Briarpatch Founder

Teacher, Mentor, Friend

Michael Phillips

Self-styled as a “thinker,” Michael Phillips is an international consultant on economics and business, a former banker and foundation director, a popular public speaker, and a prolific writer.
Young Michael Phillips

In the early 1980s, Michael, Greta Alexander, and I flew to London for “The Other Economic Summit,” a counter-culture gathering of alternative economic opinions held at the same time and place as the annual Economic Summit of the “Big  #” countries (pick your number, it varies).

Upon disembarking at Heathrow Airport,  Customs asked the usual “How long are you staying?” “Why are you visiting?” and “What is your occupation?”

Greta and I sailed through and then waited for nearly half an hour for Michael to catch up.

When asked the “occupation” question, he answered “thinker.” It completely stumped the Customs Agents. They repeated the question several times and each time he insisted he was a “thinker.” Maybe they were hoping he’d give them a more standard answer but Michael stuck to his guns.

At last, perhaps concluding that he was a bit eccentric, they let him pass through the turnstile.

Br’er Claude

Michael (1938) Phillips is the author of the innovative ideas blog Pro Commerce at

Michael was also the producer and host of the popular radio interview program Social Thought on KPFA, the public interest station in Berkeley, California.

Michael Phillips

On his personal web page, Michael lists his major accomplishments as:

  • Organizer of MasterCard
  • Founder of Briarpatch Network
  • Promoter of Open Books Business
  • First promoter of Random Legislature
  • Inventor of the Social Sorting Principle
  • Discoverer of the tri-level structure of commerce and the concept of Clientry
  • First person to write about the linguistic structure of money

Phillips has authored or co-authored many books including:

  • The Briarpatch Book (with Salli Rasberry).
  • Seven Laws of Money (with Salli Rasberry).
  • Honest Business (with Salli Rasberry).
  • Marketing Without Advertising (with Salli Rasberry).
  • Running a One-Person Business (first edition, with Claude Whitmyer and Salli Rasberry).
  • Transaction-Based Economics
  • Simple Living Investments
  • Mental Snacks
  • Gods of Commerce
  • Commerce

Many of Phillips’ ideas arose from or were confirmed by his careful study of the Briarpatch. He observed and described several principles across time and shared them in several important books (Check out The Briarpatch Bookshelf for details.).

While Phillips is no longer actively involved in the Briarpatch, we owe him great gratitude for his contributions during the first two decades of our history.