Thank you for sharing!

Your article was successfully shared with the contacts you provided.
Corporate executives may not like Ralph Nader, but they’ve always felt compelled to listen to him. Over a four-decade career, his zealous activism has encumbered businesses with dozens of new safety laws. When lawmakers haven’t responded to his agitation, the advocate’s legion of disciples have leapt up to create numerous watchdog groups. Besides Unsafe at Any Speed–Nader’s first book, which put him on the map in 1966–the advocate has written or contributed to over 30 others. What makes Nader so distinctive as a social critic, however, is that he has written his criticism not just in books, but in lawsuits and laws. He’s managed both to propose solutions, and to impose them. Justin Martin, a business writer, has now stepped forward in Nader: Crusader, Spoiler, Icon to explain how this stubborn busybody came to fame. In his first book three years ago, Martin tackled Alan Greenspan, another figure with a huge impact on corporate America. But while Greenspan’s path to power included lots of socializing, Nader is a loner who has ferociously protected his privacy. Still a bachelor at 68, he opted to cooperate with Martin, and the result is the strongest biography of the advocate since the 1970s. A Teenager At The Courthouse Nader’s idealism began with his father, a restaurant owner and gadfly who talked up issues with his neighbors in the small Connecticut town of Winsted. Besides inheriting a keen awareness of injustice, the son was also turning into a wonk. During high school, Nader regularly headed to the library to read speeches in the Congressional Record, and visited the courthouse just to watch lawyers argue their cases. Intense but unfocused, he drifted through Harvard Law School and early adulthood until he wrote Unsafe. The book led to an invitation to appear before Congress, where in dramatic detail he described how automakers had failed to design for safety. A month later Nader was back at the Capitol, testifying that General Motors Corporation had hired a private eye to tail him. Within six months, a law mandating seat belts had been passed, and the advocate’s halo was securely in place. After this first success, Nader was inspired to expand his work. But he soon realized that he had too many plans for one person to carry out, and in a 1968 interview with Newsweek he mentioned that he needed help. Almost immediately, young law students–soon to be dubbed Nader’s Raiders–flocked to D.C. to help the advocate. Their efforts led to a raft of new laws and regulations. His victories became fewer, however, as the hard-charging Nader alienated allies and friends. “Virtually everyone who’s worked with him, he took a shot at later,” says James Cubie, a former Raider and a Senate committee aide. Martin ends his book by describing the frustration felt by onetime prot�g�s over Nader’s polarizing presidential campaign on the Green Party ticket in 2000. The guru’s uncompromising hostility to corporate power had put him in opposition to many of his onetime students. A Legacy Of 150 Groups Disappointingly, Martin fails to examine the current state of Nader’s spin-offs. Do any of the 150-odd groups that he helped found still work with him? In what ways do they rely on him? How active are they? Regrettably, Martin doesn’t try to match his subject’s penchant for documentation with even a chart detailing Nader’s influence. The advocate has long refused to reveal how he plows his earnings back into various organizations, maintaining that the information could be used by corporations to tie him up in court. But Nader’s financial records from a decade or two ago should now be available for analysis. Martin’s biography, however, has well captured the combative lawyer who spawned a public interest movement. Nader created a legacy by doing the tedious, time-consuming research and activism that others couldn’t be bothered with. “The most important things in life are boring,” Nader once said. “That’s why our problems persist.” As Martin shows, at least a few problems have been solved by Nader’s unflagging earnestness. Fleischer-Black is a senior reporter at The American Lawyer.

This content has been archived. It is available through our partners, LexisNexis® and Bloomberg Law.

To view this content, please continue to their sites.

Not a Lexis Advance® Subscriber?
Subscribe Now

Not a Bloomberg Law Subscriber?
Subscribe Now

Why am I seeing this?

LexisNexis® and Bloomberg Law are third party online distributors of the broad collection of current and archived versions of ALM's legal news publications. LexisNexis® and Bloomberg Law customers are able to access and use ALM's content, including content from the National Law Journal, The American Lawyer, Legaltech News, The New York Law Journal, and Corporate Counsel, as well as other sources of legal information.

For questions call 1-877-256-2472 or contact us at [email protected]


ALM Legal Publication Newsletters

Sign Up Today and Never Miss Another Story.

As part of your digital membership, you can sign up for an unlimited number of a wide range of complimentary newsletters. Visit your My Account page to make your selections. Get the timely legal news and critical analysis you cannot afford to miss. Tailored just for you. In your inbox. Every day.

Copyright © 2021 ALM Media Properties, LLC. All Rights Reserved.