Soros and Open Society in America

by Chidem Kurdas

George Soros originally intended to wind down his Open Society Foundations at the end of his life but changed his mind. This worldwide network of activist groups – to whom he has given more than $8 billion and named after Karl Popper’s classic The Open Society and Its Enemies – is to continue operating after he’s gone.

In Eastern Europe, the network helped undermine communist regimes and bring about freer societies. The main mission ascribed by Mr. Soros is to hold governments accountable in countries that lack civil institutions. It has to be a bitter irony that he sees the United States, the long-time home of many such institutions, in serious danger of ceasing to be an open society, given the increasingly manipulative and deceptive public discourse.

He was an early and aggressive backer of Barack Obama apparently in the belief that the then presidential candidate would stop the dangerous trend. Now he is disappointed. Continue reading

Berlin on Hayek

by Chidem Kurdas

Reading a volume of Isaiah Berlin’s letters – Enlightening Letters 1946-1960,  edited by Henry Hardy and Jennifer Holmes (London: Chatto & Windus, 2009) – I came across a puzzling comment on Friedrich Hayek.

It is not obvious that Berlin and Hayek, both of them critics of communism and in particular of the Soviet Union, belong to diametrically opposite political camps. But apparently Berlin thought so. Then he read Hayek’s 1952 book, The Counter-Revolution of Science. Continue reading

“The Stimulus is Too Small”: Channeling Karl Popper

by Mario Rizzo

 

Paul Krugman is now saying  that the Obama prototype of a stimulus plan is not enough. Other, more cautious economists are saying there is no economic evidence that it will be enough. We don’t even have a Congressional bill yet but macroeconomists like to think in aggregates and the specific content of the plan is not, I gather, all that important.

 

Now, of course, this is probably just ordinary academic uncertainty. Yet from the perspective of the philosophy of science, this seems like the beginning of what Karl Popper and Hans Albert, philosophers who emphasized the importance of rational criticism of theories, called an “immunizing strategy.” (See Karl R. Popper, The Logic of Scientific Discovery, Chapter. 1.)   

 

For example, suppose the fiscal stimulus policy is perceived to have failed. Has the theory been refuted? “No” will be the likely answer because the stimulus was not large enough. But if we are indeed out of the realm of the available evidence then such a statement is purely ad hoc – a fancy term for an expedient intellectual invention. Today’s Keynesians are getting nervous. They are either at the threshold of their greatest victory or at the precipice of their greatest failure. They want to be prepared for either.

 

Let’s see what happens.