by Sandy Ikeda
Back in the early 1980s I took Industrial Organization (two semesters) with Mario in which I got a decent grounding (and not a bad grade) in Chicago-style I.O. and antitrust, which unlike Chicago-style pizza is not too messy or excessively deep. This has served me well in analyzing some economic problems and policies, such as why people tend to be more productive in coffeehouses than at home. I also took a semester of Economic Analysis of Law with him – something, something, transactions costs, something…. In each of those courses, Mario’s approach was to present a well-prepared lecture followed by questions and discussion, using somewhat of a Socratic style. If not always eloquent, they were engaging and insightful.
Mario supervised my dissertation, which was on the economic analysis of monopoly and antitrust law from a Misesian-Kirznerian perspective. I don’t know how many doctoral students Mario had before me but it couldn’t have been that many, so I was probably one of his first. He was surprisingly patient with me throughout the process (I wasted nearly a year going down a dead end), although in his supervisory role he was radically libertarian, i.e. extremely laissez-faire. But he supported me throughout despite the flack I got from all the staunch Rothbardians at GMU, which the time included Steve Horwitz and Pete Boettke (!), for even entertaining the idea that a monopoly price might exist.
I have learned much from Mario these past 38 years, especially sitting at the same table with him almost every week at the NYU “Austrian” Colloquium. In particular I’ve seen what intellectual honesty, clarity, and incisiveness looks like in practice and I’m always impressed by how he is able to get to the heart of an issue. In fact, I’ve gotten the sense that if he cannot quickly grasp the essence of a problem then it’s probably not worth pursuing. He takes his scholarship very seriously, of course, and his writing is incisive, clear, and rigorous. All that, of course, does not come at the expense of an occasional and most-welcome playfulness.
One of the more memorable moments of my intellectual career occurred after I discussed over lunch some of the ideas of my book on interventionism when he simply said, “That’s interesting!” There was also the time when he (and Israel Kirzner) remarked about another chapter from that book manuscript that it was “impressive.” Comments like that have been very rare and therefore of exceptionally high marginal utility.
It has been a genuine privilege to spend the lion’s share of my professional career knowing, learning from, and hanging around with Mario Rizzo, and I am grateful to have had his friendship.
Happy Birthday, Mario, and many, many happy returns of the day!