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Ralph Nader > In the Public Interest > ‘People Power’ Available

Every once in a while, the federal government comes out with a publica­tion that is so useful you wish people could obtain it free. Well, just off the presses from the White House Office of Consumer Affairs is a 400-page paper-hack, beautifully laid out in print and pictures, called People Power. And it is free to any citizen who writes to The Consumer Information Center, Depart­ment 682H, Pueblo, Colo. 81009 for a copy.

The book is a mine of information about what local community groups are doing around the country to counter inflation, become more self-reliant and diminish costly waste. The focus is on food, housing, energy and health—those economic sectors which absorb about 70 percent of the average family budget.

Food buying clubs, for example, are described, and there are names of groups that can help you start one in your community. There is heat attention devoted to food, health and other kinds of producer and consumer cooperatives, again with addresses to write for practical advice. New “co-op-erators” can apply for credit and technical know-how from the new National Consumer Cooperative Bank.

The book is not full of empty exhortation but describes operating models that are working around the nation and could work in your community. Community gardens, elderly action projects, solar energy projects, greenhouses, low-income weatherization, teaching children about energy, auto repair co-ops, reforming electric utilities, alternative health care and transportation service, prescription drug surveys, training for consumer power—these are just some of the areas covered.

People Power opens with a chapter on basic citizen organizing tools. Helpful advice on how to identify and explore community problems, how to fund-raise, how to communicate through the media (with sample press release) followed by a list of national and local citizen organizations who stand ready to assist further.

Leafing through this remarkable volume, one gets a sense of an America that rarely gets on national television or on page one in newspapers. But it is an America that gets things done, an America that doesn’t want its future directed by either giant corporations or an unresponsive, special-interest con­trolled government.

Such good news needs to be spread and it is a tribute to a White House, which too often has heeded inappropri­ate business demands, that such a handbook was produced there. No outside consulting firm produced People Power; Esther Peterson’s tiny consumer staff in the president’s house did.

But People Power has to be studied and used by people. Ideally it should be on the kitchen shelf with at least as much prominence as the cookbooks and telephone directories. It also should be part of consumer training clinics and in school courses on consumer rights.

For this to occur, new habits need to be created. Just as people learn professions and trades, just as people put time in on the production side of the economy, so people need to spend a few hours a year developing consumer skills to preserve the dollar value and the quality of what-they are buying with what they are earning.

This book amounts to a declaration of consumer independence to forge an economy which serves and preserves our country for present and future genera­tions. It’s well worth writing the Consumer Information Center for a copy.