MANY pale arms are currently waving in alarm, at the prospect of a certain foreign business mogul interfering in the ways of dear old Britannia.

In times past, “Murdoch” was the name that would clarify the reference. But this time it’s the financier (and philosopher) George Soros.

Soros has committed half a million pounds to the operations of Best For Britain, an organisation set up by the anti-Brexiteer Gina Millar. With his support, they’re about to start agitating for a second referendum on the final deal.

But Soros’s intervention has highlighted the disturbing smears he receives from right-wing populists in America and Europe, and not least from his birth country Hungary.

Twenty years ago, Soros was lauded for his part in the fall of communism, using his vast finances to develop democratic cultures in those countries. Now, he’s rendered on billboards in Budapest in the noisome tropes of anti-Semitism.

Let the UK Brexit debate chunder on. I’m more interested in how Soros’ theories (and practice) have a complex bearing on the debate about the economics of an independent Scotland, as opened up by the Sustainable Growth Commission document this last week.

Why complex? Because while Soros’ social theories might actually help that debate develop, his financial practice presents one of the toughest challenges to a Scottish nation-state.

You may remember that Soros (as is his wont) made a few public interventions into the 2014 indyref – and they begin to illustrate the complexities I’m talking about.

He generally didn’t approve of the Yes case, as it was then presented. A “sterling zone” got the thumbs down. For Soros, “the crisis of the Euro currency ... demonstrated all the pitfalls of entering into a currency union without a political union”.

Soros also thought a separate Scottish currency was “inefficient and potentially dangerous… Currencies can be attacked and speculated against. And when you have a weak currency, positions can be taken.”

Did you feel a little chill there? You should. Soros’ philanthropic billions have been amassed by “positions taken” against national currencies – famously speculating against the pound on Black Wednesday in 1992, which caused the UK to exit the Exchange Rate Mechanism. Soros’s Quantum Fund also bet $1bn against the Thai baht, just as its wobbly economy was becoming unpegged to the US dollar. The bank eventually devalued its currency, and Soros cashed in.

It’s predators like Soros that haunt the Sustainable Growth Commission document, and undergird its desire to maintain as much monetary continuity as possible in the early years of indy. Funnily enough, the Commission hasn’t entertained Soros’ other bit of 2014 advice – which was that an independent Scotland “should seek membership of the European Central Bank [ie, line-up to join the Euro]”.

It’s perhaps fair to say that Soros is not a huge fan of the national form of governance, economic or otherwise. (Although to be fair, he did say in 2014 that a Remain-voting Scotland “unwillingly excluded from Europe”, while stuck inside a Brexited UK, meant there could be “just cause for Scots to call for a new referendum … Scotland will be in a different position – one that could legitimise a split”).

Soros’ life story provides the explanation. One of his earliest memories is of his father rigorously planning their Jewish family and friends’ escape from a Nazi-occupied Hungary in 1944. Self-consciously employed and educated across two continents, Soros is now an ideal hate figure for the European and American alt-right. Their politicians and propagandists often tar him with the “rootless cosmopolitan” tropes from the fascist past.

Soros has invested tens of billions in everything from liberal (or “Open Society”) educational institutions across Eastern Europe, to the globally-oriented first-term Barack Obama. He has funded campaigns for human rights, the rule of law, education, public health, Roma and LGBT rights and a free media, across the world.

His support for the Best For Britain campaign – aimed at halting a Brexit process that he sees as damaging to European unity and progress, whether economic or cultural – is consistent with his generally Olympian viewpoint.

Small-minded national governments must recognise a serious mismatch, says Soros. On one side, the powers of technology, networks and markets that straddle the world. On the other, the weakness of the political processes, at the global level, that might harness and moderate their (and indeed, his own) power. Functional forms of world governance is Soros’ logical end-point – which is why the nativist populists are after him.

At present, the world does not lack for tycoons dispensing grandiloquent advice. Yet Soros has always been more intellectually interesting than most of them. He has developed his own theories about human action from the philosophy of Karl Popper, who was his teacher at one point.

Simply put, Soros believes that the difference between natural science and social science is that the former is “fallibilistic” – meaning that its hypotheses are set up to be disproved by a better set of facts. Reality isn’t revealed, but advanced upon by the scientific community. Yet reality is still there – a testable, measurable thing.

This is not the same with our ideas about our societies or economies. Why? Because the “facts” they refer to are human beings, who – unlike atoms or particles – have minds and opinions of their own. How we respond to a human “reality” (say, the economic performance of a business) can itself shape that reality.

Soros calls this process “reflexivity” – and he says it explains almost all of his stock-market success. And much else.

Unlike the economic orthodoxy of the last 50 years, Soros doesn’t assume an underlying balance (or “equilbrium”) to economics. He always expects cycles of boom and bust. These are situations where investors get enthusiastic about and overestimate certain stocks and industries, above and beyond their “actual” performance. Soros detects this process, understands its arc, entering and exiting his investments at the right time (ideally just before the peak collapses).

The point is that Soros believes this reflexivity – this tendency for humans’ passions about reality to morph, accelerate and intensify “the facts”, in a way that is quite different from science – applies everywhere (and certainly beyond economics).

This is why he’s the most socially meddlesome of moguls. Soros believes that humans make up and imagine a large chunk of their reality, everyday. And that those who don’t consciously practice this, are leaving the space open for those that do.

It’s also why Soros urges more active regulation of financial markets, while at the same time exploiting their weakness. He assumes that everyone, regulator and speculator, should be an active player in the game – in order for the game to healthily continue.

Which connects us back to our gathering debate about Scottish economic performance. What is the role of “reflexivity” in Scotland’s economy and society? To my mind, what it means is that the range of detailed public debates we’re about to have over our economic future are, in themselves, the very point.

It would be the worst outcome if the indy movement came to some “settled” position on, say, currency arrangements, or deficit reduction. Something that came to seem like a fixed plan, advocated by a leading party, defensible to the last ditch. Some wags have called this “Shush for Indy”.

Soros’ most consistent advice, across the writings I’ve read, is that societies and economies prosper when their deliberations are transparent, diverse and energetic. His vision of the “open society” is one in which there is vigorous dialogue about the ways ahead, conducted by confident citizens, under conditions of free speech and accessible media. That’s Scotland at its best, isn’t it?

I’ll confess to finding Soros an odd figure. He uses stock markets to test his theories about dynamic human nature – then invests his profits to remedy social situations that have often been smashed to bits by those same market processes.

Philanthropists, eh? I’ll stick with the citizenry. But let us all be as “reflexive” – meaning super-aware of the consequences of our ideas – as the man from Budapest.