George Soros | Charlie Rose | 1995 | Summary and Q&A

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December 5, 2020
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George Soros | Charlie Rose | 1995

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Summary

In this video, George Soros discusses various topics including his philanthropy work, his investment philosophy, and his thoughts on global politics and economics. He reflects on the success and failures of his foundations in Eastern Europe and the political and economic situation in countries like Poland, Hungary, and Russia. He also shares his thoughts on philanthropy, the challenges associated with it, and the corruption that can come with it. Soros provides insights into his investment strategies and the role of macro investing in his approach. He discusses the current state of world economies, including his concerns about the disintegration of the European Union and the economic situation in France and Germany. Soros also touches on his views on China's economic future, the potential of the internet in changing the world, and his reflections on his own life and philosophy.

Questions & Answers

Q: Give me your report card on what you think your own foundations have been able to accomplish in Eastern Europe and how the political and economic situation is there?

Soros believes that there was a missed opportunity to move Eastern Europe towards more open societies. While some countries like Poland, Hungary, and the Czech Republic are making progress towards Europe, there is a tendency for authoritarian regimes to emerge in other places, which Soros believes is a recipe for fascism. He mentions his engagements in Russia and Ukraine, where he sees both progress and challenges.

Q: How do you characterize the political situation in Russia and Ukraine currently?

Soros sees a struggle between democratic forces and emerging authoritarian regimes in both countries. He mentions the rise of nationalistic ideologies and suggests that whoever wants to win the elections in these countries would have to take a somewhat xenophobic and anti-Western point of view, reflecting the disappointment of the people towards the changes that have occurred. Soros emphasizes the significance of supporting democratic values in these nations.

Q: Have the investments made by your foundations been worth the effort?

Soros believes that the investments made by his foundations, such as creating the University of Central European Universities and supporting the notion of an open society, have been very worthwhile and effective, despite some failures and difficulties in certain programs. He explains that philanthropy is more rewarding for him than anything else, but admits to having reservations about it, as it can be a corrupting activity for both the givers and receivers.

Q: Did you change your investment philosophy during the rough patch you experienced in the mid-90s?

Soros states that he didn't change his investment philosophy during that time, but every position was re-examined. One change they made was to focus more on individual stocks rather than just the macro outlook. Soros believes that identifying and investing in companies with changing management can be very rewarding.

Q: What are your thoughts on the current economic situation in France and Germany?

Soros expresses concern about the trend towards European disintegration, particularly the confrontation between the independent central bank in France and the government. He believes that Germany has set stringent budget reductions and is insisting on France meeting the criteria of the Maastricht treaty to have a common currency. Soros anticipates a government crisis in France that may lead to instability.

Q: Is your investment strategy still primarily focused on macro investing?

Soros confirms that macro investing is still an important part of his investment approach. He explains that during times of macroeconomic change, such as those affected by the internet, macro instruments like bonds provide an opportunity to play the changes. However, he also emphasizes the significance of selecting individual stocks based on a company's management and industry thesis.

Q: What do you think is the future of the internet and its impact on society?

Soros believes that the internet is a revolutionary technology that will change the way we do many things, including research, shopping, communication, and even the way we receive information from media sources. He predicts that the internet will replace television and newspapers to a large extent, leading to significant changes in the way we live and interact.

Q: Do you believe that the United States has successfully managed a soft landing for its economy?

Soros expresses optimism about the US economy, citing factors such as controlled inflation, productivity growth, and the information revolution. He believes that the US has managed a soft landing and is not heading towards a recession. However, he also mentions concerns regarding the cost of living index and suggests that a reduced index could relieve the budget of cost-of-living adjustments.

Q: How do you think the world should deal with Russia in terms of fostering democracy?

Soros believes that the international community should focus on promoting open societies and supporting democratic forces. He suggests that the mission of NATO needs to be redefined in a way that protects open societies rather than turning Russia into an enemy. Soros emphasizes the need for an international security system and highlights the importance of learning from recent failures such as the situation in Bosnia.

Q: How do you think the internet will impact China and its regime?

Soros suggests that the Chinese communist regime could be swept out of power due to an old-fashioned capitalist bust. He believes that China's economic progress has been beneficial for the regime, but if the economic engine slows down, it could lead to political and economic collapse. Soros mentions that the army currently sustains their power, but it also puts a strain on the economy. He sees the potential for a significant shift after the death of Deng Xiaoping.

Takeaways

George Soros discusses a wide range of topics, including his philanthropy work, investment philosophy, and his thoughts on global politics and economics. He reflects on the successes and failures of his foundations in Eastern Europe and the challenges faced by countries like Russia and Ukraine in their transition towards democratic societies. Soros emphasizes the importance of promoting open societies and the need for an international security system. He expresses concerns about the disintegration of the European Union and the economic situation in France and Germany. Soros also highlights the potential of the internet in revolutionizing various aspects of society and shares insights into his investment strategies. Overall, he brings a nuanced perspective and encourages reflection on the state of the world and the role individuals can play to create positive change.

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