The Rittenhouse Review

A Philadelphia Journal of Politics, Finance, Ethics, and Culture

Tuesday, July 29, 2003  

This is a Real News Story
(The Age of Unseriousness Continued)

This just in from the Associated Press, with additional reporting from the New York Times:

The Pentagon views it as a potentially innovative way to get clues about terrorists’ plans: a public, stock market-style exchange where traders can profit by correctly predicting terror attacks or assassinations in the Middle East.

Two Democratic senators say the program is useless, offensive and immoral. They are demanding that the program be stopped before investors start signing up Friday.

“The idea of a federal betting parlor on atrocities and terrorism is ridiculous and it’s grotesque,” Sen. Ron Wyden, D-Ore., said Monday.

The program is called the Policy Analysis Market. The Pentagon office overseeing it, the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency, or DARPA, said it was part of a research effort “to investigate the broadest possible set of new ways to prevent terrorist attacks.”

Traders would buy and sell futures contracts -- just like energy traders do now in betting on the future price of oil. But the contracts in this case would be based on what might happen in the Middle East in terms of economics, civil and military affairs or specific events, such as terrorist attacks.[…]

A graphic on the market’s Web page Monday showed hypothetical futures contracts in which investors could trade on the likelihood that Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat would be assassinated or Jordanian King Abdullah II would be overthrown. Although the Web site described the Policy Analysis Market as Middle East market, the graphic also included the possibility of a North Korea missile attack.[…]

Sen. Byron Dorgan of North Dakota [D.] criticized the market [as] “unbelievably stupid.”

Welcome again, readers, to the age of unseriousness.

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