This article was published by the McAlvany Intelligence Advisor on Monday, July 13, 2015:  

In making his case that socialism is like a cancer that, if not surgically excised from the body politic, will kill its host, Robert Welch told his audience:

For the whole point is that the Greek civilization was at least many centuries old – that is, many centuries removed from its pioneer days – before Pericles started it on the road to death, at the very height of its glory, through making the government increasingly responsible for its citizens, instead of its citizens being responsible for, and watchdogs over, their government.

Greek’s present Prime Minister, Alexis Tsipras, sounds awfully like Pericles. He had the audacity to urge his citizens to vote against terms of austerity to be imposed on his country by the in exchange for more bailout funds, and then trekked to Brussels to present an austerity package strikingly similar to what they just voted against! Both Pericles and Tsipras believed in the of the state to cure all ills, given sufficient power. Tsipras never made any secret that his goal was always to stay in the and the euro, never to leave them. So both he and the EU have the same goal in mind: turning Greece into a vassal state-run by an autocracy.

The occasion for Mr. Welch’s remarks was the founding of the John Birch Society in 1958, and those remarks became the group’s Blue Book. He called socialism a cancer:

An individual human being may die of any number of causes.


But if he escapes the fortuitous diseases, does not meet with any fatal accident, does not starve to death, does not have his give out, but lives in normal health to his three score years and ten and then keeps on living – if he escapes or survives everything else and keeps on doing so, he will eventually succumb to the degenerative disease of cancer.


For death must come, and cancer is merely death coming by stages, instead of all at once.


And exactly the same thing seems to be true of those organic aggregations of human beings, which we called cultures or civilizations.

Other observers of the present scene in Athens and Brussels are far more charitable about socialism’s dangers to the body politic. Winston Churchill called it “a philosophy of failure, the creed of ignorance, and the gospel of envy … its inherent virtue is the equal sharing of misery.”

Economist Mark Perry said Greece’s problems are all essentially economic:

Collectivism is unsustainable in the long run because it is a flawed theory. Socialism does not work because it is not consistent with fundamental principles of human behavior … it is a system that ignores incentives.

But it isn’t all economics. In his article about the failure of socialism published by the Foundation for Economic Education, Perry added:

By their failure to foster, promote, and nurture the potential of their people through incentive-enhancing institutions, centrally-planned economies deprive the human spirit of full development.

Socialism fails because it kills and destroys the human spirit….

’s Stephen Moore thinks the solution is simple: they’ve been spending beyond their means, thanks to the loans to them of other peoples’ money – which somehow they never thought they would have to pay back. So just stop it!

Greece needs much less socialism, and much more privatization. [It needs to] sell off government assets … cut tax rates … sell one of their islands to Disney … oust the communists who ruined this nation … get government spending down to 25 percent of GDP.

For George Selgin, ’s editor-in-chief, it’s even simpler: grow up and quit acting like “helpless hatchlings” waiting for another feeding from mother. Declaring, as did the New York Times, that the EU is “depriving” Greece of a fresh helping of euros, is, to Selgin,

to suggest that Eurozone members [including Greeks] are like so many helpless hatchlings, their outstretched beaks agape in anticipation of the ECB’s regular and solicitous regurgitations of liquid sustenance.

That’s exactly how the Eurocrats are treating Greece. After a nine-hour marathon meeting on Saturday in Brussels, they issued this, telling Greece in no uncertain terms to either pony up or saddle up:

There are serious concerns regarding the sustainability of Greek debt. This is due to the easing of policies [by Greece’s government] during the last twelve months.


Against this background … the Eurogroup stands ready to consider possible additional measures to smoothen Greece’s debt servicing path even further. These measures [however] … will be conditional upon full implementation of the measures to be agreed upon in a possible new arrangement….


In case no agreement could be reached, Greece should be offered swift negotiations on a “time out” from the euro area….

To pony up, Greeks would have to endure another round of tax increases, both personal and for their VAT, along with further cuts to pensions and perhaps even putting up state monuments as collateral.

But what if they can’t? What if the disease Welch described as a cancer has so compromised Greek character as to make recovery, even with major surgery, impossible? And if Greece cannot be saved, what about the American republic? Said Welch in 1958:

We have the cancerous disease of collectivism firmly implanted now, nevertheless. We have people feeling that nothing should be done by them, but everything for them by the government. Its disastrous ravages are quite far advanced.

It’s now 57 years – two generations – later. Is there any hope for our republic? Answered Welch:

Communism has its weaknesses, and the Communist conspiracy has its vulnerable points. We have many layers of strength not yet rotted by all of the infiltration and political sabotage to which we have been subjected.


Our danger is both immense and imminent; but it is not beyond the possibility of being overcome by the resistance that is still available. All we must find and build and use, to win, is sufficient understanding. Let’s create that understanding and build that resistance, with everything mortal men can put into the effort – while there still is time.

Thanks not only to Mr. Welch and his society but to hundreds of other educational groups, political action is beginning to turn the tide, at least at the margins. Consider how well-regarded the is today compared to 50 years ago. Consider how well-informed Americans are today compared to the three major news outlets in existence back then. Consider the “tipping point” study published in 2011 by Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute:

When the number of committed opinion holders is below 10 percent, there is no visible progress in the spread of ideas. It would literally take the amount of time comparable to the age of the universe for this size group to reach the majority.


Once that number grows above 10 percent, the idea spreads like flame.

Consider the influence a single elderly obscure former Texas congressman had when he was running for president (and against the establishment). In primary vote after primary vote, received well more than the 10 percent needed to “spread the flame.”

The fight to save the American republic from the cancer of collectivism is being joined, and that noisy minority is enjoying important victories. The American republic doesn’t have to become Greece nor to become known to historians as America’s Pericles.


George Selgin: “Deprived” My Foot

New York Times:         Euro, Envisioned as Force for Unity, Becomes Weapon in Greek Crisis

Irish Examiner: ECB pushes Greece closer to euro exit Report Finds Waste and Luxury in Greek Public Sector Euro zone demands more from Greece, delays decision on aid European leaders meet on whether to rescue Greece or cut it loose As Greece collapses, the big loser is socialism

Winston Churchill’s quote on Socialism Why Socialism Failed

Excerpt from the Blue Book of the John Birch Society (c. 1960) – the Cancer of Collectivism

Bio of George Selgin

Bio of Stephen Moore

Welch quote: “many layers of strength….”

Website of the John Birch Society Minority rules: Scientists discover tipping point for the spread of ideas

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