George Soros, billionaire financier, bane of right-wing Republicans, focus of all those paranoid conspiracy theories, turns 90 today. Meeting in the 1980’s and maintaining their friendship up until Allen’s death, the two, as Soros’ biographer, Michael Kaufman has noted, became mutually-supportive “life-long friend(s)”
Soros credits Allen for opening his eyes to the fundamental absurdity of American drug policy. In 1994, inspired by his (Allen’s) irrefutable arguments – (“A drug-free America is simply not possible” – (“The “War on Drugs“) “is doing more harm to our society than drug abuse itself”) – he established the pioneering and influential Lindesmith Center (named after Alfred Lindesmith, the Indiana University sociologist, the first prominent US academic to challenge and criticize the heavy-handed, punitively-driven, governmental response).
Headed by Princeton political scientist, Ethan Nadelmann, this organization merged with another organization, the DPF (Drug Policy Foundation), in 2000, forming the world’s leading drug policy reform organization, the Drug Policy Alliance, a continuing beacon of practical policy advocacy and common sense, (post-Nadelmann’s stewardship), to this day.
Soros dates his philanthropy, (his Open Society Foundations). initially, from 1979 with support with scholarships to black South Africans under apartheid. The Lindesmith Center was his very first domestic (US) project. Most recently, (this past June, in fact), he announced an Open Society investment of $150 million dollars in grants for Black-led racial justice groups (with another $70 million dollars towards local grants for criminal justice reform and civic engagement opportunities) – sensitive and (necessarily) responsive to the current times.
All this, in keeping with a now over four-decade commitment to human rights, civil liberties and intellectual freedom in oppressive regimes (the USA, undeniably counts as an oppressive regime), but not just in America, in over 70 countries, worldwide.
As Jane Mayer writes (in her 2004 profile of him for The New Yorker) – “ Soros’s philanthropy is animated by a central idea: that the free expression of critical thought, such as he has practiced in his financial career, is the wellspring of democracy, or an “open society.” – Open Society – The concept is Karl Popper‘s (Soros studied under Popper at the London School of Economics). Jane Mayer again – ” Popper’s ideas helped Soros make sense of Fascism and Communism. These two seemingly opposed ideologies, Popper argued, were actually quite alike, for they both falsely claimed absolute truth—which, he held, was unattainable. Popper championed the idea of a society defined by rational debate, where false ideas would lose out to stronger ones”
“No Hope Communism, No Hope Capitalism, Yeah. Everybody is lying on both sides, Nyeah, nyeah, nyeah”(from Allen’s “Capitol Air”)
Democratic values, intellectual curiosity, a belief in common decency, a concern and respect for the underdog – does that ring any bells?
George Soros, net worth, according to Forbes (as of present moment) is 8.6 billion dollars
George Soros Is Trying To Change The System That Made Him Rich (good luck with that)
Five Myths About George Soros (from The Washington Post)
Wishing George Soros Happy Birthday today on his 90th Birthday