Sunday, July 29, 2018

What Soros did wrong

Recently the New York Times has a magazine article about George Soros. The title "George Soros Bet Big on Liberal Democracy. Now He Fears He Is Losing.". Of course the article mostly refers to Hungary and Poland, with also some reference to Trump. In this article I will explain why he is losing.

According to the article Soros' main intellectual inspirator was Popper from who he got the concept of the "open society". In this context Soros' Jewish identity is mentioned: he wants societies where Jews feel welcome. The big question is of course how you can achieve that.

For many people the melting pot of New York and London is the inspiration. You can meet there people from many ethnic groups living together without problems. I am not convinced. Such places are mainly for people in their 20s who haven't settled down. They usually don't have deep interests and ties. Such places aren't very attractive to raise a family: when people settle down they do it somewhere else.

Another point of inspiration are the "cosmopolitans": these are people like diplomats and businessmen working for big companies who move regularly from one country to the next. But these people form their own tribe. They tend to have their own schools and churches and to mainly form ties among each other. Sometimes they don't even move: the Eurocrats in Brussels are (in)famous for the extent to which they form their own tribe that looks down on their compatriots back home as "provincials". Cosmopolitans don't care about democracy. They just want what they see as "good government". And if they don't like what they see many will just move to another country.

Some people see the mono-ethnicity of many Western countries as the problem. Hitler happened in mono-ethnic Germany - not in the multi-ethnic Habsburg empire. And the Armenian genocide happened in mono-ethnic Turkey and not in its predecessor the Ottoman empire. I have met several influential Jews who openly stated that they are in favor of mass immigration because that would end the mono-ethnic character of my country and improve the position of the Jews.

But the facts don't support this position. Those multi-ethnic empires faced quite regularly ethnic uprisings - to which they often reacted very brutally. Sure, Jews were often treated quite well. But that was just because their dispersion and low social status guaranteed that they were no threat to the central government. Europe's most anti-Jewish country is Poland. Poland is now rather mono-ethnic, but before World War II there were many areas where Germans, Poles and Jews formed similarly sized segments of the population. It looks like multi-ethnicity is a source of friction while in a mono-ethnic state you at least know who is the boss. As part of a minority you may not always like that but at least you have peace.

What does work?
Real openness depends on mutual trust and respect. Yet Soros has done the opposite. In many of the formerly communist countries Soros supported the liberal parties while doing everything he could opposing conservative - often Christian-democratic - parties.

This was a gross violation of democracy. Democracy is something between the people of a country or a region. Outsiders should not interfere. They can be very harmful. It is not only that they can help shift the election results so much that a minority becomes the majority and can rule the country. Even more harmful is that they can poison the political discussion in a country.

Politics isn't black and white. You can support refugees and also respect the feelings of people who feel no longer at home in their own region because too may strangers with foreign habits are arriving. You can be an atheist and still respect people who are deeply religious. You can support free trade yet care about the fate of those who lose their jobs.

Sure, this means that you will need to make compromises. But isn't that at the core of democracy? But when you are a foreign outsider like Soros you don't hear what the other side says. And you force the party that you support to ignore it too. What of course blocks the local dialogue.

Now his puppets have started to lose. And instead of concluding that his approach was wrong Soros is doubling down. He now tries to employ the EU to do his bidding and force those countries to behave like he wishes.

It is just as stupid as the Democrats in the US who keep whining about Russian influence. Real politics starts with listening and a dialogue. Making noise about things that people don't care about will just annoy them.