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Homines libenter quod volunt credunt

Biographical Sketch

Michael Rizzo received his Ph.D. in Economics at Cornell University in May 2004. He received his M.A. in Economics from Cornell in 2002 and his B.A. in Economics, magna cum laude, from Amherst College in 1996, after spending the majority of his academic life there as a physics major. Michael’s fields of specialization include the Economics of Education, Labor Economics, Applied Econometrics, Environmental Economics and Public Economics. He is also a faculty research associate with the Cornell Higher Education Research Institute (CHERI) and a consultant with Scannell & Kurz, Inc., an enrollment management firm based in Rochester, NY.

He joined the economics faculty at the University of Rochester in the fall of 2008. Between 2006 and 2008, he was a Senior Economist and Director of Summer Programs at the American Institute for Economic Research in beautiful Great Barrington, MA. Prior to his arrival at AIER, he served as an Assistant Professor of Economics at Centre College in Danville, Kentucky. Among the classes he taught were Development Economics, Economics Principles, Intermediate Microeconomic Theory, Labor Economics, Research Methods in Economics and Finance, and the Economics of Higher Education.

While an academic, Michael’s research focused on the economics of higher education, in particular issues related to the financing and operation of public higher education institutions in the United States. Higher education research in various stages of development include evaluating the impact of the increasing cost of science at liberal arts colleges, the relationship between higher education spending and student outcomes, the relationship between higher education and economic growth, the social returns to higher education, a study of government earmarks for university research, modeling the enrollment decision of admitted students and a structural-dynamic analysis of the relationship between state appropriations and public university tuition.

However, his research interests are far broader today, and a combination of lack of talent and changing motivation are leading me into studying and writing about basic economics principles for a wider (i.e. non-academic) audience. Since 2006 I have been a regular writer of popular economics.

For the Spring of 2003 and 2004, he taught undergraduate labor economics (ILRLE 240) in Cornell’s School of Industrial and Labor Relations.

Before coming to Cornell, he served for a year as an Area Coordinator in the Residential Life Department at Amherst College and spent two years as an Investment Banker at Putnam, Lovell and Thornton (PLT) in New York City. While at PLT, he worked as an analyst in both the Mergers & Acquisitions and the Structured Finance Groups and was a Series 7 and Series 63 Registered Representative. While enrolled at Amherst College, Michael was a member of the varsity football team, a resident counselor and coordinator of student security services.

Michael stands 5’4″, and has remained that height since the age of 14. He lives with his wife Rachel, their daughter Amelia and son Isaac, and their two Boston Terriers in Bushnell’s Basin, NY. He and his wife are devoted members of the Lynah Faithful and enjoy golfing, bird watching, minor league baseball, Penn State Football and rugby. Michael also enjoys hiking, kayaking, camping, reading non-fiction and history and playing acoustic guitar.

So, you’re an Economist?

When I told my mother I had completed my Ph.D. she came back with, “Can you write me a prescription now?” I am also sorry to report that I am utterly powerless to predict what the stock-market will do, or interest rates for that matter. What do I do? What good am I anyway?

The Most Important Things to Know About Economics

All of us are economists to some degree since we are all in the business of making decisions. What makes economists a little different is that they are always conscious of several fundamentals that must be understood in order to avoid making a mess of the world. It sounds rather simple, and it is. To be an economist, all you need to do is understand the concepts of incentives, unintended consequences, opportunity costs, shadow prices, relative prices, relative supply and demand and sunk costs (these last two can be broadly classified as understanding the word “marginal”). Just about all of us confront these decisions on a daily basis. In the coming weeks and months I will try and describe these principles as they arise in my daily life. In the meantime, to keep you busy, think of how the following scenarios can be addressed using these simple concepts: Are wars good for the economy? Do seat belts save lives? Is borrowing a book from the public library free? Why are surfboards more valuable than clean air in southern California? Why do you eat until you can’t breathe when you are at the buffet line? Do we really value professional basketball players more than daycare providers? Why do so many people drive gas guzzling automobiles? The questions are endless …

Seven final thoughts:

  1. The whole aim of practical politics is to keep the populace alarmed (and hence clamorous to be led to safety) by menacing it with an endless series of hobgoblins, all of them imaginary.
    – H.L. Mencken
  2. “In my youth it was said what was too silly to be said may be sung. In modern economics it may be put into mathematics.”
    – Ronald Coase, The Firm, The Market and the Law.
  3. “Far better it is to dare mighty things, to win glorious triumphs, even though checkered by failure, than to take rank with those poor spirits who neither enjoy much nor suffer much, because they live in the gray twilight that knows not victory nor defeat.”-– Theodore Roosevelt, Speech to the Hamilton Club, April 10, 1899
  4. Our commercial policy “should hold an equal and impartial hand; neither seeking nor granting exclusive favors or preferences; consulting the natural course of things; diffusing and diversifying by gentle means the streams of commerce, but forcing nothing.”– George Washington’s Farewell Address, W.B. Allen, ed., George Washington: A Collection (Indianapolis: LibertyClassics, 1988), p. 525.
  5. “We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness. – That to secure these rights, Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed, – That whenever any Form of Government becomes destructive of these ends, it is the Right of the People to alter or to abolish it, and to institute new Government, laying its foundation on such principles and organizing its powers in such form, as to them shall seem most likely to effect their Safety and Happiness. “– Thomas Jefferson, The Declaration of Independence
  6. Why I Am Not A Conservative (if label you must, they call folks like me classical liberals, but I still reject labels for the simple reason that no single description can encompass what any person is all about – and hey, it’s more fun to be a little mysterious) – taking from Hayek – “The conservative position rests on the belief that in any society there are recognizably superior persons whose inherited standards and values and position ought to be protected and who should have a greater influence on public affairs than others.” Here is some more.
  7. Why I Am Not A Liberal (OK, there are too many reasons to list reasonably, but try here and here and here and here and here and here and here and here for starters)
  8. Steve Horwitz gets at the gist of what it means to be a classical liberal, and addresses the typical straw-man argument levied against it.
    People often ask if I like any Presidents. I suppose if I had to answer, Grover Cleveland and Calvin Coolidge would rank highly.

Here is a more detailed description of my background. Here is something that mirrors how I approach teaching. Here is Richard Epstein encapsulating in two minutes what I think I understand about how our world works and what I believe to be morally right and wrong about it. I don’t know if it can be said any better in such a short space.

29 Responses to “About”

  1. Mark Bils says:

    Dear Michael Rizzo:

    I am in economics at the Univ. of Rochester. I am hoping to talk to you about a teaching opportunity we may be creating here; but can’t find your e-mail address. If you could e-mail me at the address above, that would be terrific.


  2. Glen McGhee says:

    Disseration topic and availablity?

  3. Karen Datko says:

    Dr. Rizzo,

    Could you get in touch wtih me? I’d like to ask you a question about one of your posts.


  4. Jim Russo says:


    Did you see that the Giants won the Super Bowl? How you like me now!


  5. sam cheslak says:

    i was in your eco110 course the last semester you taught at centre. id like to know how i can get into direct contact with you. please email me. -sam

  6. Jim Russo says:


    email me…i have a question for you

  7. Jay P. Harvey says:


    After reading THE THIRD CHAPTER of my PRINCIPLES of Economics book, I can honestly say I laughed at these prices. Coming up for a new word for “inelastic” is breaking news? Dear god.

  8. Michael McPherson says:

    Prof. Rizzo,

    I’m an economist at the University of North Texas. I’m doing some research involving P&T standards at American economics programs. Would you mind sending me a recent CV of yours?

    Many thanks,


  9. Richard Kahn says:

    Dr. Rizzo,

    Sounds like we might have something in common politically. Here in NH I ran for executive council in 2002, US Congress 2nd district in 2004, and governor in 2006. Send me a private email and I will send you my cell phone number.

    Richard Kahn
    Hudson, NH

  10. Mike says:


    Is it possible to advertise on this site at all?



  11. Dear Dr. Rizzo,

    Would you kindly take a read at my latest book, Who Really Owns Your Gold? The Intended Global Meltdown of 2012?

    I’m a NY Times bestselling ghostwriter/editor of many books. Edited The Da Vinci Code and Angels&Demons, e.g. Now publishing books we feel are of great interest to We The People. . . .

    Thank you,


  12. Kat says:

    I stumbled across an article that made me question some of the concepts we discussed last semester in Intro to Econ. What are you thoughts about buying land/materials, in this case, fossil fuels and then doing “nothing” with it?

    Is this an example of your famous “burrito baseball”, and the consumer has the ability to do whatever they want with the good they purchase? Or would this be a situation like building a bridge just to get $ moving in a certain direction? My biggest question is whether you would consider this an effective environmental policy, it seems like a shaky solution to me, but I may be missing something. (I tried to download the whole original article, but I’m operating on a student budget)

  13. Kathleen Hubert says:


    I was wondering if you accept guest post for your blog. If you do, I would like to submit a few. I’m a recent college graduate, with an English major, looking to build out my portfolio. I can write on a wide variety of topics and am sure you would be happy with the quality. Please email me back if you are interested. Thank you for your time.

    – Kathleen Hubert

  14. Elijah says:

    Dr. Rizzo,
    I’m a student at the University of Idaho- Prof. Andrew Nutting told me about you when I told him I was a libertarian. I’m applying to PhD programs this year, including, among others, University of Rochester and, to follow the cliche of libertarian economists, George Mason. Are graduate schools in general friendly towards libertarians? Please email me if you can.

  15. Jameice Fonseca allegretti

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