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Soros: The Life and Times of a Messianic Billionaire by Michael T. Kaufman


Rating: (Recommended)


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Applied Philosophy

Readers who explore biographies to gain insight into human nature will enjoy reading Michael T. Kaufman’s presentation of Soros: The Life and Times of a Messianic Billionaire. Kaufman presents enough about Soros’ formative years to provide a foundation to explore how Soros became a successful fund manager and a dedicated philanthropist. If you’re approaching this book for insight into how Soros became successful and why, there are as many questions as answers in this book. Here’s a passage that explores a few perspectives:

“In the mid-seventies, Soros shunned newspaper interviews, was rarely cited in the financial press, and was never profiled. Still, smong Wall Street insiders his record of success was attracting interest and fascination.
Questions that began to be asked at that time have echoed and intensified over the next two decades as investors and ordinary citizens have sought to discover what accounted for Soros’s remarkable record. Did the key lie in the information he was able to glean, in his analytical skills, in the level of his desire – or was it hard towk and an uncanny streak of good luck? What were his most valuable attributes? Some who observed him even wondered whether he was a genius, one of those prodigiously talented people such as Mozart or Michael Jordan, whose achievements defy simple explanations.
Being analytical and extremely self-critical, Soros, too, has reviewed his past looking for explanations for his success. At various times he has cited his father’s tutelage, the experience of wartime risk, the postwar black market, and, of course, the transference of abstract philosophical concepts to financial markets. In his books, notably The Alchemy of Finance, he has documented money-making ventures as ‘real-time experiments,’ recording each step as if it were a laboratory procedure. But when his closest associates – those who have watched him operate for the longest time and from the closest vantage points – describe his special abilities, they stress that what sets him apart is not science so much as art – not pure rationality, but hard-to-grasp qualities of intuition. Robert Soros once observed:
’My father will sit down and give you theories to explain why he does this or that. But I remember seeing it as a kid and thinking, Jesus Christ, at least half of this is bullshit. I mean, you know the reason he changes his position on the market or whatever is because his back starts killing him. It has nothing to do with reason. He literally goes into a spasm, and it’s this early warning sign.
If you’re around him a long time, you realize that to a large extent he is driven by temperament. But he is always trying to rationalize what are basically his emotions. And he is living in a constant state of not exactly denial, but rationalization of his emotional state. And it’s very funny.’”

All his life, Soros tried to apply a philosophy that he was also refining and defining. Kaufman takes readers on a journey that observes and explores this complicated man, and creates the image of a complex and complicated character. Read Soros and scratch the surface about one of the most intriguing characters of our time.

Steve Hopkins, September 10, 2002


ă 2002 Hopkins and Company, LLC


The recommendation rating for this book appeared in the October 2002 issue of Executive Times


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