation is to promote the educational, political, and social climate necessary for democracy and the open exchange of ideas to exist. George Soros has donated millions of dollars to non-profits whose aims align with his own.