When George Soros gave the advocacy organization Human Rights Watch $100 million through his Open Society Foundations last week, it was a case of reality taking a page from fiction. Soros appears as a character in Ralph Nader's novel (yes, novel) Only The Superrich Can Save Us, having joined a pro-democracy, liberal cabal of seventeen multibillionaires convened by Warren Buffett. The "Meliorists" plot to "save America by enlivening the grass roots," and "shifting power from the few to the many," as Nader told me in an interview in 2009.
Soros is joined both in fiction and fact by fellow mega-billionaire philanthropist Warren Buffett in promoting the idea that those who have must devote a considerable portion of their resources -- as much as 50%, according to Buffett -- to bettering the world for the have-nots. Soros' gift, for example, is meant to internationalize the historic (and lately tarnished, Soros believes) American aspiration for human rights, by cultivating "a much broader constituency of foreign policymakers and philanthropists who embrace the notion that human rights should be observed universally."
$100 million is some serious change. It's the largest single gift ever from Soros, who seems to understand a core fact about social change: it takes money, and a lot of it, to bring it about.
This fact is also understood by the multi-billionaire Koch brothers, David and Charles. Despite their coy protestations against crack investigative reporter Jane Mayer's closely researched findings in a recent issue of the New Yorker showing how they fund and promote the Tea Party movement, it is well documented that the Kochs are the impetus and the money bags behind a host of that and other radical right-wing ideological campaigns, like the drive to get rid of social security and income taxes, exterminate environmental legislation and torpedo the recent health reform (now they are abetting the efforts to overturn it).
Alas, they've been a lot more successful than Soros in bringing about the social change they seek. The think tank they underwrite and micromanage, Americans for Prosperity, was instrumental in keeping comprehensive clean energy and climate legislation from being passed in the Senate, as Greenpeace and others have reported. Jane Mayer writes, "the group was also involved in the attacks on Obama's 'green jobs' czar, Van Jones, and waged a crusade against international climate talks."