is a consumer advocate, lawyer, and author.
He was born in Winsted,
Connecticut on February 27, 1934.
In 1955 Ralph Nader received an AB magna cum laude from Princeton University,
and in 1958 he received a LLB with distinction from Harvard University.
His career began as a lawyer in Hartford, Connecticut in 1959 and from 1961-63
he lectured on history and government at the University of Hartford. In 1965-66
he received the Nieman Fellows award and was named one of ten Outstanding Young
Men of Year by the U.S. Junior Chamber of Commerce in 1967. Between 1967-68 he
returned to Princeton as a lecturer, and he continues to speak at colleges and
universities across the United States.
In his career as
consumer advocate he founded many organizations including the Center for Study
of Responsive Law, the Public Interest Research Group (PIRG), the Center for
Auto Safety, Public Citizen, Clean Water Action Project, the Disability Rights
Center, the Pension Rights Center, the Project for Corporate Responsibility and The
Multinational Monitor (a monthly magazine).
Ralph Nader has been called one
of America's most effective social critics. He also has been called everything
from Muckraker to Consumer Crusader to Public Defender. His documented criticism
of government and industry has had widespread effect on public awareness and
bureaucratic power. He is the "U.S.'s toughest customer" as Time
magazine noted. His inspiration and example have galvanized a whole population
of consumer advocates, citizen activists, and public interest lawyers who in
turn have established their own organizations throughout the country.
The crusading attorney first made
headlines in 1965 with his book Unsafe at Any Speed, a scathing
indictment that lambasted the auto industry for producing unsafe vehicles. The
book led to congressional hearings and a series of automobile safety laws passed
Since 1966, Nader has been responsible for: at least eight major federal
consumer protection laws such as the motor vehicle safety laws, Safe Drinking
Water Act; the launching of federal regulatory agencies such as the Occupational
Safety and Health Administration (OSHA), Environment Protection Agency (EPA),
and Consumer Product Safety Administration; the recall of millions of defective
motor vehicles; access to government through the Freedom of Information Act of
1974; and for many lives saved.
It is hard to keep up with Nader. Long ago he passed beyond simple concerns with
seat belts and hot dogs. He has built an effective national network of citizen
groups that have had a major impact in areas ranging from tax reform to nuclear
energy to health and safety programs. The ultimate goal of this movement is to
give all citizens more rights and remedies for resolving their grievances and
for achieving a better society. As the New York Times said, "What
sets Nader apart is that he has moved beyond social criticism to effective
Nader's original research organization is the Washington, D.C.-based Center for
Study of Responsive Law. Since 1969, the Center has produced innumerable reports
on wide-ranging subjects such as the Interstate Commerce Commission, food
safety, pensions, corporate welfare, and government procurement.
Other Nader inspired groups include the
Aviation Consumer Action Project, Center for Auto Safety, Clean Water Action
Project, Disability Rights Center, Pension Rights Center, Freedom of Information
Clearinghouse, and the Congressional Accountability Project.
Nader also helped establish the PIRGs--
Public Interest Research Groups-- the student-funded and controlled
organizations which function on college campuses in 23 states. Their impact
alone has been tremendous. The groups have published hundreds of ground-breaking
reports and guides, lobbied for laws in their state legislatures, and called the
media's attention to environmental and energy problems.
The largest of the Nader organizations is
Public Citizen, founded in 1971. The groups under the Public Citizen umbrella
include Congress Watch, Health Research Group, Critical Mass Energy Project,
Global Trade Watch, and the Litigation Group. Public Citizen's nationwide
membership has grown to over 100,000.
In November 1980, Nader resigned as director of Public Citizen in order to
devote his energy toward other projects. The organization is now headed by Joan
Claybrook, former head of Congress Watch and the National Highway Traffic Safety
Today Nader lectures on the growing "imperialism" of multinational
corporations and of a dangerous convergence of corporate and government power.
With the passage of autocratic trade treaties like the North American Free Trade
Agreement (NAFTA) and the new General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade (GATT),
this merger of corporate and government interests is escalating. A magazine
founded by Nader in 1980, the Multinational Monitor, tracks the global intrusion
of multinational corporations and their impact on developing nations, labor, and
Nader's overriding concern and vision is presently focused on empowering
citizens to create a responsive government sensitive to citizens' needs. The top
of Nader's agenda has been defending the U.S. civil justice system. Corporate
lobbyists and certain legislators have worked on both the federal and state
levels to restrain consumers' rights to seek justice in court against wrongdoers
in the area of product liability, securities fraud, and medical negligence.
Nader recently co-authored a book on corporate lawyers and the perils of the
legal system entitled No Contest.
The Savings and Loan bailout is also a large concern of Nader's; the
de-regulation of the banking industry in the early 1980s led to speculative real
estate deals which taxpayers must now unfairly finance. This is one of many
examples of corporate subsides taxpayers finance through a system Nader calls
"corporate welfare." Nader is also an advocate of insurance reform
including loss-prevention activity and insurance consumer education. He
co-authored the book Winning the Insurance Game, and has been working
with consumer activists in Massachusetts and California on improving the cost
and coverage of automobile and health insurance in those states.
Nader seems undaunted by the de-regulatory setbacks posed by the Reagan and Bush
administrations and perpetuated by Clinton. He says, "You've got to keep
the pressure on, even if you lose. The essence of the citizen's movement is
persistence." Nader certainly has remarkable tenacity, as well as an
unshakable commitment to his mission. When asked to define himself, he always
responds, "Full-time citizen, the most important office in America for
anyone to achieve."
Nader's impact on the American political spectrum is enduring. As former U.S.
Senator James Abourezk observed, "For the first time in U.S. history, a
movement exists whose sole purpose is to keep large corporations and the