“Hillsdale College is the home to understanding the principles of a free society at the undergraduate level.”— Michael Clark
Additional Faculty Information for Michael J. Clark
B.A. in Economics, Hillsdale College, 2004
M.A. in Economics, George Mason University, 2006
Ph.D. in Economics, George Mason University, 2011
Memberships and Professional Activities
Mackinac Center Board of Scholars
Foundation for Economic Education Faculty Network (2015 – Present)
Mackinac Center Board of Scholars (2014 – Present)
Institute for Faith, Work, and Economics
Speaker – Center for Teaching Excellence
Mercatus Center Research Fellow (2007, 2008)
University of Baltimore Business School Top Teacher Award (2009)
Bradley Fellow in Graduate School (selected by Walter Williams, 2006)
Hillsdale College Finalist for Professor of the Year (2015, 2016)
“The Economist Who Said Maybe,” Feature on FEE’s publication The Freeman (2014).
“Direct and Overall Liberty: Replies to Walter Block and Claudia Williamson.” Reason Papers, 34 (2012).
Book Review of “Adam Smith” by Gavin Kennedy. The Adam Smith Review.
“The Music of Social Intercourse: Synchrony in Adam Smith,” The Independent Review, v. 15, n. 3 (2011).
“Direct and Overall Liberty: Areas and Extent of Disagreement,” Reason Papers, 32 (2010).
“A Little More Liberty: What the JEL Omits in its Account of What the Economic Report of the President Omits,” Econ Journal Watch, v. 3, n. 3 (2006).
I was at one time an undergraduate student at Hillsdale College. I played basketball and my future wife (Erin Clark) was on the volleyball team. Sports were my life heading into college, but the incredible set of professors at Hillsdale sparked my passion for economics and social thought. The theme the professors challenged me with was simple, yet it was an incredible challenge – do you actually want to help people, or are you okay with pretending to help? The question seemed to have an obvious answer, but I did not realize just what a challenge it was. While the economics professors taught me so much more of the philosophical and technical elements of economics, this basic question seemed to always be in the background.
When you walk around always ready to ask that cynical question – are you really helping or just pretending – it is surprising to realize how much of our everyday behavior and certainly our discussions of political ideas revolve around pretending to help. While I don’t recommend a cynical view of humankind (Adam and Vernon Smith helped me overcome this approach), that question rattled my paradigm for how I saw the world. I wanted to understand how good intentions, mixed with little or misguided thought, could often lead to such disastrous outcomes that we continually excused.
I wanted to study more economics, and the professors at Hillsdale pointed me to the Foundation for Economic Education. I attended the advanced summer seminar in August of 2003 heading into my senior year of college. This was the perfect timing for me. I sat through about 13 lectures during those few days; I was paying attention to each and every word said. I judiciously took notes and learned much from the speakers who were there. I still have those notes and keep them in my office today.
I was hooked. I now realized the question my professors at Hillsdale had presented was actually a very serious and important question for individuals and a society. Do you want to pretend to help people, or do you actually want to help people? Most people do not want to merely pretend to help, but unfortunately they often choose to do so in inadvertent ignorance. Helping people see beyond intentions and the obvious was what economics was all about, and it was where I could be of service.
With this passion, I decided to pursue an advanced degree in economics. I was fortunate enough to be accepted at George Mason University and completed my education there under the supervision of Daniel Klein, Peter Boettke, Richard Wagner, Russ Roberts, Bryan Caplan, and many others. I am forever indebted to them for further fueling my passion and understanding for liberty. Their teaching allowed me to become a teacher myself, here at Hillsdale College, where I now push my students to ask themselves, “are you really helping, or are you just pretending to help?”