Underwriting Democracy is a reprint of the book that first appeared in 1991 as the former Soviet Union was spiraling into oblivion under Gorbachev. In the book, international speculator George Soros (best known for his successful run on the Pound a number of years ago) describes his activities in setting up foundations to encourage democracy in formerly communist countries, his attempts to advise on how to create new democracies in these countries and his philosophy for how thought and action can change the "normal" course of human events (which is to run to harmful extremes).
I have known a number of people who have funded foundations in formerly communist countries and the materials here ring true with what others have told me. There was usually an attempt to subvert the money for other purposes, a bureaucracy had to be avoided and there were many difficulties in putting funds to work in useful ways. Anyone thinking about encouraging governmental reform through nonprofit organizations can learn useful lessons from reading the first part of the book.
Throughout the book, Mr. Soros makes informed guesses about what will follow in each of the former communist countries. I was fascinated to see how well he understood the social and economic forces at the time . . . and how frequently he called the future quite accurately. Fortunately, his worst pessimism about what could happen in the former Soviet Union did not come to pass.
His attempts to help direct reform in the Soviet Union as an advisor come across as very optimistic, determined and naive. But sometimes Don Quixote can produce results where no one else can. He can at least feel good that he tried to help.
The least satisfactory part of the book is his explanation of the theory of reflexivity, which he describes in detail in part three. I think I followed the argument. It could have been stated much more simply and better explained with more government-related examples. The financial market examples are very clear.
At the end, I found myself wondering what nations could be doing today to encourage democracy in other areas where it has not done well. A number of helpful solutions are contained in a new book, Soft Power, which I encourage you to consider.