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Ralph Nader

(b. 1934) American lawyer and reformer


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(1934– )

US lawyer and leading figure in the US consumer protection movement.

Educated at Princeton and Harvard Law School, Nader was admitted to the Connecticut bar in 1958 and took up private practice in Hertford. He rose to prominence after testifying before Congress on motor-car safety in 1966. His views on defective car design, set out in his book Unsafe at Any Speed (1965), were an important factor in the passing of the National Traffic and Motor Vehicle Safety Act (1966), which established federal control over car design.

Nader then turned his attention to the protection of Native Americans, as well as such consumer issues as safety in food and drugs. Various pieces of important legislation resulted from these efforts, incuding the Wholesale Meat Act (1967) and the Occupational Safety and Health Act (1970). In order to increase the effectiveness of the consumer lobby, Nader mobilized college students in groups, known as ‘Nader's Raiders’, to study the activities of government regulatory agencies. In 1969 these groups were organized as part of Nader's Center for the Study of Responsive Law. Other organizations established by Nader include the Public Interest Research Group and the Tax Reform Group. These organizations put pressure on the authorities to improve their regulation of a wide variety of manufacturers and processes and also pressed for the establishment of a federal office to represent consumer interests. By acquiring single shares in large industrial companies Nader was able to observe and criticize from within, without recourse to the courts. The accident at the Three-Mile Island nuclear power plant in Pennsylvania provided further ammunition for Nader and his organizations in 1979, the year he published his Menace of Atomic Energy. Subsequent publications in which he continued to tackle questions of universal concern have included Who's Poisoning America? (1981), The Big Boys: Power and Position in American Business (1986), and Good Works (1993). In 1996 he stood at the Green Party's candidate for the US presidency.


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