Book Burnings and Adverse Markets: The New Year for George Soros

 

The first two weeks of 2016 have been very interesting for billionaire George Soros, whose investing acumen and political activism have been mentioned on global news headlines since early January.

As the founder of Soros Fund Management, one of the most successful investment enterprises in the world, Soros was a keynote speaker at an investment forum in Colombo, Sri Lanka, in the first week of January. Commenting on the dire performance of global markets since the fourth quarter of 2015, Soros stated that the situation reminded him of 2008, when Wall Street collapsed under the weight of losses from the United States real estate, mortgage and debt markets.

As expected, Soros’ comments in Colombo made headlines on several financial news publications; after all, he was commenting on matters related to macroeconomics, which happen to be his area of expertise and a significant source of his fortune.

Less than two weeks after Soros made global headlines, a news report filed by Kalyeena Makortoff of CNBC indicated that his philanthropic work in Russia is coming under attack. A book burning incident in the northern Komi Republic of Russia targeted the Open Society Foundations, a charity network founded by Soros decades ago.

Public and academic libraries in the Komi Republic were searched by Russian officials, who looked for books linked to the Open Society Foundations. The seized books, which were later burned, deal with the topic of humanitarian education, a special modality of academic instruction that emphasizes an ethos of helping others in time of need and without regard to politics or ideology.

The work of the Open Society Foundations focuses on topics such as human rights, personal freedoms, democracy, transparency, and government accountability. In the past, Soros has stated that his personal style of philanthropy involves empowering former communist regimes so that their citizens can embrace democracy on a personal level. This objective is often carried out at the academic level.

The burning of 53 books was just the beginning; officials seized more than 400 other books that will be shredded in the near future. In December 2015, Russian newspapers reported about a letter issued by a presidential envoy who believes that the ideology of the Open Society Foundations is not conducive to Russian ideals.

Neither Soros nor his foundations had commented on the book burning incident as of January 16, 2016.

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