Bill Steigerwald

Economic journalist and author Garet Garrett (1878-1954) is largely forgotten by history. Only libertarians and "Old Right" conservatives who still believe in individual liberty, free markets, small government and a foreign policy founded on noninterventionism keep Garrett's name and memory alive today.

Yet, as Seattle Times editorial writer and columnist Bruce Ramsey details in his coming biography "Unsanctioned Voice: Garet Garrett, Journalist of the Old Right," Garrett was a major figure in the American media mainstream from the turn of the 20th century to the 1950s.

A self-taught economist with a fiction-writer's style and a knack for clearly explaining how the real world worked, Garrett was a vocal foe of the New Deal, socialism and U.S. involvement in World War II. He was a financial writer or editorialist at The New York Times, The Wall Street Journal and then the Saturday Evening Post, arguably the most important middle-class media outlet of the '30s and '40s.

A handful of his more than a dozen books and novels -- some of which, like "The Wild Wheel" (about Henry Ford), are in the public domain -- can be read online (links are at Garrett's Wikipedia entry). And four Garrett books, including "Defend America First: The Antiwar Editorials of the Saturday Evening Post, 1939-1942" and "Salvos Against the New Deal," both of which were edited by Ramsey, have been published by Caxton Press (

The small but freedom-friendly Idaho company, which has been printing Ayn Rand's "Anthem" in hardback for nearly 50 years, will bring out Ramsey's biography of Garrett next month. I talked to Ramsey by phone from Seattle.

Q: Why does Garrett deserve a biography?

A: The reason I wanted to do a biography of him was that he stated some ideas very clearly that I think are valuable ideas, even though they've become unpopular -- or at least were unpopular for a long time. ... One of those ideas is a justification for a limited-government, free-market capitalist society that's based on self-reliance. He directly ties self-reliance in with the idea of freedom and individual liberty in a way that is not done by a lot of modern writers.

Bill Steigerwald

Bill Steigerwald, born and raised in Pittsburgh, is a former L.A. Times copy editor and free-lancer who also worked as a docudrama researcher for CBS-TV in Hollywood before becoming a reporter for the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette and a columnist Pittsburgh Tribune-Review. Bill Steigerwald recently retired from daily newspaper journalism..