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Good Fight: Declare Your Independence and Close the Democracy Gap

Good Fight: Declare Your Independence and Close the Democracy Gap

by Ralph Nader

The man who shook up American politics in 2000—and is doingso again in 2004—returns to hold both parties' feet to the fire with his straight talk about Bush, corporate government, and the whole political charade.

Ralph Nader—relentless activist, brilliant visionary—may also be the most honest man we've got left in politics. And yet from


The man who shook up American politics in 2000—and is doingso again in 2004—returns to hold both parties' feet to the fire with his straight talk about Bush, corporate government, and the whole political charade.

Ralph Nader—relentless activist, brilliant visionary—may also be the most honest man we've got left in politics. And yet from the moment Nader declared his presidential candidacy on Meet the Press, he's faced relentless opposition, mainly from Democrats fearing that competition from an inspiring independent could dent their voting block "as it did in 2000." Even his old pals at The Nation joined in the party panic.

Now, in The Good Fight, Nader swings back harder than ever at those who "want to block the American people from having more voices and choices" and have lost touch with the concept that votes must be earned, not inherited or entitled. He takes on corporate-occupied Washington and the government's daily abuse against ordinary citizens: "Corporations are saying no to the necessities of the American people. They're saying no to health insurance for everyone, no to a living wage, no to tax reform, no to straightening out the defense budget, which is bloated and redundant, no to access to our courts." And most of all, he urges a speedy return to stronger civic motivation. If fed-up citizens don't actively join the fight for improvement, then ultimately we have no one to blame but ourselves for the inadequate checks on the erosion of our civil liberties.

In an era when politicians sell us rhetoric and then sell out our principles, Nader stands as a crucial voice of candor. The Good Fight is a call to awareness and action that will captivate readers of all political stripes and help us define what we must do to shape the brightest future for our nation.

Editorial Reviews

Michael Oreskes
[Nader] offers a trenchant treatment of the argument that trial lawyers, far from being money-grubbing ambulance chasers, perform a public service by forcing corporations to consider the potential financial cost (via liability actions) of pollution, unsafe products and mistreatment of workers.
— The New York Times

Product Details

HarperCollins Publishers
Publication date:
Product dimensions:
6.00(w) x 9.00(h) x 1.01(d)

Read an Excerpt

The Good Fight
Declare Your Independence and Close the Democracy Gap

Chapter One

Failure of Isms and
Those Left Behind

My father had a pithy way to make a potent point. He described the two basic economic systems as follows: "Socialism is government ownership of the means of production, while capitalism is the business ownership of the means of government."

A small business restaurateur, he felt an aversion to concentrated power -- whatever its garb. To him, limitless greed for wealth and power was the downfall of any system. He would often say that "capitalism is the freest economic way if only we can control it."

Controlling what is now corporate capitalism in all its varieties and contradictions is the task of organized civic values, law and order, quality competition, shareholder power over executives, consumer information, judicial remedies, and environmentally benign technologies. These checks, along with self-restraint by businesses (out of what used to be called "enlightened self-interest"), are needed to keep capitalism in its proper place so that a democratic culture can flourish toward the greater purposes of life for present and future generations. We have an ongoing debt to the Earth far grander and more expansive than any myopic corporate calculus. For the necessary independence that furthers civic values -- democratic processes, civic voice, health, safety, a decent standard of living, peace, and yes, truth and beauty -- we need to start with the Earth, its peoples, its flora, and its fauna.

By most measures, the Earth is not doing well. It is stalked too much by war and anarchy, by the exercise of concentrated, corrupt powers, poverty, disease, illiteracy, and environmental devastation. Dictators and domestic family violence, state and stateless terrorism further afflict the anxious mosaic of ordinary life. Giant corporations roam the Earth, pitting societies against one another in search of the lowest costs from serf labor and other exactions from authoritarian regimes while pulling down standards of living in more democratic countries. This downward drift is accelerated by transnational, autocratic systems of commercial governance known as the World Trade Organization (WTO), the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA), and the African Growth and Opportunity Act (AGOA).

Three billion people try to survive on one or two dollars a day, hardly enough to deal with hunger pangs and chronic debilitation from bacteria, viruses, and toxins found in their putrid water, their air, food, and soil. With the failures of state-imposed communism and bureaucratic socialism, the large multinational corporation, supported by the International Monetary Fund (IMF) and the World Bank, becomes the remaining visible vehicle of economic growth and development.

One gauge of the global corporate model is whether it is diminishing, ignoring, or increasing the severity of the most obvious problems in the world.


Fossil fuel and nuclear industries, petrochemical and mining companies, forest-cutting and pesticide firms, dragnet ocean fishing corporations, biotechnology (and soon nanotechnology companies whose speed of deployment is far ahead of their science) fail to behave as good stewards of the Earth.


The global corporation has no problem dealing with dictators, in return for lucrative contracts, concessions over raw materials, and free reign to exploit people (in exchange for customary kickbacks).

Lethal Arms Trafficking?

These modern "merchants of mayhem" privately export deadly weapons to odious regimes with our taxpayer subsidies totaling billions of dollars a year. These sales fuel an arms race that increases the demand for more arms sales, corrupting more officials, starving nonmilitary budgets, and spreading poverty.


That is what the tobacco industry and its addictive product create: the spread of cancer, heart, and respiratory sickness. Big tobacco finds new ways to addict its victims earlier and faster with seductive promotions and advertisements directed to tens of millions of youngsters in South America, Africa, and Asia. One out of four of these young people will die prematurely from tobacco-related disease. Inhumane indifference also characterizes the attitude of the heavily tax and research-subsidized pharmaceutical industry, which is so focused on profits that it barely spends research dollars on infectious diseases like malaria or tuberculosis. Drug company executives know that vaccines rarely produce big profits. Just big life savings. Drug companies prefer to sell drugs that are taken daily, or the lifestyle drugs that purport to reduce obesity or enhance potency.


The giant grain exporters like Cargill are expert at reducing spoilage from rodents, fungi, and pests that take a huge toll in third-world granaries. Yet, the Cargills rarely lend a hand there. Processed food giants promote products plump with sugar and fat and erode more nutritious indigenous diets in developing countries. Deceptively promoted soft drinks replace natural fruit drinks. Studies are already showing the harmful effects of diets that turn tongues against brains through seductive associations with modernity in flashy advertisements. Mother's milk is a threat to infant formula sales, so modernity ads instill fear and anxiety in maternal circles. Mothers respond. Infant formula then sells, costs poor families too much, is diluted for more volume with contaminated village water, and infant fatality rates surge. UNICEF in 1991 estimated 1.5 million deaths a year from this sequence and still the western infant formula giants continue to take their profits to the bank.

Capital and Credit?

Less-developed countries are full of potential entrepreneurs who lack credit to start local businesses. Multinational banks and other finance companies turn a deaf ear to them. They prefer to finance giant projects, like dams and pipelines, with suitable government guarantees or subsidized loans from the Export-Import Bank. The appropriate technologies for community needs, so well described by E. F. Schumacher in his pioneering book Small Is Beautiful, published in 1973, are not bankable in the West. Small credit needs for production and distribution are off the radar screen for the likes of Citigroup. Such banks prefer to start a credit card economy in a country like China to stretch the debt of the upper scale consumers and collect high interest rates. But the big loan money goes to third-world governments, as in Africa and South America ...

The Good Fight
Declare Your Independence and Close the Democracy Gap
. Copyright © by Ralph Nader. Reprinted by permission of HarperCollins Publishers, Inc. All rights reserved. Available now wherever books are sold.

Meet the Author

Ralph Nader was recently named by the Atlantic as one of the 100 most influential figures in American history, one of only four living people to be so honored. The son of immigrants from Lebanon, he has launched two major presidential campaigns and founded or organized more than one hundred civic organizations. His groups have made an impact on tax reform, atomic power regulation, the tobacco industry, clean air and water, food safety, access to health care, civil rights, congressional ethics, and much more.

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