According to Senator John Warner (R-Va.), the new Pentagon “terrorism futures market” will be “immediately disestablished.” This is a reassuring thought, given the idiocy and ridiculousness of the idea in the first place.
The Pentagon was contemplating establishing a betting pool on where terrorism threats would come from, in order to let the “free market” help gather intelligence. “Investors” would bet on the likelihood that the next big terrorist attack would come from one or another region of the world. Somehow, this was supposed to help figure out the likelihood of where an attack really would come from.
When the plan was first disclosed, the Pentagon defended it as a way to gain intelligence about potential terrorists’ plans. How would this actually work? Would they send a prospectus to Osama Bin Laden, asking him to “invest” in his forces being the ones to attack next? Or would the Pentagon pitch it to arms dealers around the world, so they could look at their sales figures and use them to make the right bets? Or would “defense” contractors use the fund, to hedge against their being based in the wrong part of the world, spreading the risk that they’ve bet wrong?
Reactionaries have been busy for the last few decades reifying the “market” as the repository of all wisdom. Somehow, the “market” knows, just like The Shadow. They’ve been busy ascribing human characteristics to this inhuman and inhumane thing. It’s the “Return of the Invisible Hand,” the myth created by Adam Smith that the market mystically and magically works to transform human greed into human benefit, without any of the investors, capitalists, gamblers who are actually involved having to do anything other than be greedy and avaricious.
But a “market” doesn’t know anything. A “market” doesn’t have knowledge or intelligence or judgment or any other human characteristic. A “market” is a gambling operation, with the percentages rigged for those who already have the most money and/or the most inside information.
How would a “futures market,” in which gamblers bet on whether or not Arafat would be assassinated or Israel subjected to a biological weapons attack, collect information? Would it be a bullish or bearish market? Would it take into account which terrorist factions the CIA is currently supporting or building?
What would be next? A futures trading market on how many U.S. casualties? Betting on the date of the first U.S. pre-emptive nuclear strike? Betting on the length of the next Bush war? Why not a betting pool on the next presidential race – we could turn the elections over to private gambling industry and save lots of money – we wouldn’t even have to run the elections, just let the market take care of everything!
That such idiocy could pass for serious analysis, and garner federal spending to the tune of over $600,000 already is astounding. They were getting ready to ask for $3 million next year!
It seems to me we’ve reached new heights of stupidity in governmental circles. As Big Daddy would say, this is evidence of “mendacity, son, mendacity.”
Maybe the New York Stock Market could set up a futures trading program to predict the next stock market crash? Maybe a betting pool on how much unemployment will increase during the rest of the Bush administration? If the market really knows it all, why can’t the market predict itself?
Why not skip the market entirely and go straight to the Psychic Friends Network?
Marc Brodine is the Washington state chair of the Communist Party and can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.