Ralph Nader: The Powerhouse Activist Who Revolutionized Consumer Rights

Subject: Famous Person
Type: Profile Essay
Pages: 3
Word count: 834
Topics: Biography, Democracy, Political Science


Ralph Nader is a famous renowned American political activist. His activism, evolved around consumer protection, environmental issues and government resources. He is a son of Lebanese immigrants born in 1934 and underwent his education in Princeton and Harvard. School .His presence was felt after publication of the book Unsafe at Any Speed, which he criticised automobile associations and manufactures, this led to it being one of the best journalist pieces of the time. After the publication, he led a group of volunteering youths on an investigation on transport management which led to overhaul of the Federal Trade Agency. Due to this popularity he formed advocacy groups which included citizen participation, public interest groups among others. His activism has been lauded for passage of various consumer protection laws in America such as Clean Water act, Consumer product act, Whistleblower act among others.

Early life

Ralph Nader was born in the city of Winsted, Connecticut. He studied in The Gilbert School and graduated in 1951 and attended Princeton University. After his graduation at the university, he began studying Law in Harvard School of Law. He frequently missed classes and was engaged in research work on issues related to migrant worker rights. After his graduation in Harvard, Nader served in the US army and worked as a cook.

Activism works

Ralph Nader was pushed to the national spotlight after the publication of his book Unsafe at Any Speed, he gave a critical submission that the American automobile carriage were unsafe to operationalinize. He gave evidences of various lawsuits to support his proposition. After a year of publication of his book, he unanimously enacted various acts with respect to road transport. He enacted National Traffic and Motor Vehicle Safety Act, the passage of the bill was attributed to his crusading efforts. 

In the year 1968, Ralph initiated a group of seven volunteer’s students whom he recruited to evaluate the functioning of Federal Trade Commission. The report from the team showed that the body was ineffective in its functions, this prompted an investigation into this claims. Based on the report the agency was revitalised and consumer protection measures was undertaken. After the publication of this report, Nader founded a watch dog unit group referred to as Public citizen to engage in public interest activism on consumer rights issues in the 1980s.

In the 1970s further, Nader engaged in environmental affairs activism, he became the leader of anti nuclear power lobby group. He was the opposition chief of the nuclear generation. The group numbers expanded reaching over 200,000 supporters. The efforts of the organization were aimed at lobbying activities and provision of scientific information and knowledge for the local groups in a bid to inform them and campaign against nuclear power.

Throughout the years, in the 1970s, he engaged actively in public citizen engagements on consumer rights and public accounts transparency. He made various testimonies in the congress and drafted several bills. He organized various citizen letter writing and protests efforts, this earned him great ratings and endorsements for the enactments of several laws such as Freedom of Information Act, Whistle blower act, clean water act, consumer product safety act among others. 

In the year 1980s, despite his works being curtailed by President Ronald Reagan, he continued various activism roles on car insurance rates in California State. He exposed various forms of chlorofluorocarbons and prevention of limitation in consumer laws suits. As form the activism works, he wrote various influential books such as The menace atomic Energy-1977, Who’s poisoning America-1981, Good works-1981 and no Contests-1996.

Theoretical perspectives

On aspect of Functionalism, Ralph Nader recognised that the social problem facing the consumers was weakening the overall American Society. He advocated for the solutions for the weak society especially that of the automobile manufactures. His advocacy through book publication saw the gradual change in social reforms. He claimed that he was responsible for his actions but who bared the actions of the automobile associations. 

On conflict theory, Ralph argued that the big business and corporate greed and dominion affected greatly the common citizens of the America. He felt that this entity was in conflict with its own citizens. He motivated the consumers through taking stern action and fought back on these entities eating them up and reclaim what was due to them. Ralph symbolic interactions was displayed when he wrote the book, unsafe at any speed, the society constructed and shaped his character and actively engaged in fighting for the rights of the common American citizens. 


Ralph Nader has been attributed as the greatest consumer champion of the 20th century. His believes were much rooted on the fairness of the American citizens to have fair treatment. His works have changed the way Americans think and has revolutionized how policies and regulations are undertaken in. His grassroots skills and mobilization have led to emergence of various consumer protection groups across the world. His consumer rights movements have dramatically changed the way Americans behave through avenues of volunteerism, activism and philanthropic moves. 

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  1. Jensen, C. (2011). Stories that changed America: Muckrakers of the 20th century. Seven Stories Press.
  2. Klebanow, D., & Jonas, F. L. (2003). People’s Lawyers: Crusaders for Justice in American History. ME Sharpe
  3. Nader, R. (2011). Unsafe at any speed: the designed-in dangers of the American automobile. 1965. American journal of public health, 101(2), 254-256.
  4. National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA). [Feb, 2018]. http://www.nhtsa.dot.gov.
  5. Real People for Real Change. Ralph Nader’s Skeleton Closet. [Feb, 2018]. http://www.realchange.org/nader.htm. 
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