Professor Clarence Philbrook, University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill

Professor Daniel Klein (Economics, George Mason University) in his 2012 book, Knowledge and Coordination: A Liberal Interpretation (New York, Oxford University Press, 2012), notes a contribution by Clarence Philbrook. Klein is addressing the challenge in the second half of the twentieth century to the broader outlook of Adam Smith’s whose morality subsumed his economic analysis. He notes the contributions of Ludwig von Mises and F. A. Hayek challenging specialization and scientism, and restoring Classical Liberalism. Klein quotes Clarence Philbrook: “The degree of apparent influence of the person holding an idea is, therefore, no measure of the potential effect of his giving utterance to it. If there is one belief fundamental to, and universal in, our culture, it is this notion that truth as such has power.” (Clarence Philbrook,  “’Realism’ in Policy Espousal,” American Economic Review(1953; 43(5), 846-859) (Klein, 255-256).

Clarence Philbrook was a professor of economics at the University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill, and served as the treasurer of the Mont Pelerin Society. I met Clarence Philbrook when I attended the Political Economy Seminar at the University of North Carolina in June, 1959. I may have meet him when I attended the first US Mont Pelerin Society meeting at Princeton University in August, 1958. The annual UNC Political Economy Seminar was one of three summer seminars sponsored by the William Volker Fund. The others were at Claremont Men’s College directed by Arthur Kemp and at Wabash College directed by Benjamin Rogge. These seminars ran for ten days or so and typically had three senior lecturers such as Ludwig von Mises, Frank Knight, Felix Morley, Bruno Leoni and Milton Friedman (whose Capitalism and Freedom was the lectures Friedman presented at the summer seminars). The seminars were aimed at young faculty (I was the youngest attending, as a graduate student; Israel Kirzner attended this seminar). The lecturers at the 1959 UNC seminar were: F. A. Hayek, lecturing from the manuscript for the forthcoming The Constitution of Liberty; Herrel DeGraff, professor of US economic history at Cornell University (he soon became the president of the American Meat Institute in Chicago where he provided the initial funding for the New Individualist Review by the Intercollegiate Society of Individualist graduate students of the University of Chicago (sponsored by Hayek, Friedman, and Richard Weaver)); the third lecturer position was split between two less senior professors – Gregg Lewis, labor economists at the University of Chicago and James Buchanan at the University of Virginia. Buchanan always recalled the seminar and spoke highly of Clarence Philbrook.  (Many non-Keynesian economists found faculty positions at southern universities and the Southern Economic Association. In November, 1974, a year after the death of Ludwig von Mises, the Southern Economic Association meeting in Atlanta included a session on Ludwig von Mises ( papers presented by Israel Kirzner, Fritz Machlup, Karen Vaughn, Murray Rothbard and William Baumgarth) arranged by SEA president Leland Yeager. The Institute for Humane Studies sponsored a lunch following and to fill the seating quota invited those attending the session to sign up for the lunch.  That list became the core of the IHS economics mailing list.)