Ralph Nader is one of America’s most effective social critics. His analyses and advocacy have enhanced public awareness and increased government and corporate accountability. And his example has inspired a whole generation of consumer advocates, citizen activists, and public interest lawyers who in turn have established their own organizations throughout the country.
He first made headlines as a young lawyer 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 the passage of a series of automobile safety laws in 1966.
The first organization Nader launched is the Washington, D.C.-based Center for Study of Responsive Law. Since 1969, the Center has produced innumerable groundbreaking reports on wide-ranging subjects such as air and water pollution, food, auto and occupational safety, pensions, Freedom of Information, various lagging government agencies, corporate welfare, nuclear power, and government procurement.
Nader also went on to found a wide variety of organizations, all aimed at advancing corporate and government accountability. Nader-founded or -inspired groups include Public Citizen, the Center for Auto Safety, the Center for Science in the Public Interest, the Clean Water Action Project, the Pension Rights Center, the Princeton Alumni Corps, and the Appleseed Foundation—a nonprofit network of 17 public interest justice centers.
In addition, Nader conceived the idea for and helped establish the state-based PIRGs—Public Interest Research Groups—which are organizations that function on college campuses and in communities in 23 states. The PIRGs have published hundreds of ground-breakingpioneering reports and guides, lobbied for laws in their state legislatures, and called the media’s attention to consumer, environmental, and energy problems, as well as exploitations and deprivations directed toward students.
Nader also played a pivotal role in advancing and improving several major federal consumer protection laws such as the motor vehicle safety laws, the Safe Drinking Water Act, the Pure Food and Drug Act, the Clean Air Act, and the landmark Freedom of Information Act, and he worked tirelessly to launch federal regulatory agencies such as the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA), the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), and the Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC).
An author, lecturer, attorney, and political activist, Nader’s life-long work and advocacy has led to safer cars, healthier food, safer drugs, cleaner air and drinking water, and safer work environments. In 2006 he was cited by The Atlantic as one of the one hundred most influential figures in American history, TIME Magazine has called him the “U.S.’s toughest customer,” the New York Times has said of him that “[w]hat sets Nader apart is that he has moved beyond social criticism to effective political action,” and in 1974, a survey conducted by U.S. News and World Report rated him as the fourth most influential person in the United States.
In September of 2015, Nader received extensive mass media coverage for his newest project: the American Museum of Tort Law in Winsted, Connecticut—the first law museum in America.
Nader remains focused on empowering citizens to create a responsive government sensitive to citizens’ needs.
One of his top priorities is defending the U.S. civil justice system. Corporate lobbyists and anti-consumer 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.
His book, Breaking Through Power has been called “required reading” by Cornel West, and “a critical prescription to battle the toxicity of unjust power” by Nomi Prins.
Nader continues to work relentlessly to advance meaningful civic institutions and citizen participation as an antidote to corporate and government unaccountability.
As he often says, “There can be no daily democracy without daily citizenship.”