Pentagon Prepares A Futures Market On Terror Attacks

from the bizarre dept

dkan24 writes in to express his disbelief with a report in the NY Times that the Pentagon is working on a futures market for terrorist attacks. Speculators would get to bet on the likelihood of terrorist attacks, assassinations and coups. The program would apparently also fall under the control of everyone’s favorite former disgraced national security advisor, John Poindexter. The Pentagon claims that this will help them predict events. This sounds so absolutely ridiculous that even the Senators who spoke out against it say they can’t convince most people it isn’t a hoax. The Pentagon admitted it was true, but downplayed it, and has already (as they’ve been known to do) taken much info about it offline. The idea was that futures markets often reveal “hidden” information about events that are going to happen, because people who know stuff will end up betting in their favor. If you boil it down, it looks like (since the system was supposed to be anonymous), they were hoping that terrorists who planned to do something would sign up, and bet in favor of their planned attack. Just think how nice it will be when you can look online and see the odds of someone killing you. There’s really no way to point out just how bizarre this plan really is. To make it even better, the organization running it, called the Policy Analysis Market, is proud to state that by trading in information about future terrorist attacks, they might even make the government a nice little profit. Update: As expected, following the blast of negative publicity, this morning they’ve announced that the system will be scrapped.

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Comments on “Pentagon Prepares A Futures Market On Terror Attacks”

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Anonymous Coward says:

Missed the Boat, Mike

Mike, you’re sounding really ignorant on this topic. There are ofcourse real futures markets on commodities, but there have a lot of articles over the last few years on academic futures markets on everything from presidential candidates to the peace process in Israel (I guess you missed them). While the body of research in this arguably small, the results have shown to be accurate.

Another way of thinking about it is to let people put their money where their mouth is, and those that do have a more thorough analysis will be more accurate on their futures placement.

Instapundit has a good analysis – much better than your knee-jerk response. Another way to think of it is that we are in a new era and trying this idea won’t hurt anyone. I believe the $8 million proposed on the program is spent every nanosecond in D.C.

Mike (profile) says:

Re: Missed the Boat, Mike

Good points (though, you don’t need to be insulting if you disagree with me – just tell me where I was wrong).

However, from a perception standpoint, this is a terrible thing for the government to get involved in. It suggests that they’re giving incentive for terrorist attacks. If you stand to get rich off a terrorist attack are you going to do everything possible to prevent it?

It turns tragedy into a (for profit) game, and that has dangerous consequences beyond just an increased information gathering tool.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Private vs. Gov't

Well, since the government funded Berkely to do a study showing conservatism is a disease (and other wasted studies), how about the feds giving the $8 million to Iowa, where the existing “idea futures market” already exists and add this one to their list of items they already trade.

What if the government financed the following poll: “Do you think there will be a terrorist attack on government soil in the next 12 months?” Would anyone have heart palpatations over a poll? The government pays for polls all the time (Clinton’s use of almost daily polls while in office is well documented – and taxpayers paid for them, many branches of gov’t do their own polls, etc.?)

The futures market is a poll where people back up their opinions with cold, hard cash. I think people might think harder about what they predict if they had money riding on it. Think of it this way.

One thing I do agree with – they could have done this through Iowa or done it without announcing anything and gotten away with it. How many contraversal gov’t programs are done every day without anyone saying “boo” about them?

LittleW0lf says:

Terrorism Futures

I’m sorry guys, but I have to agree with Mike on this one…how is this not gambling on the misfortunes of others.

What sort of odds are there on having a terrorist act within the next month, much less the next 12 months? I’d think they’d both be pretty close to 1 to 1, as the RIAA/MPAA/IPR-CROWD still exists and is still allowed to opperate with impunity.

Once the RIAA/MPAA/IPR-CROWD goes away, terrorism will be a lot less frequent, and only done by middle eastern fanatics and nazis from Michigan.

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