The event was billed as a conversation on globalization with financier-philanthropist George Soros.
But Soros managed to add American foreign policy to the agenda at the Granoff Forum on International Development and the Global Economy April 8.
In his opening remarks, Soros, now known as much for his efforts to promote open, democratic societies worldwide as for the billions he made in the capital markets, departed from a talk on the virtues and defects of globalization to deliver sharp criticism of the Bush administration’s approach to fighting terrorism.
“I find the foreign policy of the Bush administration exceedingly dangerous,” he said. “Although the terrorist threat is real and must be defended against, they are going about it in the wrong way.”
His strongest criticism was reserved for those in the Bush administration—namely Attorney General John Ashcroft and Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld—who, he said, “have the same mindset” as Palestinian Authority head Yasir Arafat and Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon. Judging from the applause, many in the near-capacity Zellerbach Theater crowd agreed.
Soros and his interlocutors—Michael Granoff (C’80), CEO of Pomona Capital, Jacob Safra Professor of International Banking Richard J. Herring and Lawrence R. Klein Associate Professor of Economics Antonio Merlo—did manage to discuss the good and bad sides of globalization during the 90-minute forum.
Soros noted that under the current system, money was free to move about the world, while labor was still restricted in its movement. The enormous amounts of wealth created by this system has given rise to what he called “the false ideology of market fundamentalism”—the belief that markets are the only legitimate way to determine what is worthwhile and what is not.
As he pointed out in response to a question from the audience, “Markets are amoral. But society cannot live without morality.” And political and social institutions, which by their nature are inefficient, are the proper places to introduce moral considerations into market societies, he said.
Originally published on April 25, 2002