UNLV economist responds to tacit administration rebuke

A few days after UNLV backed off its own study, the economist who oversaw the margin tax evaluation has responded, saying he will put a disclaimer on future studies.

And I was afraid this would chill academic freedom. Silly me.

Actually, Stephen Brown did not back away from the study. But a disclaimer? Really?

Here it is:

The Center for Business and Economic Research (CBER) was established in 1975 to: (1) make 

available academic expertise in research projects that assist in the development of the Nevada 

economy, with special emphasis on the Southern Nevada business community and (2) assist 

state and local agencies and private-sector enterprises in the collection and analysis of 

economic and market data in a way that contributes to the diversification and growth of the 

Southern Nevada economy. Many of our research and analysis services are conducted on a 

contract basis. About two-thirds of CBER’s budget comes from funding outside the university—

including contract work, subscriptions, donations, etc. It has been CBER’s long-standing policy 

not to offer public comments on work for clients, which I am temporarily setting aside with the 

hopes of providing some clarity.

CBER’s July 31 report, An Economic Analysis of the Education Initiative, was contract work 

conducted for Daniel M. Hart of The Education Initiative. The purpose of the work was to 

estimate the educational and economic effects of the education initiative—including the 

margin tax and the K-12 education spending it would support. We were not asked for nor did 

we offer an opinion about whether the education initiative represents sound economic policy.

We assembled an expert team to conduct the work necessary for the report. CBER does a 

considerable amount of contract work for business clients, and we always assemble expert 

teams for our work. Sometimes experts disagree with each other, and we welcome an 

independent peer review.

In academic circles, we often disregard disclaimers on our papers and reports. Academics 

assume that most people will understand that their work represents the authors’ viewpoints 

and not the official positions of their universities. That assumption likely is wrong. When I 

worked in the Federal Reserve System, every staff publication carried a disclaimer indicating 

that the views were those of the authors and not those of the Federal Reserve System. 

Let me clarify. The views expressed in CBER’s report, An Economic Analysis of the Education 

Initiative, are those of the authors and do not necessarily represent those of the University of 

Nevada, Las Vegas or the Nevada System of Higher Education. We regret that our past 

publications did not carry this disclaimer. All our future publications will.

Stephen P. A. Brown, PhD


Center for Business and Economic Research