Ralph Nader Interview On Consumer Rights

Ralph Nader interview on consumer rights, includes Nader's views on the pharmaceutical industry, the auto industry, the current president and potential presidental candidates.


| February/March 2000



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After writing Unsafe at Any Speed: The Designed-in Dangers of the American Automobile (Grossman) in 1965, Nader's name became an immediate cause for hand-wringing in Washington and in the boardrooms of corporate America.


PHOTO: VINCE MANNINO/CORBIS

This Ralph Nader interview on consumer rights provides some eye-opening facts about the pharmaceutical industry, the auto industry and presidential candidates. 

Ralph Nader has been hammering away at the traditional way of dealing with America's political problems since 1963, when at the age of 29 he abandoned his law practice and hitchhiked to Washington, D.C. After writing Unsafe at Any Speed: The Designed-in Dangers of the American Automobile (Grossman) in 1965, his name became an immediate cause for hand-wringing in Washington and in the boardrooms of corporate America. Founder of many consumer's rights organizations and often presidential candidate for the Green Party, Nader was good enough to spend an afternoon with us.

Ralph Nader Interview On Consumer Rights

I was reading what I assumed to be a very unofficial "Ralph Nader for President" Web site today when I came across a passage suggesting that you ought to be pictured in the encyclopedia next to the entry "consumer advocate." I'm wondering if that is a legacy that you'd be comfortable with? 

Sure. Because that's the ultimate measure of an economy's performance. Those who consider all the ways that we can measure an economy, from conception to manufacturing, indices to sales to profits, often leave out the well-being of the consumer. So what's it all for? As Adam Smith once said, "The end of all production is consumption." If consumers are economically well-off, if their health and safety are protected, that is the best final measure of an economic system. It not only reflects the quantitative size of an economy, it reflects its distributive justice.

So consumer advocacy is a means of invigorating the capitalist process? 

Well, let's examine the way we predominantly measure a company's performance. Let's say you asked the pharmaceutical industry, "Was last year a good year?" They'd say, "Yeah." Then ask them, "Why?" They'd say, "Well, sales and profits are up." That's measuring the pharmaceutical industry from the pharmaceutical sellers point of view. Now let's measure it from the health consumers point of view. The questions would be: "Are the prices of medicines lower than last year and are fewer people ill?" Or "Are fewer diseases or more diseases prevented?" Those questions reflect an entirely different point of view . . . ours. And our perspective should be the ultimate measure of what a pharmaceutical industry is about. The same with the auto companies. If you ask them their assessment of last year, they would jump around and exclaim that sales and profits are up. From a consumer evaluation of that part of our economy, a large portion of us might ask, "Can I get from point A to B faster? Cheaper? With less pollution?"





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