Moderator: On February 11, 2022 a formal challenge was made for a debate which was announced publicly and on air. Since George Soros was too frightened and did not take up the offer and did not respond, we present here a fictionalized account of what likely would have been said.
“Resolved that vulture capitalism is the preferred form of capitalism.”
Welcome and let me introduce our two well-known interlocutors. The first is George Soros, founder of the Quantum Fund and a speculator in currency and debt markets who is a philanthropist to a myriad of leftist causes. His notable book is The Alchemy of Finance. Our other debater is Dr. Theodore Roosevelt Malloch, an American scholar-diplomat-strategist, who has had a career in finance, diplomacy, and the academy, as Professor at Yale and Oxford. He is the author of some 18 books, notably Doing Virtuous Business.
Question 1: Can you describe the version of capitalism you seek to defend here, namely: Vulture Capitalism (Soros) and offer as a better alternative, Virtuous Capitalism (Malloch)?
A vulture capitalist is a type of investor who scavenges off distressed companies or countries for profit, like a vulture scavenges off the dead bodies of animals. Vulture capitalists typically receive criticism because their tactics involve the targeting of individuals, countries, and or companies already experiencing financial difficulties. As speculators we are not interested in long term growth, employment, social good or economic productivity but rather focus on situations where a quick and large profit can be turned in a given market, based on special conditions and vulnerability.
Critics of capitalism view businesses as insatiable masters of the universe with little regard for the public. They label those who create wealth as greedy, malicious, and unscrupulous. I would answer these charges head-on. The bold idea is that the creation of wealth by virtuous means is the most important thing that can be done for society. It is achieved over a long term, not in speculative fits and starts. The record documents that capitalism needs to be patient and values-based to succeed.
The true purpose of business illuminates the connection between a free economy and liberty. Drawing from the notion of “social capital,” which has been developed by generations of scholars, such as Robert Putnam at Harvard, I would add the concept of “spiritual capital” as a foundation for social progress and also a necessity for responsible and successful enterprise. The virtues that sustain a business and a free market—virtues that build up a network of trust, are critical to any company, national economy, and to the whole global economy.
Question 2: Who benefits in the system of capitalism you prefer?
The primary beneficiaries are the hedge funds and private equity funds that make the biggest bets or short the biggest losers. There is no social benefit, enrichment of the masses or public, preferential treatment for the poor or needy in acts of arbitrage. You get rich only if you win—and the winners take all. They can then take their acquired wealth and change society according to the norms they prefer. I would prefer a form of globalism and democratic socialism.
A company’s soul rooted in its corporate culture determines its “spiritual capital,” an equally imperative foundation to success. From Wal-Mart to IBM to Cargill, we can demonstrate how companies that operate on ethical models informed by spiritual and philosophical traditions have outperformed their competitors. Virtuous capitalism is a welcome moral defense of free enterprise and a sensible guide for achieving the ideal of virtuous business.
Question 3: What is the cosmology and telos behind the version of capitalism you defend?
Ha! There is no cosmos beyond the present, and no world beyond the material. I may have been born a Jew but came to realize there is no God, endgame, or hereafter. Atheism is not based on morals, a religious system, the sacred, or any concept of the transcendent. We need to come to the realization that secular cosmopolitanism is a vast improvement on anything parochial and especially god-talk or nation states. Global institutions are the answer and globalism a future oriented ideology—including global markets, global taxation, and global governance.
The relevance of religion is to be found in its inspiration for reflection and action in the individual and communal search for purpose and meaning beyond the mere pursuit of things. There is overwhelming evidence from evolutionary biology, psychology, and neuroeconomics that we can lead more fulfilled lives and have increased cooperation with stronger communities, when they are held together by religious imagination and sharing of rituals. The firm in capitalism does not just exist to maximize profit but includes a transcendental sense of purpose or calling and an awareness of immanence in the most simple and humble work. This sense induces personal commitment, discipline, and trust in the firm as a community based in a culture of service and quality. Such servant leadership appears only in market based economies.
Question 4: How are the other institutions of society ordered in the system of capitalism you defend?
If you mean the family, it should become extinct. If you mean the nation, we need to do away with borders and nation states as the locus of evil. We do need universities, like the one I started in central Europe, but they should be rooted in technology and secularism, not tradition or antiquated classics. I think about and defend what is termed, an Open Society, where elites and experts set the best policies and mandates. Others follow. This is what is meant by democracy.
Society is a deeply rooted community of not just atomic individuals and the corporate state but is primarily lived in the mediating structures between those two poles. These institutions flourish most under a system of and spirit of democratic capitalism and include the family, schools, the various civic associations, firms, churches, mosques, synagogues and temples, as the ties that bind society together and make it a meaningful and prosperous existence. History has demonstrated that freedom abounds only in those places where democracy is practiced and a commercial republic brings forward such a system of markets. We have witnessed this most in the West where the Judeo-Christian ethic has been pervasive.
Question 5: Can you give us some examples both firm specific and country specific of the variant of capitalism you suggest?
I don’t like any particular companies and certainly no countries. I used to think the European Union was a harbinger of the best system but it too has now fallen short. The United Nations system with its flaws is the best global set of institutions we possess. I am very involved in the World Economic Forum and believe Davos could provide the impetus we need for the great reset to a capitalism based on rebuilding society post-COVID.
Besides making the world a better place, virtuous enterprise makes companies far more successful and profitable than they otherwise would be. I have presented case studies of virtuous businesses in the Judeo-Christian tradition as well as statistical analysis demonstrating how companies that operate on ethical models have significantly outperformed their competitors over the long run. There were over 60 companies cited in our research and another 14 across various religious and philosophical traditions in my later work of case studies, Practical Wisdom for Management. They are large and small, exist on every continent, all industries, and come from every tradition.
Question 6: What would Karl Popper, the famous Oxford don, think of each type of capitalism based on his writings and their effects on democracy?
I was a student of his and after World War II and we wanted democracies and a more open society in eastern and central Europe. I came to understand that there is an inevitable clash between capitalism and democracy and that a more social democratic version of the future demanded not only funding but agitation and nongovernmental actors pushing for its installment. I have made my vast fortune as a vulture capitalist to fund this cause.
In the fifth section of Popper’s chapter on Hegel he deals with Hegel’s influence on 20th century fascism, explicitly focusing on its historicist elements rather than its incontrovertible totalitarianism.
The principal enemy of the open society, according to Popper, is Karl Marx. Popper was decidedly anti-Marxist and it appears Soros is not. He has made it his life’s work to turn Popper on his head and to give his entire ill-begotten wealth to outright Marxist and socialist groups and causes.
And what is the main question that democracy tries to address according to Karl Popper?
Rejecting the question “Who should rule?” as the fundamental question of political theory, Popper proposed a new question: “How can we so organize political institutions that bad or incompetent rulers can be prevented from doing too much damage?”
Karl Popper is best known for his contributions to the philosophy of science and the history of ideas. It is notable that elements of Popper’s thought were clearly libertarian or conservative in character. It would be more honest if Soros followed his mentor in this regard, as he does not.
Popper after all argued, on the basis of the epistemic and empathetic access we have to other cultures across history, that the nature of mankind is such that certain values—the importance of individual liberty—hold true across cultures, and this is what he meant by objective pluralism.
Soros is no pluralist in his economic theories and is even less so in his funding of damaging leftism in any and every shape and form. Vulture capitalism is a deviant and baseless form of capitalism as I have shown—totally without virtue.
Vote: Cast your vote FOR or OPPOSED to the Motion now.