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So what does Nader stand for?

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Ralph Nader is being taken seriously as a potential spoiler for Al Gore in the presidential race.

But Nader is a serious man, and deserves to have his ideas, as well as his potential political effect, taken seriously.

Of course, then again, there may be a correlation between Nader's rising poll numbers and the lack of attention paid to his ideas.

In his speech accepting the Green Party's presidential nomination, Nader blamed big business for everything from traffic jams to how much television children watch. For the past 20 years, according to Nader, "big business has been colliding with American democracy and democracy has been losing."

Nader offered the unsettling theory that, since states grant corporate status, they can take over corporations to "rehabilitate" them under "new leadership." Given the breadth of Nader's indictment, virtually every major American company would seem a candidate for such "rehabilitation."

In Nader's world, wealth is not created. It just exists, meaning the only public policy question is how it should be distributed.

Thus this screed: "Bill Gates' wealth (is) equal to the combined wealth of the poorest 120 million Americans. Whatever this enormous imbalance says about the Great Software Imitator from Redmond, Washington, it means that about tens of millions of Americans, who work year after year, decade after decade, are nearly broke."

Let's assume for a moment that Bill Gates didn't exist, didn't create Microsoft, and didn't provide the leadership to make it the standard operating platform for personal computers. Exactly how would that have put $60 billion, Gates' net worth, in the pockets of 120 million other Americans? And what would have happened to the thousands who work at Microsoft?

It is fair to assume that Nader is generally comfortable with the party whose nomination he accepted, and whose platform is a real eye-opener.

The Green Party would eliminate the limit on the legal liability of stockholders for the actions of the corporations in which they invest and require companies valued over $20 million to have their corporate charter renewed every 20 years so they can be reviewed for social responsibility.

Workers in any company with more than 10 employees would get to choose their supervisors and managers and decide how to organize the work.

The work week would be reduced to 30 hours, but workers would still get paid for 40.

There would be a guaranteed annual income of $26,000 a year for a family of four. Needless to say, there would be universal, government-provided health care, free day care and free education clear through a graduate degree.

The minimum wage would be $12.50 an hour, and no one could make more than 10 times that.

Basically, Nader and the Green Party want to sharply diminish, if not eliminate, the returns to investment and entrepreneurship.

What's missing in their political worldview is any concept of liberty, as defined in the document whose 224th anniversary was celebrated yesterday.

According to Nader, "freedom is defined as participation in power," as bone-chilling a formulation as any concocted by the 20th century's great totalitarians.

It's fine if some Americans want to flirt with sending a message by voting for Ralph Nader. They should just understand precisely what message it is that they are sending.

Reach Robb at Bob.Robb@ArizonaRepublic.com or (602-444-8472. His column appears Sunday, Wednesday and Friday.