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George Soros to pump $50 million into countering "free-market zealotry"

This will be interesting:

[F]inancier George Soros is announcing a $50 million effort to speed things along. This week Soros is gathering some of the leading practitioners of the market-skeptic school, who were marginalized during the era of "free-market fundamentalism," among them Nobelists Joseph Stiglitz, George Akerlof, Michael Spence, and Sir James Mirrlees. He's also creating an "Institute for New Economic Thinking" to make research grants, convene symposiums, and establish a journal, all in an effort to take back the economics profession from the champions of free-market zealotry who have dominated it for decades, and to correct the failures of decades of market deregulation. Soros hopes matching funds will bring the total endowment up to $200 million.

That's a lot of money. It's so much money, in fact, that it's hard to imagine how an economics think tank will use it, although Soros may be imagining more of an endowment model that seeds the "Institute for New Economic Thinking" far into the future.

Either way, this brings up something I've been wondering about: where's the new conservative infrastructure? After their defeat in 2004, Democrats funneled a lot of cash into new institutions. Media Matters, the Democracy Alliance, the Center for American Progress, and many other fixtures of the contemporary landscape are products of that manic period of rebuilding. Previous to that, Democrats tried to respond to their defeats in the 80s with groups like the Democratic Leadership Council that tried to moderate the party's ideology.

But Republicans have actually suffered much worse defeats in recent years, and not done much about them. There's not been a concerted effort to moderate the party's ideology or rectify perceived structural imbalances. They seem to be hoping their opponents get weaker rather than pursuing a strategy to make their party stronger. Insofar as new structures are emerging, they seem, like the Tea Parties, to be conservative rather than Republican, and as likely to tear the party apart as make it whole.

By Ezra Klein  |  October 29, 2009; 8:05 AM ET
 
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Comments

i've always thought it a tad hypocritical of Soros and his moveon.org movement. He bashes the free-market system in which he made (and continues to make) billions. I understand and agree with him that we need serious regulation in EVERY industry but I also worry that his philosophies take the pendulum and swing it too far the other way. I also think that derivatives and certain market based transactions need to be outlawed as against the common good but I'm fearful of this administration going again too far the other way. I think the fact that banks aren't offering loans is a way of them saying "we don't trust how you're going to treat us so we're holding our cards close to the vest and will continue to do so". The government can't force lenders to lend so they need to have a better relationship with the industry if this economy is actually going to recover.

Posted by: visionbrkr | October 29, 2009 8:25 AM | Report abuse

Let not your heart be troubled. WSJ is there to give the american political right all the guidance it needs on all things economic, and Bill Kristol's Weekly Standard is there to argue for eternal warmongering and saber rattling throughout the world. They dont need no stinkin think tanks!

Posted by: zeppelin003 | October 29, 2009 8:45 AM | Report abuse

The Republicans wont rebuild their institutions and moderate their platform unless Democrats are able to actually implement a progressive agenda. Americans typically resist change until they are desperate. The Democrats weren't crushed in the 2004 election, but the Bush-Cheney policies and the fact that many of them were implemented made progressives extremely desperate. Conservatives built their institutions because of the successful adoption of liberal policies from 1960 thru the late 70's. Nothing that was passed under Clinton really threatened Conservatives. However, if Obama is successful, Republicans will seriously consider rebuilding their institutions.

Posted by: marvyT | October 29, 2009 8:48 AM | Report abuse

""It's so much money, in fact, that it's hard to imagine how an economics think tank will use it,""

I cannot possibly imagine that there is a shortage of economics graduate students who are looking for jobs.

""He bashes the free-market system in which he made (and continues to make) billions.""

This is basically a typical whine of class snobs: angry and lashing out that liberals cannot use money "appropriately" for things like supporting the Republican party and funding violent right-wing talking points propaganda mills and bashing poor people. And when it's coming from the decidedly unwealthy, it's reflective of what Matt Taibbi calls the "peasant mentality"-- slavish devotion and loyalty to wealthy malefactors while lashing out at those outside the "tribe" to blame for their own problems.

In any case, I don't see visionbrkr throwing a temper tantrum about the "hypocritical" founding fathers who became so successful under the British Empire but ran around advocating in favor of a republican form of government.

Posted by: tyromania | October 29, 2009 8:54 AM | Report abuse

I should also note that this is a drop in the bucket compared to the billions in assets used and held by right-wing propaganda mills:

http://www.mindfully.org/Reform/2004/Republican-Propaganda1sep04.htm

Posted by: tyromania | October 29, 2009 8:55 AM | Report abuse

tyromania,

you can call me names all you like but honestly, I see that folks like Limbaugh and Beck have been appropriately marginalized as right wing zealots. Maybe many in America are duped by their thinking and I'm not realizing that which I should but I honestly don't take them seriously. I watch CNN. I don't watch Fox from the right or MSNBC from the left. In fact someone on here had the audacity to say that MSNBC wasn't liberal. I shouldn't say that I don't watch them because I do watch them but I watch them with an eye to know that they have their agendas and I make up my mind on what is right and what is wrong myself.


Oh and it wasn't a "temper tantrum". It was a statement. Nothing more, nothing less.

Posted by: visionbrkr | October 29, 2009 9:12 AM | Report abuse

you also need to realize that conservatism is a spectrum (just like liberalism is). Not everyone that considers themselves conservative believes everything that the farthest right believes. Just like liberals don't always believe everything that far left believers do. If you paint everyone into a nice tidy little box you're only showing how much you don't understand the mindset.

Posted by: visionbrkr | October 29, 2009 9:19 AM | Report abuse

Because its much better to make money through corrupt political connections. All resources and opportunities should be allocated through politics. Power to the people! What?

Posted by: fallsmeadjc | October 29, 2009 9:41 AM | Report abuse

"Countering free market zealotry" is not really a job for a think tank. It's a marketing campaign. Soros thinks that because his guy won the White House it is a validation of his ideas. What ideas?

Posted by: bmull | October 29, 2009 9:52 AM | Report abuse

"I also think that derivatives and certain market based transactions need to be outlawed as against the common good but I'm fearful of this administration going again too far the other way."


Outlawing all derivatives and certain "market based transactions" are WAY MORE "too far" and crazy than any of the minor changes to the financial system Obama would ever initiate. To me, it seems like very little will change (sadly), and they're already filling up the punch bowl again on Wall St.

I don't know what it is about your tone Visionbrkr but you come across someone who'd write something like, "Although I support Obama's plans for the FEMA camps, I'm a little worried about the civilian army he is raising."

Your prose just OOZES this weird sense of crazy wingnut logic trying to masquerade as what wingnuts think liberalism is for the sole purposes of concern trolling. Your comments always sound disingenuous and oddly creepy.

But back to the Soros thing...where does this econ grad student sign up?

Posted by: nylund | October 29, 2009 9:53 AM | Report abuse

nylund,

alright maybe "outlawed" was a little too outlandish. Would you prefer "strongly regulated" as my view?

And I love how you put words in my mouth. i'm not Anti-Obama at all. I like a lot of the things he does, I just think he goes too far sometimes. I think it was absolutely wonderful what he did last night (the overnight trip to see the fallen troops being brought home and consoling their families in Delaware).

How you take my points (mostly on healthcare as it is an industry I know a lot about) as wingnut trolling is just beyond me. Have we ever met or are you just taking your views on me by my postings on a blog post?


Actually what's creepy is that you seemingly follow what i post and have a "profile" it seems on me.

Posted by: visionbrkr | October 29, 2009 10:08 AM | Report abuse

and you're right, I don't understand liberals as well as I should. That's part of the reason that I come on here to try to understand their point of view. Would you rather I spend my time on Limbaugh's, Beck's or other right wing nuts' sites or am I better for trying to understand the liberal mindset and how it works.

Posted by: visionbrkr | October 29, 2009 10:16 AM | Report abuse

visionbrkr, frothing about how someone is a "hypocrite" because he has the audacity to be wealthy while not conforming to your right-wing beliefs is, pretty much, the definition of a tantrum.

"" "Countering free market zealotry" is not really a job for a think tank. It's a marketing campaign.""

While there are some legitimate think tanks that do good work (Brookings and CSIS, for example), many think tanks _are_ basically clearing-houses for research and the publicization of research that fits the ideological goals of its funders. What are Cato, Heritage, and AEI marketing campaigns for the ideologies of their backers?

I suspect that Soros is going the think-tank direction on this one because university economics departments lean very heavily in the neo-liberal (ie, "free market conservative fundamentalist") direction (at least in my experience).

Posted by: tyromania | October 29, 2009 10:39 AM | Report abuse

tyromania,

exactly how do you get "frothing" from the below statement I made?

i've always thought it a tad hypocritical of Soros and his moveon.org movement. He bashes the free-market system in which he made (and continues to make) billions.


A tad means to me slightly. I didn't say massively hypocritical. It doesn't mean he doesn't have valid points and I said he does.


I see that as "questioning" rather than frothing. Sounds like you have some pre-conceived notions about me. To me its kind of like our friend Charlie Rangel. He's crusading now against tax cheats (and rightly so) yet he is one himself. Same can be said for the far right Jimmy Swaggert for example that preached monogamy and yet cheated on his wife with a prostitute. Don't talk the talk unless you can walk the walk. That goes for conservatives as well as liberals.

Posted by: visionbrkr | October 29, 2009 10:59 AM | Report abuse

The irony of a multi-billionaire currency trader dontaing millions to denounce "free-market zealotry" is almost unbelievable.

Posted by: tomtildrum | October 29, 2009 11:27 AM | Report abuse

If that $50M is an endowment, that's what, $2-3M a year? That would fund a bunch of professors' off hours and a pile of graduate students, and probably a journal or two. But if Soros is going to affect the profession in a serious way he's going to have to offer career paths.

Posted by: paul314 | October 29, 2009 11:37 AM | Report abuse

tomtildrum..... bingo!

Posted by: BeatKing11 | October 29, 2009 11:41 AM | Report abuse

visionbrkr--"I also think that derivatives and certain market based transactions need to be outlawed as against the common good but I'm fearful of this administration going again too far the other way."

What is your evidence for this? In fact, there has been no real regulatory reform made yet and by all signs, the changes from Obama will be cautious and incremental, which is a big mistake given the 24 trillion dollars it cost to keep the fat cats on wall street in their yachts and caviar.

Where is the financial transactions tax to recoup some of the money treasury has been using to buy the crap that wall street doesn't want now? Where is the regulation that shrinks banks so that they are not too big to fail? Where is the glass-stegal act that would keep investment banking separate from the lending and deposit functions of conventional banks?

...crickets....

"I think the fact that banks aren't offering loans is a way of them saying "we don't trust how you're going to treat us so we're holding our cards close to the vest and will continue to do so". The government can't force lenders to lend so they need to have a better relationship with the industry if this economy is actually going to recover."

This is what is called by progressive economists a capital strike. If the government can order workers back to work if their work stoppage threatens the US, why can't the government force bankers to lend money after we saved their sorry asses from their own stupidity and seemingly limitless greed?

"I see that folks like Limbaugh and Beck have been appropriately marginalized as right wing zealots."

Marginalized??? Is that why repiglicans have to grovel before his fat ass if they dare cross him. Did you hear Steve King yesterday, defending Limbaugh's pernicious racism? What currently elected Repiglican has called out Rush on his many racist, homophobic, anti-woman, anti-worker, anti-poor people diatribes?

...crickets...

"I don't watch Fox from the right or MSNBC from the left. In fact someone on here had the audacity to say that MSNBC wasn't liberal."
False equivalency, in spades! MSNBC has a 3 hour morning show featuring a conservative republican and his minions. Does Fox have a similar show? Maddow and Oberman (to a lesser extent) are meticulous in researching their stories and broadcast corrections and retractions if they make a mistake. Did you hear Limbaugh on the fake Obama "thesis"??? "I stand by the story because I know that is what Obama thinks."

Posted by: srw3 | October 29, 2009 12:08 PM | Report abuse

visionbrkr---an article on false equivalency of Fox and MSNBC...

http://theplumline.whorunsgov.com/political-media/meme-alert-msnbc-left-wing-equivalent-of-fox-proves-white-house-hypocrisy/

Fox is rightwing propoganda during its news and opinion sections. The news operations focus on stories that demean Obama and support right wing causes. Note the coverage of the tea party protests (where fox reporters were caught orchestrating the crowd to be louder for the cameras) and the lack of coverage of the gay rights march in the same place and with (about) the same number of people but there was not the day long coverage. They didn't even send a camera crew to film. that's fair and balanced...

Posted by: srw3 | October 29, 2009 12:23 PM | Report abuse

"The irony of a multi-billionaire currency trader dontaing millions to denounce "free-market zealotry" is almost unbelievable."

Post of the year!

Posted by: kingstu01 | October 29, 2009 1:04 PM | Report abuse

*Post of the year!*

I really don't get why this is "ironic." Can you explain it? Are all liberal activists obligated to be poor or something? I've really never quite gotten the ire towards Soros or, for that matter, Michael Moore, using the argument that they're rich.

Posted by: constans | October 29, 2009 1:23 PM | Report abuse

While I disagree with visionbrkr on many things, I think some folks here are way too hard on him. Calling Soros a hypocrite for spending $50 million to endow an anti-free-market think tank after making billions of dollars as a currency trader while is, IMHO, completely in-bounds. People come to this blog to hear other people's point of view and learn new things. Personal insults are out of line, and people making them should stop. I have never seen visionbrkr personally insult another commentator unless first insulted himself (although I haven't been reading this blog all that long so maybe I'm wrong). Personally, I'm glad we have people hear willing to write about things from a more conservative point of view. This is especially true when it comes to health policy, which is something visionbrkr knows a great deal about. When it comes to monetary policy and banking regulation, though, I have to say visionbrkr, the views you expressed in this particular thread are incredibly naive. The notion that banks are not lending because they don't "trust," what the government is going to do is not really a verifiable claim. A much more plausible reason why bank lending is down so much is because Federal reserve policy has STRONGLY encouraged banks to hold onto their excess liquidity. The most prominent of these policies I can think of off the top of my head is the Fed started paying banks interest on reserves shortly after the banking crisis began (equal to the overnight rate, which means the Fed is creating money and then paying banks interest to sit on it).

Visionbrkr should be more careful when commenting about topics outside of his specialty, but it is a mistake we all sometimes make. Just last week I made this mistake talking about insurance company profits and ab1 rightly slapped me down. But he did it in a respectful and informative manner. Liberal critics of visionbrkr should extend the same courtesy.

Posted by: nklein1553 | October 29, 2009 1:24 PM | Report abuse

*Visionbrkr should be more careful when commenting about topics outside of his specialty, but it is a mistake we all sometimes make.*

If everyone did that, the blogosphere would be 99% empty.

Posted by: constans | October 29, 2009 1:31 PM | Report abuse

constans,

It doesn't have to do with the amount of money Soros has, it's how he made it. Currency speculation and other types of speculative endeavors are pretty much the epitome of a free-market profession. Soros has benefited (to the tune of billions of dollars) from an unregulated environment, but now he suddenly sees the light and wants stricter regulation. That doesn't mean he's wrong and markets shouldn't be regulated; it's just it's a bit hypocritical.

Posted by: nklein1553 | October 29, 2009 1:38 PM | Report abuse

Maybe we should work to populate the blogosphere with a more informed public then. There's got to be a way to do that without insults.

Posted by: nklein1553 | October 29, 2009 1:45 PM | Report abuse

What I noticed is that visionbrkr has not responded to my respectfully submitted questions about his post....No name calling, but a lot of factual rebuttals.

Posted by: srw3 | October 29, 2009 2:03 PM | Report abuse

nklein,

you are correct that I should stay within the "bounds" of what I know most about and sometimes I extend outside of that which I specialize in. I had a strong feeling about Soros which is why I chose to post on it and then i pulled back somewhat to not draw liberal ire (which I got anyway!)

I find it interesting as you correctly point out that I mention that I was very "light" on the subject and got slammed while other "conservative" commentators on here went way past me and have yet to be slapped by a liberal commentator. I guess I have a target on my back and that's fine.

The reason i like this blog so much honestly is that while everyone has very strong opinions, they're normally very well informed on them.

Oh and constans, you were almost being nice to me. You'd better watch that!

srw3,

as i've said many times before i'll gladly admit when i'm wrong and have done so and will continue to do so. as far as the financial reforms I've said i'm for them but fear they could go too far but like health reform, it needs to happen and should have happened long ago.

as far as the left wing/right wing that's one person's opinion. YOu linked to a blogger. whose to say he's not liberal? (i don't know one way or the other if he is or if he isn't) Are you saying campbell Brown isn't allowed her opinion on the subject or just that her view is slanted? Is she really conservative in your eyes if that's the case?

Posted by: visionbrkr | October 29, 2009 2:07 PM | Report abuse

srw3,

I really like your capital strike analogy. You're completely right; the Obama people aren't in the least bit interested in breaking this strike, they are actually PAYING the banks to continue it!

Posted by: nklein1553 | October 29, 2009 2:13 PM | Report abuse

srw3,

sorry for the delay. I actually do have to do a little bit of work from time to time. When i've seen it, I've NEVER backed away from either admitting that I'm wrong or defending my position. That's not who I am.

I'll stick more to healthcare topics most likely in the future. But when I do, and i do it respectfully wanting the right type of change (ie cost containment) I'd hope you'd also give me the same respect as to not dismiss it out of hand.

Oh to that extent I've also advocated (while not on here specifically) that insurance brokers like myself should be paid a flat fee per employee as opposed to a percentage of premium. Paying insurance agents as a percentage of premium raises costs overall. There are too many people out there that do what I do and that's one of the reasons why. I'd respectfully ask what you do (some won't tell me) and ask you if you'd take a sizable reduction in your take home pay.

The funny thing that I noticed on here over the last several weeks is many people that post comments on here are bloggers themselves (its like a nice little cult group). Cult group is probably the wrong word as it has a somewhat negative connotation and it shouldn't.

alright i've said my peace. i'm done now on the subject, back to healthcare.

Posted by: visionbrkr | October 29, 2009 2:17 PM | Report abuse

*Maybe we should work to populate the blogosphere with a more informed public then*

Blogs (and their comment sections) as we know it would not exist were it not for the willingness of people to offer their opinions on areas way outside their specialties.

Posted by: constans | October 29, 2009 2:21 PM | Report abuse

I'm not saying people shouldn't comment on things outside of their field of expertise. If that were the case I couldn't post at all (I'm a public school teacher, I don't really consider myself to have a field of expertise). I just think people should express themselves carefully when they are posting about something they don't know all that much about. Like I said before, I found visionbrkr's original comment about Soros to be completely acceptable. Granted, it would be nice if visionbrkr could more precisely characterize what he thinks "going to far," means in regard to financial regulation, but that doesn't mean people should jump down his throat every time he makes a vague, or even misguided comment. My own strategy when commenting about things I don't really know much about is to frame my comments as questions. I also tend to use phrases like "seems to me," and "in my opinion." Even when I'm wrong I expect courtesy, and I especially appreciate it when people who know more about a topic than I do take the time to explain their point of view to me in simple language. Commentators visionbrkr, ab1, and wisewon have done that for me on a few occasions, so I feel like they should be afforded the same level of courtesy.

Posted by: nklein1553 | October 29, 2009 2:50 PM | Report abuse

nklein1553,

thank you. unfortunately courtesty around here is not necessarily afforded to everyone. I've sadly found that. I hope that when srw3 sees my post from 2:17pm that he'll admit his/her error and that I wasn't ducking the question.

Posted by: visionbrkr | October 29, 2009 4:06 PM | Report abuse

Why do so many commenters here leave off the zealotry/fundamentalism when saying what Soros is planning on doing. Anti-free market fundamentalism is aimed at removing the intentional conflation of markets and hypothetical free markets, which has been the stock and trade of mainstream economics for at least the last 30 years.

Posted by: williamcross1 | October 29, 2009 9:02 PM | Report abuse

srw3,

Wow my friend. If I was a pessimistic person I'd say that you were as two faced as Soros. You called me out for "no response" in less than two hours and now a good 9+ hours later when I explained that I was working there's no mea-culpa on your part to at the very least say, "My bad, I shouldn't have called you out for not answering me yet." Maybe you're just busy too. I'll wait.

constans,

as for Soros wealth has nothing to do with it. its the fact that his wealth came from (and still does) from that which he slams. Its like a prostitute screaming for celibacy by all, a violent criminal asking for stronger gun laws. Still don't get it? Maybe you need to take your blinders off.

Oh wait, I'll get one that will work for you. A President who lies about WMD's. Is that better? Well that's not quite the same but I figure I've got a better shot with you agreeing with that.

Posted by: visionbrkr | October 29, 2009 11:56 PM | Report abuse

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