The Home of American Intellectual Conservatism — First Principles

December 16, 2017

Harrigan, Anthony
Mark C. Henrie - 05/30/11
Lifespan: (1925–2010 )

As author or editor of nearly two dozen books and as a contributor to more than seventy journals on both sides of the Atlantic, Anthony Harrigan demonstrated an unusual combination of the traditionalist and anticommunist impulses of the postwar American conservative movement. As a foundation executive, he also entered into economic debates, warning that unrestricted free trade can weaken American industry and, thereby, American security. Generally, in his writings Harrigan sought to find how nations in an advanced industrial and global society can be structured politically and economically so as to preserve the settled ways of life of the common man in his local community.

In the 1950s and 1960s, Harrigan was a leading figure behind the “ultraconservative” Charleston (South Carolina) News and Courier. During the civil rights movement he, like many Southern conservatives, staked out a strongly segregationist position, and his states’ rights beliefs led him to view favorably such experiments in regional autonomy as Quebec’s independence movement and the division of Cyprus. In this period he also took an acute interest in national security issues, writing about unconventional warfare in A Guide to the War in Vietnam (1966) and about nuclear strategy in Defense against Total Attack (1965). In Red Star over Africa (1964) and elsewhere he warned about communist advances in the developing world.

In the 1980s, as president of the United States Business and Industrial Council and the United States Industrial Council Educational Foundation, Harrigan argued for economic policies appropriate to his commitment to middle-American values. In American Economic Pre-eminence (1989), written with William R. Hawkins, he championed a neo-mercantilist approach to trade policy, a combination of incentives and protective measures centered on the principle that economic policy should serve the national interest in increasing relative national power and wealth. This direct opposition to the classically liberal trade policies favored by neoconservatives marked one front in the dispute between “paleos” and “neos” in the waning days of the Reagan administration.

Harrigan’s thought reflected the influence of the works of W. R. Inge and Bernard Iddings Bell, as well as the Southern Agrarians. In evocative and sometimes moving essays reflecting his own experiences, he appealed to the local traditions and particularities of small-town American life against the values of an urban Eastern elite. He attacked the “crass materialism” and “shallow cosmopolitanism” of these elites, the latter described as “a disease of the intellectual faculties” that poses a danger to “solid national communities.” This defense of the local traditions of concrete communities against the disintegrating rationalism of “cosmopolitans” proved a recurring theme in his writings.

Throughout his work Harrigan wrote as a self-conscious, reflective defender of the inarticulate yet profound conservatism of the common man in America. This entailed a fundamentally populist orientation, and in the populism of this very traditionalist paleoconservative we can see the roots of the New Right that emerged in the 1980s.

Further Reading
  • Harrigan, Anthony, ed. Putting America First: A Conservative Trade Alternative. Washington, D.C.: USIC Educational Foundation, 1987.
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