Magazine article The Washington Monthly

Ralph Nader Reconsidered

Magazine article The Washington Monthly

Ralph Nader Reconsidered

Article excerpt

Among the individuals in our age who has most put himself or' the line is Ralph Nader. This piece appeared in 1985.

I remember that day, in a law school dorm, that I happened upon a Playboy interview with this Nader fellow. The magazine dubbed him the "zealous consumer crusader," but it was the crusader rather than the consumer part that lit the fire. Here was a man who lived in a rooming house, owned no car, and kept his material wants to a minimum so he could do the work he really cared about. The pictures on the opening spread showed him in varying degrees of discomfort, as though defying the feel-good aura of the magazine. "Is it so implausible, so distasteful," Nader said, "that a man would believe deeply enough in his work to dedicate his life to it?"

It was Nader's commitment to the old-fashioned virtues of individual hard work, thrift, and civic responsibility that put him right at the geological fault line between profession and practice in American ]ife-between the values a Reagan kitchen cabinet member might profess and the values his company spreads through its advertising. If this could seem a specter in the nation's boardrooms, it was also unsettling in Washington, where commitment is expected to remain within polite limits and where many people see no inconsistency between aspiring for a six-figure salary on the one hand and social values that include a cleaner environment or helping the poor on the other. …

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