The Entrepreneurial Ethic and the Spirit of Consumerism
US consumer organizations must be admired for their entrepreneurial ethic in mobilizing financial resources without direct government help. This chapter examines the diverse ways in which four leading US consumer organizations have overcome the challenge of mobilizing resources on an ongoing basis. The organizations are the National Consumers League, Consumers Union, Consumer Federation of America, and Public Citizen. For each of these organizations, the chapter highlights the unique features of its fund-raising strategy and considers the potential impact of the strategy on its political tactics. It examines the phenomenon of corporate front groups and how they muddle public and policy maker perceptions of the consumer interest. The chapter focuses on the exportability of a US-style system of consumer representation in which resources are conflated with legitimacy. Each organization has accomplished the task of resource mobilization without losing its political integrity, although some have been accused of being too dependent on business funding and thereby violating the spirit of consumerism.