The Null Device

Atrocity futures

It has emerged that the Pentagon is setting up a futures market in terrorism, in which investors will be able to bet on terrorist attacks, assassinations, coups and other events in the Middle East.
The market would work this way. Investors would buy and sell futures contracts \x{2014} essentially a series of predictions about what they believe might happen in the Mideast. Holder of a futures contract that came true would collect the proceeds of investors who put money into the market but predicted wrong.

All rather reminiscent of a similar project from a few years back. Its creator got several years in a US federal prison, I believe. Mind you, given that that was the work of a lone anarchist bampot whereas this has the approval of Uncle Sam, the two are morally entirely different.

There are 4 comments on "Atrocity futures":

Posted by: mark http://donotuselifts.net/ Tue Jul 29 12:03:06 2003

What happens if we end up with insider trading?

Posted by: gjw http://the-fix.org Tue Jul 29 12:46:38 2003

Damn, Mark, that's what I was going to say... I've got pictures of suicide bombers timing attacks to bolster their bank accounts.

At the end of the day, if the investors really have information that could be of use, why doesn't the US just pay them for it directly and cut out the middle man?

Posted by: mitch http:// Wed Jul 30 11:33:51 2003

This would be one of those ideas that has gone straight from being the baby of some hitherto unknown think-tank to the media's latest Incomprehensible Abomination from the Pentagon, without ever getting a fair hearing. The whole idea of using betting markets to estimate the odds that proposition X is true is a pretty innocuous one, if unproven; you can see it in action at longbets.org. If this was a bunch of geeks using fictitious e-cash to place bets about the future of software, no-one would give much of a damn. But this venture has been headlined in a way which combines some of the worst fears people harbor about the war on terror: that it's being run for the profit of its protagonists, that its chief strategists see it all just as an exciting game. So bye-bye "terrorism futures market".

Posted by: acb http://dev.null.org Wed Jul 30 11:55:52 2003

You make it sound like the concern is a leftist revulsion to capitalism and/or visceral, unthinking disgust with the Bush Junta and all it touches. I'd be more concerned that such a project would serve as a marketplace for bringing together groups of extremists and/or illicit operators with common interests in making things happen (see also: the Iran-Contra scandal); that and people planning, facilitating or impeding the prevention of events in order to "clean up". These are very real concerns.

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