George Soros

The End Game?

Yesterday, Walter Russell Mead wrote about and quoted George Soros on the subject of Europe and its economic fate:

Regular readers know that while I disagree with George Soros on a number of points, I find him to be one of the keenest observers of world events. And of all the subjects on which George is brilliant, Europe is perhaps his best….

In a speech recently given in Trento, Italy, George lays out his vision of the crisis of the European Union and the prospects for its recovery….

The first third is a rehash of some basic concepts that George uses to distinguish between the social sciences and the natural sciences….

Once he’s worked through this concept, George turns his attention to what went wrong in Europe — and to what could be done about it. In a nutshell, he says that the Europe of the last twenty years was a kind of bubble: it was a “fantastic object” — something that was so alluring and attractive that people behaved as if it existed even though in fact it did not.

Now that the financial crisis (which George diagnoses as both a sovereign debt crisis like the third world debt crisis of 1982 and a banking crisis) is upon us….

And what does the world’s most successful financial investor thinks will actually happen?

But the likelihood is that the euro will survive because a breakup would be devastating not only for the periphery but also for Germany…  So Germany is likely to do what is necessary to preserve the euro – but nothing more. That would result in a eurozone dominated by Germany in which the divergence between the creditor and debtor countries would continue to widen and the periphery would turn into permanently depressed areas in need of constant transfer of payments. That would turn the European Union into something very different from what it was when it was a “fantastic object” that fired peoples imagination. It would be a German empire with the periphery as the hinterland.

Today, Mead writes:

After months upon months of fruitless back-and-forth over the Eurozone crisis, as Greece and then Spain brought the continent ever-closer to the brink of catastrophe, the signs of a coherent German policy are beginning to emerge. The Wall Street Journal reports:

Germany is sending strong signals that it would eventually be willing to lift its objections to ideas such as common euro-zone bonds or mutual support for European banks if other European governments were to agree to transfer further powers to Europe….

Unfortunately, the end result is still anything but foreordained. The French, for their part, have balked at the kind of loss of sovereignty over fiscal matters that the Germans are demanding here. And the fact that this kind of sweeping change would require the rewriting and re-ratification of scores of EU treaties means that no solution is immediately at hand, even if all of Europe’s leaders agree to a solution. It’s not at all clear that markets will give Europe the time its sclerotic political process needs to work through — and it’s even less clear that all the other EU countries will sign up for Germany’s new plan.

But a step forward is a step forward, and given the stakes, any sign of life from Europe’s political leadership is to be welcomed.

All may be for naught, however, because of the huge pile of indebtedness and obligations that the industrialized nations have accumulated. One financial expert, Raoul Pal, sees it this way:

…Pal expects a series of sovereign defaults, the “biggest banking crisis in world history”, and asserts that we don’t have many options to stop it.

Pal previously co-managed the GLG Global Macro Fund. He is also a Goldman Sachs alum. He currently writes for The Global Macro Investor, a research publication for large and institutional investors.

A note on the presentation; the last slide is not meant to suggest that we’re going back to the economic activity of 3000 years ago. It refers to the 3000 year old trade links between the nations along the Indian Ocean, which Mr. Pal believes will be the center of world’s opportunities. Just like the West 50 years ago, they have “…low debts, high savings and a young population”….

Read it and … panic? I link, you decide.

Related posts:
The Causes of Economic Growth
In the Long Run We Are All Poorer
Mr. Greenspan Doth Protest Too Much
A Short Course in Economics
Addendum to a Short Course in Economics
The Price of Government
The Price of Government Redux
The Mega-Depression
As Goes Greece
Ricardian Equivalence Reconsidered
The Real Burden of Government
The Illusion of Prosperity and Stability
Estimating the Rahn Curve: Or, How Government Inhibits Economic Growth
The Deficit Commission’s Deficit of Understanding
The Bowles-Simpson Report
The Bowles-Simpson Band-Aid
The Stagnation Thesis
Taxing the Rich
More about Taxing the Rich
America’s Financial Crisis Is Now
Money, Credit, and Economic Fluctuations
A Keynesian Fantasy Land
The Keynesian Fallacy and Regime Uncertainty
Why the “Stimulus” Failed to Stimulate
The “Jobs Speech” That Obama Should Have Given
Regime Uncertainty and the Great Recession
The Real Multiplier
Vulgar Keynesianism and Capitalism
Why Are Interest Rates So Low?
The Commandeered Economy
Stocks for the Long Run?
We Owe It to Ourselves
Stocks for the Long Run? (Part II)
Estimating the Rahn Curve: A Sequel
In Defense of the 1%
Bonds for the Long Run?
The Real Multiplier (II)
Lay My (Regulatory) Burden Down
The Burden of Government
Economic Growth Since World War II
More Evidence for the Rahn Curve

Soros the Bootlegger

In the preceding post I summarized Bruce Yandle’s theory of regulation, which Yandle calls “Baptists and Bootleggers.” The “Baptists” are well-meaning parties who want to protect the public from something that they, the “Baptists,” consider harmful. The “bootleggers” are parties (usually incumbent producers of a product or service) who stand to benefit from regulations that put make it difficult or impossible for competition to arise.

The “bootleggers” side of the equation is known as regulatory capture, which “occurs when a … regulatory agency created to act in the public interest instead advances the commercial or special interests that dominate the industry or sector it is charged with regulating.” Regulatory capture is a common phenomenon, and it should be a telling argument for deregulation. It isn’t, of course, because of the all-too-human tendency to believe that with the right people or party in charge of things, capture would vanish. Good luck with that.

Anyway, it seems that George Soros, in addition to his other sins, is a “bootlegger” par excellence. Michael Knox Beran, writing in City Journal (“Exposing the Elites“), begins with this:

In 1997 George Soros, writing in The Atlantic, declared: “The main enemy of the open society, I believe, is no longer the communist but the capitalist threat.”

The words marked the beginning of a decade and a half of plutocratic progressivism. In July 2003, AFL-CIO political director Steven Rosenthal conferred with some of America’s richest tycoons at El Mirador, Soros’s estate in Southampton, to figure out how to defeat George W. Bush. In August 2004, the president of the Service Employees International Union, Andy Stern—the “most important labor boss in America”—traveled to Aspen to plot strategy in a moneyed conclave that included savings and loan moguls Herbert and Marion Sandler, Progressive Insurance founder Peter Lewis, and businessman John Sperling. Warren Buffett, de facto chairman of the country’s billionaires’ club, endorsed the candidacy of presidential aspirant Barack Obama, while the Democracy Alliance, which Matthew Vadum and James Dellinger dub “Billionaires for Big Government,” bankrolled progressive groups like ACORN and the Center for American Progress.

Beran then explains this odd alliance of plutocrats and “progressives”:

Is there something novel in these alliances which, Demos scholar David Callahan observes, have brought some of the nation’s most notable elites together during the last decade to make common cause with some of the country’s most progressive leaders? Hardly: pacts between munificent plutocrats and progressive reformers are one of the oldest tricks in oligarchy’s playbook….

[Henry] James’s and [Lionel] Trilling’s belief that social pity conceals an unacknowledged desire for power finds corroboration in the behavior of today’s elites, who in promoting the ostensibly virtuous cause of social reform are making a shrewd investment in their own continued dominance. Much of today’s big money was made during the extraordinary period of market liberalization that began around 1980 and came to an end with the crash of 2008. In pushing for a revival of the social state, tycoons who benefited from freer markets seek to limit market competition. If they succeed, they will forestall the emergence of a new generation of innovators, young Turks who would otherwise push the old Croesuses aside.

Classic “bootlegger” behavior. And Soros is a classic “bootlegger.” Ed Lasky, writing at American Thinker (“Soros Wins under Obama’s Energy Policies“), makes a good case that Soros is engaged in an act of massive “bootlegging”:

Are Barack Obama’s energy policies influenced by hedge fund billionaire and political patron, George Soros?

Abby Wisse Schacter, in the New York Post, notes that the Obama administration is clamping down on oil and gas development in America (both onshore and offshore) but is hell-bent on helping other nation’s tap their resources and points out that such help is being showered specifically in New Guinea, of all places.

It is starting to look obvious that the administration doesn’t want oil exploration and extraction at home while it is promoting the same exploration and extraction elsewhere — specifically Brazil and New Guinea….

Others have commented on Obama’s generosity regarding Brazil’s oil wealth and how those actions might help George Soros.

But focus should now turn towards the exotic land of New Guinea.

New Guinea? Why there? Why is he using our taxpayer dollars to help energy development in New Guinea? Hasn’t Secretary of the Interior Salazar bemoaned that his budget is just not large enough to process all the drilling permits submitted for tapping America’s oil and gas wealth? Why are he and the President devoting staff and money to help that undeveloped island nation?

Perhaps, he just wants to pay back George Soros, who was so instrumental in helping his election and the election of fellow Democrats across America. George Soros is the Patron Saint of the Democratic Party and was a very early and generous supporter of Barack Obama’s.  Soros even used a loophole in Federal campaign laws that allowed him and his family to give outsized donations to Barack Obama; he also fielded his army of so-called 527 groups (such as MoveOn.Org) to help Obama win the Oval Office.

Soros also stands to massively benefit if New Guinea becomes an energy power, especially if the American taxpayer subsidizes this development….

We won’t be the beneficiaries from the spending of tax dollars in New Guinea? We may actually be the losers from all that spending.

We have an abundance of natural gas (due to the tapping of our own shale gas reserves); we don’t need LNG. We have such vast amounts of natural gas that ports that were built to import LNG are being reconfigured to export LNG. Why is Obama spending our tax dollars to help a foreign competitor while increasing taxes exponentially on  American oil and gas companies? Why encourage New Guinea to develop its LNG capability to export to China, Japan, and other nations when we can and should export our own LNG to them?

But helping America’s oil and gas industry (and helping lower the energy bills for Americans) is not and never has been on the agenda of Barack Obama.

Obama’s rewarding his friends and donors, who no doubt will reciprocate by supporting him in 2012, is Cook County Politics writ large. That modus operandi has always guided him.

Does his agenda include helping further enrich George Soros, sugar daddy of the Democratic Party?

The “Baptists” in this case are environmentalists and their allies, who’d rather have Americans pay $10 for a gallon of gasoline than run the slightest risk of environmental damage. Well, that’s the excuse, anyway. The fact of the matter is that they’ve been duped into supporting a party that prizes power above all else, and multi-billionaires like George Soros, who profit from that power.

P.S. It’s also possible — and not unlikely — that Soros also has a bigger objective than making himself richer: