Public policy experts have been known to refer to pernicious social problems as wicked problems. Wicked problems are referred to as such because they are so difficult to understand and approach that their solutions seem incredibly far out of reach. The wicked problems that continue plague many societies across the globe are things such as systemic poverty, the marginalization of vulnerable groups, barriers to accessible and effective healthcare and political stability. No matter how hard public policy experts, civil society groups and governments try to combat these issues they always seem to sustain themselves. One daunting wicked problem that seems to persist no matter what is the question of how to create and sustain stable societies where people, regardless of their backgrounds, have a fair shot at having a quality of life and living safe and peaceful lives. If you were to ask philanthropist and businessman George Soros how he would solve this wicked problem he might tell you that embracing the concept of an open society is the solution.
According to the political magazine The Atlantic, George Soros first became enamored with the concept of an open society when he was exposed to the terminology by reading a book by the philosopher Karl Popper that is known as The Open Society and Its Enemies. According to a piece that Soros wrote for The Atlantic, Karl Popper viewed the open society as a particular form of “social organization.” A principle that is core to Karl Popper’s concept of the open society is understanding that people have differences and that there must be entities in society that enable those people to cooperate and to exist beside each other without turbulent conflict. These entities are responsible for protecting these people’s civil liberties.
Soros contrasted the open society with that of the societies that have been created by totalitarian leaders wherein a particular group claims to have access to an ultimate truth and uses force and repression to force that truth on other people. The concept of an open society is the best way to create a world that is safer and more just for all of the people living in it. Because of this George Soros decided to that would use the wealth that he had earned in the world of finance to start a philanthropic institution to help promote the creation of open societies. Today that organization is known as the Open Society Foundations and Soros has given away more than $12 billion of his wealth away through these institutions.
George Soros understands what it is like to live in a society that persecutes people simply for their differences. According to the Open Society Foundations website he spent the early years of life as a young Jewish boy in Hungary when it was being occupied by Nazis in the 1940s. During that time half a million Jewish people in Hungary were murdered by the Nazis. Soros’ family was able to escape this threat by hiding their identities and he was eventually able to leave Hungary and find safety in the United Kingdom where he attended the London School of Economics.