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"Ideas" in Development from George Soros: Power and Influence through Philanthropy?

Saab, Samer (2005): "Ideas" in Development from George Soros: Power and Influence through Philanthropy?

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This paper mainly examines the economic ideas and models brought forward by the always controversial global financier George Soros. The aim is to first explore whether in fact Soros has developed over time a well- articulated model for development based on a coherent system of beliefs and (economic, social, political, and philosophical) ideas, and second examine the notion that the world's wealthiest (including Soros) wield enough power and influence (through philanthropy and other means) to shape the economic landscape of countries. The latter point poses a more problematic question: if indeed the world's wealthiest wield unlimited powers in shaping the global development landscape, it could then be assumed that the quality of their "ideas" does not matter much. How do the resources they control ultimately facilitate the transformation of their beliefs and practices into valid economic "ideas"? Do wealth, power and influence validate ideas? The flip side to this coin is that time (hopefully) eventually weeds out the bad ideas, and only the good ones prevail and propagate in the world, and that the Soros's of the world do not matter much in the long run. A lot has been said and written about Soros's controversial financial dealings but very few attempted to systematically explore his system of ideas and evalua te their cohesiveness. He is too often dismissed as a philosophe manqué. The paper will briefly review the written works of Soros and his publicly stated positions on some of the more significant issues in development and economics today, and at times offer a light critique or praise) where due. A parallel with Keynes on some of the issues is also drawn. The paper will also offer insight on the question of whether philanthropy is conducive to the germination (and, most importantly, diffusion) of ideas.

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