Why don't more people get it?
That's the question dagny asked me at the conclusion of last night's inaugural Liberty on the Rocks, Flatirons Chapter meeting. I could do no better than my universal explanation for why so many people make so many bad choices, Ayn Rand's admonishment that, "Reason is not automatic. Those who deny its existence cannot be swayed by it."
Today I was given a much more precise answer to the same question by a guest of 850 KOA's Mike Rosen. Michael Prell is on a promo tour for his 2011 book, "Underdogma: How America's Enemies Use Our Love for the Underdog to Trash American Power." Prell's premise is that our country's electoral preference for collectivist policies stems not from ignorance, but from a healthy American proclivity to root for the underdog. From the Amazon book review:
David versus Goliath, the American Revolutionaries, "The Little Engine That Could," Team USA’s "Miracle on Ice," the Star Wars Rebel Alliance, Rocky Balboa, the Jamaican bobsled team and the meek inheriting the Earth.
Everyone, it seems, loves an underdog. Why is that?
We begin life tiny and helpless, at the mercy of those who are bigger and more powerful than us: parents and guardians who tell us what to eat, what to wear, how to behave (even when to sleep and wake up). From childhood into adulthood, we’re told what to do by those who wield more power—our parents, teachers, bosses government. So naturally, we have a predisposition to resent the overdogs and root for the little guy.
But this tendency, which international political consultant and human rights activist Michael Prell calls “underdogma,” can be very dangerous – both to America and to the world at large.
In Underdogma, Prell, who has worked world leaders including Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, the Australian and Canadian prime ministers and the Dalai Lama, explores our love/hate relationship with power within our culture and our politics. Underdogma explains seeming mysteries such as why:
•Almost half of Americans blamed President Bush for the attacks of 9/11, even while the American media described the architect of these attacks as “thoughtful about his cause and craft” and “folksy.”
•Gays and lesbians protest those who protect gay rights (America, Israel), while championing those who outlaw and execute homosexuals (Palestine).
•Environmentalists focus their rage on America, even though China is the largest emitter of greenhouse gases.
•The United Nations elevates countries such as Sudan to full membership on the UN’s Commission on Human Rights, even as the ethnic cleansing of Darfur proceeds.
Tracing the evolution of this belief system through human history—ancient Greece to Marxism to the dawn of political correctness—Prell shows what continuing with this collective mindset means for our future. While America and its president increasingly exalt the meek and apologize for their power, America’s competitors and enemies are moving in a different direction. China is projected to overtake the U.S. economically by 2027 and is ready to move into the position of hegemon, and radical Islamists are looking to extend their global territory, taking any sign of weakness as a chance to attack.
America must return to its founding spirit, and underdogma must stop now—our nation depends on it.
This is a fascinating explanation that I'm inclined to take at face value until proven otherwise. However, I don't think I'm on board with the conclusion that underdogma "must stop now." I called this tendency healthy and will stand on that position. What must stop is allowing the Progressive left to continue casting the collective as underdog to the individual - any individual. Underdogma is a force that can and should be used for good. The notion that a gang, or state or interest group is less powerful than individual citizens is so preposterous that all can see it, if only some light is given.
It looks like a great book and could be an excellent topic at a future Liberty on the Rocks.
Don't Demand the Unearned
Posted by JohnGalt at May 22, 2012 2:51 PM
I have a much more declassee way I phrase a similar thought: The left loves people who crap in the dirt.
It's the only way to explain their love of Palestinian Refugees who kill gays and are, can we say, less than 100% committed to women's equality -- compared with pluralist, übertolearnt Israel.
So while I am all for appreciating the underdog, I suggest that the impulse must be subordinated to reason.
Book sounds interesting -- I'll risk one more mention of "The Righteous Mind" by Jonathan Haidt as the best answer I've encountered to dagny's question.