Press "Enter" to skip to content

Taking stock

Various and sundry commentators have been making alarmed noises about the new DARPA-organized political stock market.

There are a few rational objections. Someone over at CalPundit noted that the system may be very gamable by people who want to conceal the possibility of their own terrorist activity. Kevin Drum notes that there’s the possibility of pissing off allies who would prefer that we not enable a market for futures based on negative events occurring in their country.

On the other hand, I’ve got to look askance at the people who are complaining about the immorality of betting on tragedy. You may not have noticed, but the New York Stock Exchange trades stock in real companies. Those companies employ real people. Every time someone sells a stock short, they’re betting that something bad will happen to those people — something that may cause salary reductions or layoffs.

“Oh, but that’s not a matter of life or death.”

No. Not usually. But sometimes it is. And any way you cut it, it’s still bad things happening to good people.


  1. PAM lets you place bets on the misfortune of others.
    Shorting a stock lets you place bets on the misfortune of others.
    Buying shares in a company that behaves in a morally reprehensible fashion lets you place bets on the misfortune of others, and at the same time make it easier for that company to fund its immoral behavior.

    I don’t know, seems like people should look pretty closely at their portfolios before criticizing PAM on moral grounds.

    Thinking about it some more, of course it’s possible that good PAM ratings will translate into increased revenue for the governments involved – Come see lovely Turkey! People with money in the U.S. think highly of our future military capacity! So, yeah, both come out about the same, really, unless you’re convinced that countries or companies are inherently more evil than companies or countries.

  2. There’s some interesting discussion of game markets (I’m still digging to find out if there’s a preferred academic term – it might be just ‘artificial markets’) at Artificial Game Markets.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *