George Soros has made more money than almost anybody in the world. Although his hedge funds have moved markets and affected economic events, his more obvious influence stems from how he has used the platform his money and success provide. If you are a world-famous hedge fund manager and make $19 billion, people will listen to your opinions on finance, markets and politics. And if you pledge to give away most of that money, your worldview will become, on some level, a reality.
Mr. Soros, born in Budapest in 1930, survived Nazi occupation in World War II and the Stalinism that followed, fleeing in 1947 to start his remarkable career in finance. Observing how flaws in political systems become magnified by misinformation and lack of dissent, he applied this to financial systems, looking to profit from bubbles created from loops of flawed feedback.
Mr. Soros’s wealth gave him the opportunity to spread his views about finance and politics, in books, articles, interviews and essays appearing around the world. The lessons of his life, boiled down, concern support for democratic institutions, freedom of expression, dissemination of information, the right to dissent and other basic human rights. His money has followed his beliefs. He has donated $7 billion to Open Society Institute, a worldwide philanthropic organization supporting democratic government and human rights in 70 countries. (Mr. Soros is now the chairman.) Even when these initiatives go off the rails a bit—e.g., supporting Lynne Stewart, the lawyer who provided “material support for a terrorist conspiracy”—George Soros is not about writing a check from the comfort of his home, and has set an example for the modern activist philanthropist. He rolled up his sleeves to help Hungary transition from communism to capitalism, and his quarter-billion-dollar gift to Central European University in Budapest was the largest ever to a European college.
In New York, he has supported numerous institutions, most notably donating $30 million to the Young Men’s Initiative, started by Mayor Michael Bloomberg to fight the disparities slowing the advancement of young black and Latino men.
In 2011, Mr. Soros retired from fund management to focus on investing and dispersing his family fortune. After doing so much to remake the world, George Soros, now in his 80s, is actually stepping up his efforts.