The Piedmont Economics Club (PEC) we enjoy today was the brainchild 50 years ago of Arthur McGill and a small circle of his friends who were deeply disturbed about what seemed to be happening to the American capitalistic economy they so admired. Committed to free markets, small government, sound money, and rational debate, these early Piedmont Economics Club members decided that the Poinsett Club should become the location of regular meetings where participants in formal attire would have cocktails, a seated dinner and a presentation followed by discussion by a noteworthy speaker. Needless to say, the formal part of the evening did not survive.With CPI inflation headed from 1.5 percent in the 1960s toward 6.0 percent in 1970 and destined to hit 13.5 percent in 1980, and with the price of gold moving accordingly, monetary policy generally and gold prices in particular were focal points of early member interests. Believing that university faculty needed a stronger commitment to free markets and the opportunity to learn more about monetary economics, the PEC founders sponsored as guests faculty members from Clemson, Furman, and Wofford. Student guests were added later. In recent years, the list of colleges that participate was expanded to include Anderson University and Presbyterian College. Today, interaction with college students over dinner is one of the highlights of the evening. Early members included in the PEC inner circle, along with Magill, were Herb and Jeff Kittridge, Don Kilgore, Bill Lowndes, David Maguire, Tom Roe, Gordon Sherard, George Short, Sterling Smith, Rick Timmons, and Rush Wilson. Among university regulars were Clemson’s Hugh H. Macaulay and Wallace D. Trevillian. In the club’s early years, Furman University economist Ray Roberts served as the club secretary. Sydney Timmons Taylor assumed that role later, joined bv Lewis Haselwood, who became treasurer and Dan Foster who served as the club’s presiding chair. The club’s 50-year commitment to informed discussion is seen in the list of speakers featured at meetings. These have included nationally known scholars, Washington policy makers, bankers, journalists, and South Carolina leaders. Among the leading economists who have spoken are Walter Heller, Art Laffer, Paul McCracken, Allan Meltzer, Alice Rivlin, Russ Roberts, Richard Timberlake, James Tobin, Gordon Tullock, and Walter Williams. Washington officials and politicians include Charles Cox, Susan Dudley, Wendy Gramm, Phil Gramm, Larry Kudlow, James C. Miller III, and William Niskanen, Speakers from the region have included political cartoonist Robert Arial, state economist Bill Gillespie and state director of fiscal affairs, Frank Rainwater. Over the years, the club has built an agenda of evening activity that includes receiving a summary of economics and market activity delivered now by member Camp Wynn and celebration of winners of the regular forecast challenge where members at each meeting jot down their expectations for interest rates, market averages, and oil and gold prices. Now celebrating a half-century of fellowship and informed discussion, Piedmont Economics Club is girding itself for the next half century with the full expectation that even better times lie ahead.
Piedmont Economics Club's monthly dinner meetings would not be possible without our participating sponsors