Ralph Nader and “Consumer Advocacy”
Ralph Nader is back in the news but wrong as ever.
Ralph Nader recently announced his recrudescence through an op-ed in the New York Times. The octogenarian’s purpose for, as they say, “coming out of the woodwork”? Well, judging by his piece, it is to get back to work on the meliorative mission to which he has devoted his life–“consumer advocacy.”
“If I were asked, What has been his specialty,” William F. Buckley Jr. once said of the socialist, Norman Thomas, “I guess I would say, being wrong.” I think this description equally apt for Ralph Nader.
At 83, Nader is an old hand of the “New Left.” He arrived at fame–or, if you like, infamy–with the publication of his book, Unsafe at Any Speed, an animadversion against American automobile manufacturers, specifically Chevrolet and its Corvair. Despite much of the book being disproven, Nader nevertheless persisted in following his manifestly unsound judgment as regards “consumer protection.”
Like Norman Thomas, Nader also sought the Oval Office six times; and–to again borrow from the same Buckley introduction of Thomas–“…[T]he American people in their infinite wisdom…declined to elect him.” But his zeal has not been squelched by his defeats.
President Trump has “declared war on regulatory programs,” Nader writes in his opening paragraph; and he has done this “in disregard of evidence that such protections help the economy and financial well-being of the working-class…”
Unsure, exactly, where President Trump had “declared war” on regulatory programs, I eagerly clicked on the provided hyperlink. The destination was a Washington Post article entitled, “How Trump is rolling back Obama’s legacy.” The Post’s idea of extirpating “Obama’s legacy”–as evidenced by their meticulous list–apparently includes, for instance, enforcing the Constitution (“President Trump announced…that his administration would end an Obama-era program that allowed undocumented immigrants to live in the country without fear of deportation…”) and reversing egregiously Marxist-like interferences into the economy (“The Labor Department announced plans to reverse an Obama-era rule that prohibited restaurateurs from sharing some of the tips that servers earning the full minimum wage received with other employees…”).
As to the “evidence” that regulations benefit the economy: It is unexaminable because Nader doesn’t provide it.
But, in my characteristic generosity, I am willing to give Nader the benefit of the doubt–perhaps he read about the “evidence” he had in mind in one of his own books and simply forgot to note it.
He goes on: “This assault began with Mr. Trump choosing agency chiefs who are tested corporate loyalists driven to undermine the lifesaving, income-protecting institutions whose laws they have sworn to uphold.” He specifically names FDA Commissioner Dr. Scott Gottlieb (“[A] former pharmaceutical industry consultant, who supports weakening drug and medical device safety standards…”), Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos (“[A] billionaire investor in for-profit colleges [who] has weakened enforcement policy on that predatory industry…”) and EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt (“Mr. Pruitt, as the attorney general of Oklahoma, filed suits against the E.P.A. He has hired former lobbyists for the fossil fuel and chemical industries.”).
In the first place, that an agency is of the federal government does not eo ipso make that agency good, laudatory, or “lifesaving.”
For instance, while many of us know about how the FDA saved the day in the case of thalidomide, where the agency refused to approve the sedative that caused birth defects, do we ever hear about the FDA’s failure to admit certain drugs onto the market that would have saved lives? Does it really stand to reason that the FDA, with nearly 15,000 employees and a 111-year history, has never made a mistake, i.e., has never prevented a drug from entering onto the market that would have actually saved lives or increased human comfort?
In the second place, I find Mr. Nader’s impugning of people’s motives morally disgusting. Scott Gottlieb was a staff writer for the British Medical Journal, a Senior Editor of a section of the Journal of the American Medical Association, and a Resident Fellow at the highly sophisticated and scholarly American Enterprise Institute.
Betsy DeVos has been a lifelong advocate for the improvement of education for all children, serving on the board of the Foundation for Excellence in Education, serving as the chairman of the American Federation for Children (AFC), a leading school-choice advocacy group, and even mentored children through Kids Hope USA, an organization that connects young kids with mentors in local churches.
And Scott Pruitt is a decent family man and a self-made entrepreneur; his success in the private sector and his suing the EPA, it seems to me, shouldn’t necessarily disqualify him.
Mr. Nader also writes of “[d]raconian budget cuts,” and how they will “hurt all Americans…” This simply isn’t true. Budget cuts, I grant, will hurt the government’s ability to spend, and they will hurt bureaucrats; but should that be of any concern to us? The American worker–in whatever field–doesn’t exist merely to subsidize unelected bureaucrats who, in turn, tell the worker how he should run his life.
We should have a great distrust for bureaucracy–which, naturally, “consumer advocates” like Ralph Nader cheer–because it is impossible, simply contra naturum, for anyone to look after the affairs of others as meticulously as he looks after his own. Thus, we should trust consumers to make the right choices for themselves, not self-appointed “consumer advocates” like Ralph Nader.
Ross Dubberly is the Book Editor for The Arch Conservative