Friday, August 01, 2003

Betting on Terror

When I first read about the Pentagon's plan to set up a futures market on terror events, I have to admit I winced a bit. Seemed like an endeavor of questionable ethical standing as well as a PR nightmare. But the more I read the more I realized that it might provide meaningful benefits. Markets are great disseminators of information and are far more efficient than any one entity, even one (or particularly one!) as large as the US government. Whether it could work was unclear, but that it should be considered and analyzed seemed prudent. But the PR angle took over and the thing was dead within days of the major media outlets blasting it. The charge was of course led by that bastion of impartiality and truth finding, the NYTimes. Andrew Apostalou, one of my favorite bloggers out there, had some excellent coverage of the issue and wrote a letter to the Times (which they did not publish) which was both incredibly funny in its delivery and devastating in its disection of the quality of news coverage -- and its impact -- on this issue. What is also tragic is that the Pentagon went to the press with this and tried to educate them on it. That type of openess with the public should be encouraged. This episode will have the exact opposite effect. Way to go Arthur.

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