If you are one of the richest people in the world, how much money is it right to give to good causes? And how do you know what exactly a good cause is anyway?
George Soros would be a good man to ask.
The Hungarian billionaire – the 29th richest person on Earth – has just given £13.6 billion of his personal wealth to his own his Open Society Foundations. It’s one of the largest donations ever made, and makes his foundation the second largest in the US.
Yet Soros’ philanthropy is of a pointedly political kind, making him new enemies as well as more friends.
The purpose of the Open Society Foundations is to help build “vibrant and tolerant democracies.”
He has been accused of helping install pro-western government in Serbia and the Ukraine. And in his homeland, Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban has accused Soros of meddling acting as a would-be “political puppet master.”
Breitbart has accused Soros of funding efforts to make the Republic of Ireland a “pro-abortion country”
The foundation has supported efforts to protect human rights and LBGT rights in particular in recent years.
Steve Bannon’s alt-right site Breitbart has accused Soros of funding efforts to make the Republic of Ireland a “pro-abortion country,” while Fox News has noted with consternation his foundation’s support for Planned Parenthood and Black Lives Matter.
Soros himself said “dark forces” had been “awakened” by the election of Donald Trump last year.
There is no shame in being wrong, only in failing to correct our mistakes
Politics aside, his proven talent has been to make money for his company and his investors. In the 1990s, Soros became infamous for making a killing by betting against the pound ahead of its collapse on Black Monday, earning his the moniker “the man who broke the Bank of England.”
Since then his investment management firm expanded into one of the most profitable in the hedge fund industry. But it seems as though Soros wants his legacy to be something other than wealth creation.
He has said: “Once we realize that imperfect understanding is the human condition there is no shame in being wrong, only in failing to correct our mistakes.”
Laura Silber, the Open Society Foundation’s public affairs chief, says Soros plans to “leave the vast majority of his wealth to the Open Society Foundations.”
That could be a fair bit of cash. According to Forbes, Soros is worth $26 billion.
Photo: Niccolò Caranti, licensed under Creative Commons